Smart City Series: Boston

Boston traffic at night. Credit: CC-licensed  Flikr image  by Robbie Shade

Boston traffic at night. Credit: CC-licensed Flikr image by Robbie Shade

Historically, Boston is known as the birthplace of the American Revolution. Today, Boston is home to a different kind of revolution--one that is bringing smart technologies and tech innovation to the city. In this week’s Smart City Series--inspired by our recent “10 US Smart Cities to Watch”--we are taking a look at the city of Boston and what’s putting them on the map as a smart city. 

Boston’s Smart City Playbook outlines a city-wide strategy for the use of sensor technologies that are “people-centered, problem-driven, and responsible.” They’re driving the strategy by crowdsourcing tech companies, scientists, researchers, journalists and activists. This interdisciplinary approach provides not only a range of perspectives, but a range of technologies. 

Here’s several of Boston’s most innovative smart city technologies to watch: 

Smart Streets

Boston is currently working with Verizon to collect aggregated data that helps better determine road hazards. To do so, the pilot program will use video cameras, LED lights, and even sensors underneath the road. The collected data will detect movement patterns of vehicles, wait times at intersections and how cyclists are interacting with traffic signals, among other actions. The goal: to improve streets, sidewalks and signage, ultimately helping citizens stay safer. 

Smart Parking Sensors 

Boston is also increasing access to parking in some of their busiest neighborhoods. Using flexible meter rates, they’ll be able to reduce the amount of time it takes to find a parking spot. In 2017, they ran the Performance Pilot Program, which varied meter prices by location, time of day, and usage, eventually stabilizing when a certain number of spots are occupied. As a result, illegal parking in resident spots decreased by 12%; available metered spaces increased by 11%; and double parking decreased by 24%.

Autonomous Vehicles 

Boston is partnering with the World Economic Forum to start on-street testing for autonomous vehicles. To prepare, the city is taking a graduated approach, requiring companies to meet off-street standards such as emergency braking and stop functionalities. Electric autonomous vehicles have the potential to take 60-70% of cars off the road and reduce emissions by 2-4%; for Boston, this means not only a healthier, more sustainable city, but also becoming a future leader in modern transportation. 

City Wide Phone Apps

The city of Boston currently has 7 working apps available for residents, ranging in use from collecting trash information, to tracking school bus locations. The app Bos:311 is a non-emergency reporting app where residents can report incidents like potholes, graffiti or damaged signs. Another is Trashday, which shows trash collection schedules, sets reminders and provides a search option for materials and whether or not they are recyclable. ParkBoston allows Boston drivers to pay metered parking on their phones, while the StreetBump app collects real-time information about road conditions and informs the city where repairs need to be made. 

Boston is using their smart technologies to ensure that residents are being heard, and to keep the city safe, clean and accessible. What “smart” technologies is your city is implementing? Leave us a note to discuss below.