The Mercury News
Oakley working to gain status as ‘smart city’
OAKLEY — The city is looking to become the first “smart city” in Contra Costa County, and with help from transit authorities and a Bay Area engineering firm, research and analysis has already started.
A smart city acts much like a smart home. Employing design and urban planning along with technology, sensors and the “internet of things,” traffic can be routed to less-congested roads, fires can be responded to more quickly and police can patrol in areas where crime is predicted.
The initial step, studying the city of Oakley, its needs and what its citizens want, will be paid for by funds from the Contra Costa Transit Authority. Stantec, a San Francisco-based design firm, presented the idea to City Council members on Tuesday.
“They can track congestion to improve traffic flow, dynamically switch traffic lights ... the first thing would be improving traffic flow, but the only limit is your own imagination,” Mayor Kevin Romick said. “In talking with staff, this is what the community wants and needs to see.”
The Smart Cities Council defines a smart city as one that “gathers data from smart devices and sensors embedded in its roadways, power grids, buildings and other assets. It shares that data via a smart communication system that is typically a combination of wired and wireless. It then uses smart software to create valuable information and digitally enhanced services.”
The study will be paid for using Measure J funds, which were approved in 2004 to fund countywide transportation solutions through a halfcent transportation tax.
While federal grants and funds could help with the project, Jack Hall, a program manager with the transit authority, said at the council meeting that much would rely on the passage of Measure X, which would bring in $2.2 million per year for transportation technology.
“With the city of Oakley having this plan in place, with the successful passage of the measure, you will develop guidelines and have something off the shelf and going right away,” Hall said.
In the previous City Council meeting on Sept. 13, members approved a proclamation encouraging autonomous vehicle testing.
“With autonomous vehicles talking with each other, it would make everything roll smoothly together,” Romick said.
Romick, a former chairman of the transit authority, argued for the project on Tuesday night, giving examples such as parking lots that could tell commuters how many parking spots were available and where they were on a smartphone application.
“Two key building blocks are services that move data and information and ones that move people,” said Arya Rohani, a senior principal engineer with Stantec.
Beyond the transportation applications, proponents stated that the technology would also be applied to government services and would reduce the need for many citizens to file paperwork at city offices.