Bob (left) with KC Mayor Sly James.
Chief Innovation Officer
Kansas City, Missouri
Before KC became a smart city, potholes were a logistical nightmare. One day a pothole would be reported for repair, Public Works would arrive and fill it, but the very next day the Water Department would tear the street up to fix pipes. Lack of internal coordination led to the city spending money on the same section of street multiple times, rather than doing a single well-planned repair.
Through a public private partnership with digital technology firm Xaqt, Kansas City now operates with advanced traffic management and data analytics. The first step in working smart was to consolidate data silos of individual departments. Now agencies involved with water, street repair, and IT talk to each other, breaking the road once and not making weeks-long messes of the streets. In the process, the city saves hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs.
With Xaqt, the city is also outfitting and testing fleet vehicles with sensing technology to catalogue road conditions annually and assess when and where new potholes will emerge. Now street repair is no longer focused on emergency repairs, but on scheduled paving projects. Public Works can also plan for weather events to optimize repairs. The city is currently fielding its analytics tool on 10 major arterial roads including Brighton Ave in the North, Southwest Trafficway and Prospect Ave in the heart of the city, and Ward Parkway and Bannister Road in the south.
The city anticipates doubling its repair budget within five years, and hopes to deploy predictive analytics in other areas as well, such as coordinating with police to prevent crime and drug use associated with vacant homes.
Before becoming involved in smart city innovation, Bob served 25 years in the US Army: as a field artillery man for the first 18 years of his service, then a battalion commander for a unit of 500 personnel. Bob became a strategic planner in 2007, then worked for General Petraeus in 2008-9 to counteract strategic threats during the final phases of the war in Iraq. He also spent time in Hawaii with a cruise missile planning unit conducting strategic operations in Libya in 2011. Later he became the Chief of Operations of the US Army Africa, based in Italy. He served as the guest strategic planner for the Heartland Men’s Chorus (a Kansas City gay men’s singing group) retreat in 2015, at which he met former Mayor Kay Barnes and was offered the job of CIO of KC shortly thereafter.
To become a smart city, focus on big projects. Transportation, water, and energy are great opportunities to consolidate data in your city and gain access to every resident so you can apply Smart City solutions for everyone. Also, get to know your colleagues, and reach out to professionals in other cities. Everyone has so much to both learn and teach.
Knows how to tap dance.