Smart City Initiatives

Leading examples of smart cities across the globe

Los Angeles smart city: data and sustainability

In this article:

  • What is Los Angeles Smart City?
  • Who is helping to collect LA data?
  • Uses of LA city data
  • Other initiatives in LA
Los Angeles smart city

Los Angeles is promoting research and development into sustainability and data science, adopting technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve the quality of life of Angelenos. The city is facing challenges to urban functionality, such as congestion, as well as environmental issues like pollution, climate change, and the threat of natural disasters like earthquakes.

To deal with these challenges, Los Angeles has become an early adopter of smart city solutions and is a testing ground for urban technology. The city is teaming up with universities and tech companies to improve services and help clean up the environment by, for example, facilitating recycling and waste disposal. Another objective is to boost the city’s ability to attract business and innovation.

Los Angeles has been named America’s number one digital city for the third year in a row. According to the Center for Digital Government, the city is a leader in innovation and leveraging data to improve the lives of Angelenos by, for example, making transport more efficient and expanding green spaces. Other smart city goals include increasing government transparency and applying technological solutions to social issues.

Partners helping to collect LA data

Angelenos can choose to share data from their computers or mobile devices via the Los Angeles Open Data platform. To improve transparency and accountability, the city shares the data it collects with the public. Government agencies make their raw data and tax expenditure details available via an open data platform with 1,100 datasets. This lets individuals and commercial or non-profit organizations leverage the data for research and development purposes.

The AT&T Los Angeles Partnership

This public-private partnership involves smart city projects intended to monitor and assess conditions in LA. Objectives include improving connectivity in disadvantaged neighborhoods, raising standards in homeless shelters, reducing road fatalities, detecting unreported crimes, measuring air quality, and identifying faults in infrastructure. Strategies range from installing digital infrastructure and deploying small cell technology to issuing traffic and public safety information.

Intelligent Internet of Things Integrator (I3) Consortium

Several departments of the University of Southern California (USC) announced in 2017 that they will form a consortium to develop, test, and deploy a system of community-based IoT networks for the benefit of the City of Los Angeles, its industry, and its residents. The aim is to consolidate data streams from many IoT devices into a common resource. The project involves cyber, technology management, and business faculties.

Uses of Los Angeles city data

The City of Los Angeles collects large volumes of data and shares it with public and private organizations and individuals, who can use this data for various applications such as:

  • Internet of Trees: Google and Caltech have paired up to help identify and count trees using a machine learning algorithm. Instead of sending surveyors to roam the streets of LA and count each individual tree, the algorithm relies on Google Earth and Google Street View. With around 700,000 trees spread over 469 square miles, the city wants to preserve and expand its green space. City planners will use the information to allocate more land to parks and community gardens.
  • Intelligent traffic signal controllers: Intelligent signal controllers help manage traffic lights in over 1,500 intersections in Los Angeles. They illuminate crosswalks, direct bicycle traffic, and regulate traffic flow to improve safety and vehicle efficiency and help reduce emissions. They will eventually communicate with driverless vehicles. The controllers use traffic control cabinets containing computers and sensors and are equipped with fail-safe measures like alerts indicating the need to repair the intersection backup system and sensors to detect when lights fail so they can send immediate notifications.
  • Climate-Smart Los-Angeles: This project is part of the sustainability plan developed by the Trust for Public Land. A geographic information system (GIS) decision support tool will help planners identify suitable locations for green infrastructure. The initiative has several objectives. The first is to decrease the temperature difference between rural and urban areas by 1.7°F by 2025, and 3.0°F by 2035. Another objective is to ensure that 65% percent of residents live within a half mile of a park or open space by 2025. Other goals include increasing pedestrian and bike traffic, while encouraging the use of public transit, and halving the amount of imported water that the city purchases.
  • ShakeAlertLA: Earthquake early warning (EEW) systems remain imperfect, but they can be effective for people who are further away from the epicenter. The City of Los Angeles developed an earthquake alert app in collaboration with the US Geological Survey(USGS), the Annenberg Foundation, and AT&T. Hundreds of sensors straddling geological faults collect data and send alerts to users’ smartphones when they detect seismic activity. While the ShakeAlertLA app is specific to L.A. County, it uses open source technology that could be used to develop similar apps elsewhere.
Other LA Initiatives
  • LA Cyber Lab: The city’s cyber intelligence insights are freely available to local businesses. Cyber Lab was launched in August 2017 and is continually expanding.
  • OurCycle LA: The city has partnered with the nonprofit human-I-T to recycle or reuse close to 10,000 discarded computers. Up to 40 percent of these will be refurbished and distributed to individuals and community centers in low-income areas.
  • Clean Streets Initiative: Part of the Comprehensive Homeless Strategy, this program intends to crack down on illegal dumping using data from the 311 call center and mobile app. The initiative involves hiring and training sanitation personnel and provides a customer relationship management system to respond to pickup requests and reports of illegal dumping.
  • Data Science Federation: Hundreds of faculty and students from 18 local universities collaborate with city departments to help solve urban challenges through data science projects. The program is open to a range of proposals intended to improve the quality of life in LA. For example, using predictive tools like data analytics to help address the city's housing problem and identify at-risk individuals before they become homeless.

Conclusion

As the population expands and environmental challenges like earthquakes and air pollution become increasingly important, the City of Los Angeles will work to ensure that Angelenos can maintain and even improve their high quality of life. The city emphasizes the input of over 100 thousand citizens to help shape its goals in making Los Angeles the best place to learn, create, play, connect, and live. Other cities can look to LA for an example of how to optimize green spaces and manage natural disasters, as well as to encourage innovation with the use of open data and transparency. Together with its academic and industrial partners, the city will continue to attract attention as a leading hub of smart city technology.