Although data indicates local governments will need a variety of communications technologies going forward, those most likely to support transparency, effective service provision, and sharing information are weighted heavily towards video, geospatial technologies, sensors and other artificial intelligence (A.I.)-based Smart Cities technologies.
All the local governments in Multnomah County are providing information by video either over the cable access channels or through YouTube, Facebook, and other social media outlets. As video continues to be the number one source for news and information for nearly all demographic groups,168 local governments will need to increasingly cover public meetings, press conferences, and other public events as well as provide information on a host of their services via video; especially video that is viewable on everything from a large screen to a small format smartphone.
The City of Gresham is a good example as they have a digital media producer and small studio and work with MetroEast to develop video programming. They noted video is used for both external and internal purposes, and it is growing in importance as a way not only to communicate to residences and businesses, but also communicate within the City. They also noted that audio podcasting was an increasingly useful way to deliver information because of its popularity, the number of available distribution outlets, the small amount of network bandwidth used versus video, and the ability to quickly and effectively focus on a particular topic, including in multiple languages.
Gresham also discussed the importance of geospatial technologies, including developing open data applications and planning information that is more easily displayed and discernable by a wide range of the community. For example, they discussed use of 3-D modeling based on geospatial technologies for planning projects which allows “story-maps” to be created that show both the past and the future chronology of a particular site, from groundbreaking to full development. They noted that this allows connections with the community “in a very graphic intensive way”. This information can then be provided electronically as a download from the City’s website or used in presentations and in-person meeting spaces where online communication for information that is data intensive would not be easily accessible. Portland Public Agencies talked about the importance of video communications as well, including, for tutorials, training, video blogs, and other social media uses of video.
A.I. and sensor-based technologies for Smart Cities applications are clearly “the wave of the future”. These technologies allow for providing real-time information for parking, traffic flow, utility usage, environmental indicators, and other information, and utilize a small amount of bandwidth, so data can be direct from the sensor to a resident’s device. A.I. can also provide information in multiple languages, non-real time when City representatives are not available, and intuitively for those accessing an A.I. database.
A.I. will allow everything from obtaining a building permit to finding out about parks and recreational activities to quantifying large data sets to a single address (such as economic development data for a particular block or neighborhood). East County City representatives noted that in order for someone to feel comfortable dealing with an A.I. database, it should ideally provide information and respond to inquiries in a “human-like” fashion, such that residents would feel as if they were dealing with a real person.