How smart cities should include resiliency in their technology

A group of federal and advocacy thought leaders emphasized the importance of cities using technology to increase the resiliency of their communities in the event of a disaster.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Cities have spent a lot of time thinking about the technology that will make them smarter, but maybe not enough time thinking about how those technologies could help them function in a disaster, a group of federal, local and advocacy thought leaders said.

During a panel session at startup incubator Eastern Foundry as a part of Smart Cities Week, experts from the Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Smart Cities Council weighed in on how cities need to think about using their smart city tech to make their cities more resilient.

In the event of a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or another “bad scenario,” Reginald Brothers, the undersecretary for science and technology at DHS, said cities need to consider where their technology fits into their resilience plans. In fact, Brothers suggested that

“How are you going to use these types of technologies to make your cities smarter in a resilient sense?” Brothers said. “How do we look at the big picture? What would you want your city to look like before, during or after the event.”


Brothers encouraged cities take a “strategic” look at the Internet of Things, big data, analytics and cloud computing. In fact, DHS is working with Austin, Texas, to do a test involving the simulated flooding of the lower Colorado River to train first responders on how to interact with a series of sensors and other technologies in a crisis.

David Wollmon, the deputy director of NIST’s smart grid and cyber physical systems effort, encouraged cities to look at the agency’s disaster resilience community planning guide. The agency is also partnering with some other entities to build a framework for smart cities looking to use the Internet of Things.

Indeed a framework might help some cities. Jason Nelson, the executive director for partnerships for the Smart Cities Council said that some cities have been reluctant to embrace some of the common technology used in the private sector — making it hard to truly even make the leap to where cities can use tech to be more resilient.

“These are technologies that exist today but haven’t made the leap in a lot of cities because there are so many stakeholders and complex problems that can mean life and death,” Nelson said. “If the water doesn’t go on, if the heat doesn’t go on, you can be talking about death.”

Jake Williams

Written by Jake Williams

Jake Williams is a Staff Reporter for FedScoop and StateScoop. At StateScoop, he covers the information technology issues and events at state and local governments across the nation. In the past, he has covered the United States Postal Service, the White House, Congress, cabinet-level departments and emerging technologies in the unmanned aircraft systems field for FedScoop. Before FedScoop, Jake was a contributing writer for Campaigns & Elections magazine. He has had work published in the Huffington Post and several regional newspapers and websites in Pennsylvania. A northeastern Pennsylvania native, Jake graduated magna cum laude from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, or IUP, in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in political science. At IUP, Jake was the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Penn, and the president of the university chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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