Lori’s Blog: Cary is a Smart City

Cary, NC – I was honored to be asked to join Mayor Nancy McFarlane (Raleigh), Mayor Pam Hemminger (Chapel Hill) and City Manager Tom Bonfield (Durham) for a panel at the Triangle Smart Cities Summit last month.

A View from the City

We’re in a Triangle of Smart Cities

The “View from the City” panel was moderated by Governor Martin O’Malley, and we bounced a number of questions, ideas,  and visions around the table regarding our take on “what IS a Smart City” and how we get there. If you want, you can watch the WHOLE thing below. What was apparent was that each of our municipalities is working hard to leverage technology to improve the lives of our residents – by tapping into the intellectual capital at our respective universities, engaging citizens and working across our city and town boundaries to find regional solutions and best practices. I highlighted a number of our wins – like Aquastar, that I’ve blogged about before – and new things on the horizon.

Triangle Smart Cities

Speaking of New Things

The Town of Cary Technology Services group participated in the Triangle Smart Cities, by showcasing their new Innovation Experience Center as part of the “poster session.” This new and exciting initiative is a way for Cary to test, develop and try out a number of technologies while creating public/private partnerships around Smart City capabilities. All with the goal of addressing our business challenges, improving productivity, or saving money, or even to improve citizen engagement.

Cary Smart City Poster

This Center is in its early stages – with the vision to create a Smart City Town Campus, where some of these solutions can be piloted.

Here are just a few of the Use Cases:

  •  Transportation and Smart Parking, providing parking info and availability info to staff and citizens through an app
  •  Facility Usage, determining community center usage
  •  Community Apps – finding ways to increase citizen engagement, utilalize data from other apps for overall usage info
  •  Work order management – how to use the Internet of Things to help automate processes and drive data driven decisions
  •  Alexa – Providing intelligent personal assistant capabilities, and government services on this new platform, check my blog about that, here.

Through their public/private partnerships, they will be able to try new capabilities around a number of technologies, from parking sensors to sensors on trash cans, to drones to test and inspect equipment, to smart lighting, and more.

(I’ll write more about each of these over the next few weeks.)

Sharing is Caring

Some of us techies have a difficult time explaining what we do and how we do it to non-techie folks. So the folks at the Cary Technology Services  department thought they would find a way to try to do just that by having an Open House. You know what you need for Open Houses, right? Well, normally alchohol, but they didn’t have that (I know, right?)

But, they had the right stuff – cool stuff (drones, all kinds of neat devices), demonstrations (how to use Chatter, and how e911 works, demo of the trial parking app), interactive and engaging content (getting feedback from people on their use of tools, and an overview of Agile), and most importantly, dessert. Oh, and shirts – they had cool T-Shirts for the team. Wanna run through it?  Take a look.

While I was there, it was packed with people coming to learn more about what the TS Department does, how they do things, and how they can help. I heard people with some “aha” moments during an Open Data demo while also trying to think how they might be able to use Tableau to solve some of their problems. I saw folks learning how to use Chatter to keep abreast of things going on in Town, and lots of “wows” as I walked around.

We have Interns

There were some young folks there too, the Interns, guiding the employees around, and showing off what they were working on this summer. It’s an amazing opportunity – to both see the inner workings of government, and to be able to work on a real project. They were all so thrilled with what they are learning – and we learn so much from them. These are our citizens of the future – hopefully they will pursue jobs in the Public Sector – we need great and innovative people like them.

Town of Cary Interns

What’s next?

I’m so very proud of what our innovative teams have done – this new “Smart City Campus” is right here on our Town Hall Campus – near the Herb Young Center. This will be a place where we can partner with a number of private companies to try new technologies and capabilities that will address current and new problems – all in a real world environment without interrupting our citizens lives. Cary will be leveraging Internet of Things hardware and software – and we are leading the way – in fact, this is one of the first implementations of Cisco’s IOT Platform in the US, I believe.

Over the next few weeks I’ll highlight some of the great work these folks are doing – with a deep dive into some of the technologies and efforts to leverage data to improve our collective quality of life.

And yes, there will be a discussion of drones, I promise.


From the blog of Cary Councilmember-At-Large Lori Bush. Photos courtesy of Lori Bush.

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