Middletown could install a ‘smart city’ network in its downtown. What would that mean?

Middletown will consider adding a technology network to its downtown that would make it more responsive to its citizens’ and visitors’ needs while also helping officials make decisions about those areas from data they collect.

Such “smart cities” initiatives have started in places like Monroe, Dayton, Fairborn, Cincinnati and Columbus. The nodes in the system can help cities communicate with visitors about things like open parking or even help police determine the direction of gunshot reports.

Middletown’s city council heard a presentation last week from Chip O’Donnell and Kevin Kellams of HP Energy about developing a such a “smart cities” initiative for the city.

The data gathered in these initiatives can be used for public safety, infrastructure, and public works. In short, an app on a user’s smart phone would connect to a node to send and receive data.

For Middletown, O’Donnell and Kellams outlined a proposal that would deploy 50 nodes in the proposed area that would have a benchmark cost between $1 million to $1.5 million for equipment, construction installation, and commissioning and maintenance. Each node has a camera and small computer and is attached to a pole or building. The assessment scope of work and cost will take about eight to 12 weeks to complete, O’Donnell said.

City officials are also interested in possibly expanding the area to include Smith Park and the Middletown Regional Airport because they are venues that attract large community events.

“We are providing an assessment scope of work and cost to clearly show the next steps in the process,” O’Donnell said. “Our assessment scope is based on best practices as put forth by the Smart Cities Council.”

He also said there are public and private sector grants that the city could apply for to defray the costs of developing their network.

Much of these initiatives are modest such as traffic cameras and traffic signal coordination and other public safety or public works applications. Others offer free wi-fi services in specific areas of the city or public buildings.

Councilwoman Ami Vitori said Cincinnati Bell already has three nodes covering four blocks in the downtown area and that places such as Miami University Middletown and St. John XXIII Elementary School already have fiberoptic connections.

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Some cities have used this to manage their stadium infrastructure to help people have the best fan experience and utilize their smart phones in a confined area with huge numbers of people. O’Donnell said many stadium venues in soccer’s English Premier League are being retrofitted with this technology because of fan experience and the ongoing trend of two-way data streaming from mobile devices.

Cincinnati has multiple initiatives deployed such as a communications network along the downtown Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar route which established for communciations networks for public citizen wi-fi access as well as citizen usage/traffic data. A separate system is the Shot Spotter installed in some neighborhoods to help police identify the direction of gunshots. O’Donnell that system has not been interconnected with Cincinnati’s smart cities infrastructure.

O’Donnell said the data resulting from a Smart Cities deployment can either be owned by a city, or it can be held with a third party provider and licensed for city purposes. He said at this time, the deployment of data and who owns it is not determined. In addition, he said there are multiple business models that can be used, and requires more study and planning.

Dayton and Fairborn use these systems in conjunction with their city apps users download to their smartphones or if people opt to use the city’s public wi-fi system. This enables cities to collect data on in their city and can gauge various infrastructure needs based on actual, real time usage.

Kellams said Fairborn used their system to assist local retailers to adjust their business hours based on traffic counts that was collected. Dayton has used a similar system to assist with traffic management.

“We agree that this is a very exciting project for the City of Middletown, and think it can position Middletown well for its future,” O’Donnell said.

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