Smart City Initiatives

Leading examples of smart cities across the globe

Smart City New York: Cooperation to Innovation

Cities today are presented with complex challenges to achieve objectives related to socio-economic development and quality of life. The concept of “smart cities” is a reply to such issues.

Successfully sharing common resources to create urban and regional innovation ecosystems demands sustainable partnerships and cooperation strategies among key stakeholders is central to all smart cities, including New York. Effective smart city initiatives possess common features, such as collaboration among various functional sectors and parties, and voluntary organizations.   

In New York city the tech wave is driving cooperation between the private and public-sector leaders and governments, and inspiring them to take action and innovate for the future. Within this sense of cooperation, governments and agencies of New York are striving to be more deliberate about cooperating with the private business sector, which can provide innovation quickly and deliver cost-effective services.

Let’s take a closer look at the steps NYC is taking to become a smart city, the projects, and innovations in transportation technologies.

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How New York Is Becoming a Smart City

New York City is using smart city solutions to help solve issues such as water quality and conservation, public safety, and waste management. The office of technology and innovation is partnering with private companies to install technologies like automated water meters, smart trash bins, and smart street lights. Projects such as LinkNYC and Hunch Lab have improved the connectivity and public safety of the residents of NYC.  

More people and companies in the technology industry are collaborating to implement smart city technologies. This is reflected in new laws and regulations:

  • Green legislation: New York’s smart city strategy starts with legislation to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. New local laws set the requirements for efficient buildings and speed efficiency upgrades. The NYC energy conservation code (NYCC), sets the standards for energy and water consumption and conservation, both for new and old buildings. New York State Energy Research and Development (NYSERDA) controls compliance with the conservation code and gives financing to retrofit projects.
  • Attracting young talent: Today, New York is receiving more technological and engineering talent than any other city in the U.S, and is also the first choice for many international students. NYU, Columbia, and Cornell have opened new campuses in response to this increase in interest and are helping drive smart city initiatives. This is shifting the career map of the city. This increase in technology talent attracts venture capital, and NYC has experienced a 70% growth in deal values since 2015.
  • Startup opportunities: NY provides many opportunities for smart city solutions developers. The large percentage of properties built before 1980, which will need to comply with the city emissions reduction program, creates a niche for urban technology developers. A good starting point for startups willing to get into retrofit projects is through architecture and building development firms. 

Learn more about smart city initiatives in our guide: Los Angeles Smart City: Data And Sustainability

NYC Smart City Projects

The city strives to be an equitable city, where all residents have access to facilities, like free wi-fi coverage, clean water, and the waste management system. The city government has developed smart city projects, in collaboration with residents and companies, to achieve this aim.

The NYCx, a department of the Mayor’s office, runs challenges to promote innovation within the city. Through this open challenge system, startups, residents, and small businesses can propose ideas, such as smart trash bins or bike-sharing, that will potentially help solve community issues. These projects are improving the quality of life of New Yorkers in areas such as smart mobility, housing, public safety, and waste management.  

The following are examples of how public and private partnerships combine planning and innovation:

Brownsville Innovation Lab

One initiative is the launch of a neighborhood innovation lab in Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the most problematic zones in the borough. Project managers provided residents with access to healthy food, public safety at night, and better waste management solutions.


This project aims to replace the city’s payphones with a kiosk or a “Link”. Each link is a wifi hotspot, which provides free and encrypted wi-fi coverage. LinkNYC comes equipped with an android tablet for browsing and video calls, a keypad for free calls to all the US, a button for emergency calls, and two USB ports so citizens can charge their phones.

New York Citi Bike

A bike-sharing system operative in Manhattan, Northern Brooklyn, and Western Queens. The program deploys hundreds of stations with bikes that are available 24/7. Citi Bike’s connected app helps users find the closest available bike in real-time and tells app users how to get to a station.


Public safety was a major concern for NYC for years. To improve crime detection, the city did a two year trial of HunchLab, a crime prediction software. HunchLab is a software solution that uses historical data and terrain modeling to predict crime occurrence. This solution can identify crime hotspots, helping police increase public safety in this area. The two-year trial successfully and significantly lowered violent crime in New York.

Smart Street Lighting 

NYC launched the Accelerated Conservation And Efficiency (ACE) program in 2013. The city aims to upgrade city lights with LED retrofits, thus saving energy usage. The program features smart technology, which controls the intensity of the light, and schedules the hours of operation according to the number of occupants in the vicinity at the moment.  

Smart Water Metering

The new automated meters monitor and report water usage. NYC buildings are required to minimize the waste of rain and gray waters. The new devices also collect data about rain-water harvesting and grey-water recycling levels.

Smart Waste Management

Bigbellys are smart trash cans being installed across the city. They monitor trash levels and send an alert, avoiding trash overflow and optimizing pick-up schedules. Equipped with a solar-powered trash compactor, this system has five times the capacity of a traditional trash bin.

Learn more about smart city initiatives in our guide: Columbus Smart City: Technology In Support Of Social Opportunity

NYC Uses Smart City Technology to Improve Transportation

The city government is promoting mobility innovation, focusing on coordinated solutions that will make the user’s commute more efficient and smooth.

  • Innovation Challenge: Sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). They are offering $3 million dollar funding for projects that can help reduce transportation congestion, encourage energy-friendly transportation modes, and improve overall transportation. Companies can send proposals until the end of October 2019.  
  • New plan to tackle congestion in NYC: The Department of Transportation is investing in data sets containing information about vehicle travel times and volume to assess congestion. They launched the project Midtown in Motion, a smart transportation management system that uses real-life information to schedule traffic cameras and direct traffic. For that purpose, they installed traffic sensors, cameras, and EZ-pass readers.
  • Vision zero action plan: The city is developing a connected vehicle technology solution to minimize crashes and traffic-related deaths. This program equips vehicles with a device that will provide them with real-time data on road conditions. These safety applications alert the driver to help avoid a crash or diminish its impact.

Learn more about smart city initiatives in our guide: Chicago Smart City: Shaping The Future With Data

NYC at the Forefront of Innovation

NYC is launching innovation projects across the city to become a smart and equitable city. The city is an ongoing hub for smart initiatives to address issues like connectivity, resources conservation, entrepreneurship, and reducing environmental impact:

Projects like the Community Air Survey to study pollution impact, and the installation of Vacancy Sensors in schools to measure greenhouse emissions, help the city monitor air pollution. Initiatives tackling resource conservation like automated water metering and smart street lighting.

They aim to engage citizens in public initiatives. Projects like IdeaScale Pilot project, which allows residents to communicate directly with the precinct commander, help promote public safety. MyNYCHA, a mobile application, allows residents to access public housing services.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are encouraged by initiatives as Women Entrepreneurs NYC, which provides free training and business services to 5,000 women entrepreneurs from at-risk communities.

The success of NYC smart city solutions comes from their collaborative and people-centered approach. The engagement of residents with private and public sectors in projects to improve the city’s quality of life is showing positive results.