Kansas City has reached a final agreement with Sprint and Cisco Systems to create a “Smart City” set of high-tech services along the 2.2-mile downtown streetcar line.
“This is just one more feather in our cap that makes us special and will make our streetcar line even more special,” Mayor Sly James said as City Manager Troy Schulte prepared to sign the agreement Thursday.
The city is investing $3.7 million in public funds, Sprint is putting in about $7 million and Cisco is putting in about $5 million, according to Ashley Hand, the city’s chief innovation officer.
Sprint will build and own a Wi-Fi network along the 2-mile streetcar line to provide services to its customers. The city will use the network to provide the public free Wi-Fi access much the way restaurants and other venues do and to accomplish its Smart City goals.
Kansas City’s streetcar route will include smart lighting, cameras and sensors, plus 25 interactive digital kiosks along the route that can provide information about local cultural events, food and entertainment, other businesses and city services such as the 311 Action Center.
Sensors along the route will collect data from the lights, traffic signals, pavement, water pipes and more to help the city with traffic flow and obstructions and more efficient city services.
Schulte said energy-efficient lighting at strategic points on the route is expected to save the city in operating and maintenance costs.
Sprint spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh said the intent of the agreements is for the free Wi-Fi to be available to pedestrians and others on the street. It is not being designed as a mobile connection to work for passengers as the streetcar moves along its track.
Work on building the network, which will use Cisco equipment, can begin now that the agreements have been signed, Walsh said.
The $3.7 million from the city will be financed over 10 years, with debt service of $300,000 in 2016 and ramping up to $430,000 for the remaining nine years.
The features are expected to be operational when the streetcar opens to the public, probably on or before March 1, 2016.
If the system works well, it could be expanded beyond downtown.
Sprint and the city see the network as a tool for entrepreneurs. A partnership between Cisco and Think Big Partners in Kansas City will operate the Living Lab to allow entrepreneurs to connect to the data the network collects. Armed with this information, new businesses can form and develop new apps and services as well as partner with larger companies.
Kansas City’s announcement said it sees the Living Lab as a pilot that could broaden to industrial users.