Smart City Series: Pittsburgh

Traditionally, Pittsburgh is known for its steel, bridges and sports---but, in recent years, there’s something else. Pittsburgh is increasingly recognized for its smart city-centered initiatives, which help innovate its transportation infrastructure. As part of our Smart City Series--an inspiration from our recent article “10 US Smart Cities to Watch”--we’re taking a closer look at Pittsburgh and the impact of its technology. 


It started with the nationwide Smart City Challenge. Throughout 2016, mid-sized American cities submitted proposals for developing an  integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system. Pittsburgh created SmartPGH, which proposed connecting all neighborhoods to social and economic hubs, in hopes of expanding economic opportunity, especially for the disadvantaged. 

SmartPGH is currently utilizing transportation-integrated technology to 1) expand opportunity, 2) improve health, 3) increase mobility and 4) promote safety. Using tech like high functioning traffic sensors, electric vehicles and LED technology, Pittsburgh is becoming “a leader in transportation innovation to address [the city’s] challenges.” 

Curious how they’re doing it? Here’s several smart technologies to watch, that are innovating Pittsburgh’s transportation. 

4 SmartPGH Technologies

Smart Spines

Through a network of Smart Spines, traffic sensors along the city’s most populated streets,Pittsburgh is creating more efficient connections between isolated neighborhoods.  The information collected by these sensors is supplemented by the SmartPGH Data Utility Program, which provides a platform and a framework for collective decision-making and standardizing interoperability. The city plans on also utilizing this data in training procedures for its workforce development, since 95,000 workers are currently employed in the advanced technology industry.

Electric Vehicles 

One of Pittsburgh’s most ambitious goals is to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. Their first step towards this goal is the “Electric Avenue” project. The city plans to create a clean energy-transportation corridor running through a heavily-trafficked area while also purchasing a new electric vehicle fleet that are powered by solar powered charging stations. 

Smart Streetlights

Through the Smart Streetlights project, nearly  40,000 streetlights will be converted to LED technology, resulting in energy savings, increased mobility and safety. The streetlights will also include integrated control systems and sensor technology that create capabilities like pedestrian detection and air quality monitoring. 

These wireless sensors can collect real-time ambient air levels that will help increase understanding of geospatial air quality “hot spots” and eventually help reduce emissions. The sensors can also help minimize the impact of a high traffic event by collecting data and communicating it to controllers in surrounding intersections. Having this network of sensors also allows for a “mesh network” of public WiFi that will significantly increase access to technology. 

Scalable Urban Traffic Control (Surtrac)

The Scalable Urban Traffic Control (Surtrac) Program is being implemented to control traffic and decrease the amount of time cars sit idle at an intersection, reducing vehicle emissions in the process. This technology utilizes an AI system that gathers data on what is happening at an intersection, processes it, and creates an optimization plan for how to move traffic most efficiently. In urban areas, the Surtrac system coordinates traffic in grid networks and corridors while adapting quickly to unexpected traffic or reduced congestion. 

What “smart” technologies is your city is implementing? Leave us a note to discuss below.


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