Improving Smart City Operations
What is a "Smart City," and how does it benefit the community? Smart cities are uniquely defined and driven by their Mayor and Council's strategic plan and goals. We define Smart City as one in which we leverage the latest technologies and data-driven insights to improve the quality of life, civic engagement, economic development, service delivery and community vibrancy of its citizens, businesses and visitors. For us in Mesa, it is about transforming Mesa into a diverse and vibrant hub for innovation.
In 2018, the City of Mesa began developing a Smart City Master Plan, which included engaging citizens, businesses, and city management as we identified the strategies and priorities for building a 'smarter Mesa.' Our first step was to develop strategies for each of the seven priority pillars within our community. These included focusing on Downtown, the environment, government, public safety, transportation and the community. For example, in the past five years, we developed a mobile app to allow users to access and pay their utility bills from anywhere. We also closed the marketing gap between Downtown Mesa and its visitors by installing touchscreen kiosks where visitors can search for nearby attractions, businesses and services — along with their deals and discounts. And we installed high-speed networks in neighborhoods where reliable internet was unavailable to all our citizens. While engaging citizens is an essential driver of our Smart City efforts, none of it can happen without widespread connectivity.
At the center of our Smart City and community is a robust public Wi-Fi presence throughout the downtown area, underserved areas of the city and key municipal facilities such as police, fire and utilities. The project has a direct tie-in to the city's Smart Infrastructure efforts, which include hundreds of miles of fiber-optics and conduit to attract more businesses to Mesa, particularly Downtown.
In addition to internet access, the infrastructure grants citizens access to services such as a utility payment portal, planned parking-space locators and a tool to take and send photos of illegal graffiti directly to the city. Because of Mesa's progressive vision to leverage data and technology, municipal services that result in higher citizen engagement are possible.
Because of Mesa's progressive vision to leverage data and technology, municipal services that result in higher citizen engagement are possible
Beyond connectivity, we also use our Smart City approach to impact our environmental initiatives and drive our Council-approved Mesa Climate Action Plan. A few years ago, Mesa's Environmental Sustainability and Management department introduced a food-to-energy pilot program. Rather than sending restaurant and grocery store food waste to nearby landfills, Mesa will divert it to a local facility that turns those scraps into a bio-slurry that can then be converted into gas.
On the Smart Transportation and Mobility front, Mesa plans to work closely with the City's bus and light-rail providers to create a "multimodal system" that's both better synchronized and more accessible: more routes, more options and better passenger communication. Being able to display real-time statuses of bus and light rail through both the Mesa Now mobile app and the interactive kiosk's would give our citizens the information they need to take full advantage of a multimodal transit system.
From a Smart City perspective, what ties every pillar together is how the City leverages its data to make better decisions for the organization.For example, recently, the Mesa Police Department launched a real-time crime center that uses data gathered about active incidents, the nature of the crime, the geographic information of the location of the incident and present dangers to ensure officers respond appropriately, safely, and quickly. Meanwhile, the Mesa Fire and Medical Department continually analyzes emergency call data and response times to determine which areas of the City need more emergency service resources.
Through these strategic Smart City initiatives, as an organization, we hope to not only cut costs and bolster economic development but position Mesa for the future.
We have been doing 'Smart City' things for years; but innovation only happened through concerted collaboration across all our City of Mesa departments. and our citizens.