C Spire, Ridgeland connect for ‘smart city’ technology

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Searching for better ways to manage traffic flow and energy, C Spire and the city of Ridgeland are beginning a two-month, first-of-its-kind experiment to turn Ridgeland into a “smart city.”

Using miniature, low-power censors placed in existing light poles and traffic camera analysis, the partners hope to determine how data can be processed and plans can be implemented to save the city money on energy usage, ease traffic congestion and reduce response times for accidents.

“Essentially, that’s what smart city technology is about: using data that is more widely available and finding ways to be able to use data to make more intelligent decisions,” said C Spire senior manager of media relations Dave Miller. “It’s not about just having the latest, greatest lighting technology, it’s more about how do you have these systems and software to analyze how that is being used.”

C Spire will pay for the trial run in October and November.

This is a part of a greater, global transition of using smart technology across a network of connected devices called the Internet of Things, a relatively new phenomenon as more devices are able to connect to the internet and transmit data. According to research and advisory company Gather, an estimated 1.1 billion connected things were used in so called smart cities in 2015.

Miller says C Spire spoke with a number of cities, including Clinton and Ocean Springs, but decided Ridgeland was an ideal match for this trial run of the technology because of the city government’s willingness to implement innovative technology, such as installing fiber technology around the city beginning in 2013.

Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee

“We want to be shown as progressive and looking to the future to find better ways to do things,” said Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee. “We want citizens to want to live here and to enhance their quality of life. There’s tremendous opportunity we don’t even know about yet. We always have to be on the cusp of being the best we can be so not to get behind.”

McGee went on to say that even though the initial trial run is relatively small, he thinks this could help many of the city’s departments operate more efficiently.

“By doing that, each will continue to grow in a productive way,” said McGee. “I think the opportunities are just unlimited as far as public works. There’s something that every department can grasp a hold of and improve.”

It’s not just Ridgeland that Miller sees as a potential beneficiary of this type of technology. Even though Mississippi doesn’t have a lot of big cities, where this type of technology is more prevalent, there still are opportunities for this to work for medium to small cities.

“Not every community is a candidate for a smart city application, but it’s an area worthy of looking at,” said Miller. “Common threads for communities here in Mississippi are tremendous needs, limited resources and the need to try to provide services in the most cost effective way possible.

“As long as connectivity continues to improve and IoT technologies become more cost-effective, people will become ever more creative as to what can be connected and made smart.”