#DataSmart Resources: Infrastructure

By Data-Smart City Solutions • March 20, 2018

Our #DataSmart Resources series curates links and examples for those looking for an introduction to a particular civic data topic.

As emerging technologies continue to develop, more opportunities arise for cities to leverage new technological processes and data sources for new and existing public infrastructure. From energy to transportation, updating infrastructure will continue to be a key factor in a city’s ability to realize a smart city vision. According to McKinsey research, the smart city industry, of which infrastructure is the foundation, is projected to be a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities around the globe expected to generate 60 percent of the world's GDP by 2025. This post contains curated resources for cities looking to develop their technology capabilities in infrastructure as they move towards a smart city model.


University of Cambridge’s Center for Smart Infrastructure & Construction published a paper outlining the opportunity for today’s infrastructure to better leverage data and technology. The paper breaks down infrastructure into physical and digital, describes the benefits of smart infrastructure, and highlights five key priorities in this space: the business case for digital investment, developing a common language for information-sharing, data quality, leadership and governance, and security.

The United Nations Economic and Social Council released a report on infrastructure and smart cities in 2016 which covers key urbanization trends, the main components of smart infrastructure and the related challenges including localization, skills gaps, and lack of finance. This information is part of the United Nation’s broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and takes a global perspective.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the more common emerging technologies being used to serve infrastructure needs. The Data-Smart team published an Internet of Things resource guide to help cities start thinking about use cases for connected sensors. The article presents an introduction, leading examples from cities, best practices and more in-depth resources on security and privacy.

Infrastructure was a key focus area at the 2017 Smart Cities Week which took place in October in Washington, D.C. The infographics e-book outlines the presenter backgrounds and main ideas and the post-show report summarizes the highlights and lessons learned from the event.

Siemens offers an overview of successful smart infrastructure projects in this report which primarily covers examples outside of the United States. The focus areas of the piece are buildings, mobility systems, and energy grids.


Toll roads: The Virginia Department of Transportation implemented dynamic toll pricing into Interstate 66 (I-66) in which the toll prices for the road change based on the demand for that road. This pricing strategy, made possible by real-time data collection of road use and updated technology replacing toll booths, is the “first of its kind in the nation for a highway such as I-66,” The Washington Post reports. Furthermore, all toll revenues go to additional projects to improve travel in the area, which includes additional technology investments.

Streetlights: Several cities are updating their streetlight infrastructure to be one that is more energy-efficient, more connected, and more responsive to the needs of individuals. Margaret Scott covered this topic here on Data-Smart, describing how Los Angeles’s streetlights integrate cellular data and wireless technology and how Kansas City’s lights monitor movement and help regulate policing. Additionally, San Diego is expanding its smart streetlight infrastructure this year, which will serve a variety of use cases including parking and emergency management. Illinois also recently announced plans for a statewide smart street lighting program.

Public Transit: After Boston released the city’s public transit data, people and companies have been able to develop smartphone applications that inform arrival and departure times. Boston and New York have also started implementing mobile ticketing to improve rider experience. These are only the early developments of cities moving to create intelligent transportation networks that help an increasing number of individuals travel more safely in a more time- and energy-efficient manner.

Kiosks: Las Vegas recently partnered with the company Soofa to install solar-powered electronic community bulletin boards in its “Innovation District” as part of a six-month pilot. These bulletin boards offer Wi-Fi and pull data from nearby infrastructure as well as social media feeds in order to offer useful public information for people in the area, such as public transit times and relevant social media announcements. Boston and Atlanta have also started using the kiosk-type sign.


Access: Upgrading infrastructure will require investments in broadband access for cities. Brookings recently released a report on the state of the nation’s internet access which finds that a quarter of Americans live in “low subscription” neighborhoods, in which less than 40 percent of residents have access to broadband. Less than 20 percent live in “high subscription” areas with broadband coverage of over 80 percent. Accenture also released a report on how 5G investment can help municipalities become smart cities.

Financing: Given that many technology-related infrastructure projects require both public and private sector resources, new ways of financing and new partnership models are surfacing. The Deloitte Center for Government Insights published an overview of the funding and financing landscape for smart cities ­– which includes infrastructure projects ­– at the local, state and federal levels.

Cybersecurity: As infrastructure becomes more connected to individuals and becomes a storehouse for critical data about a city and its inhabitants, there is an increased need for data security for infrastructure. The Congressional Research Service released a report to provide an introduction to any congressional staff covering infrastructure-related cybersecurity issues. The report aggregates several additional resources from other government agencies in the areas of energy, finance, transportation, healthcare, and telecommunications.

This resource guide was authored by Nancy Torres, a joint MBA/MPP candidate at the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School.