Key Smart City Leaders: David Edinger, CIO, City and County of Denver; Paul Kresser, Chief Data Officer, City and County of Denver; James Lindauer, Application Architect, City and County of Denver
Main Smart City Priorities: While Denver has been working on smart city projects since 2016, its focus has shifted to how the city can better leverage, collect, organize and classify data and then make it available within the government and to the public, says Paul Kresser, chief data officer for the city and county of Denver
One of Denver’s core smart city initiatives right now is the Love My Air program, run out of the Denver Department of Public Health, which leverages sensors to measure air quality, a key quality-of-life issue for residents given that there is a large oil refinery located just north of the city. The air quality sensor data is available to local school leaders, who can then use the data to make decisions about whether schoolchildren should be let out for recess, for example, Kresser says.
Denver’s Department of Transportation Infrastructure is also running several initiatives aimed at detecting bikers and pedestrians in traffic intersections and extending light times to ensure their safety, according to Kresser.
How the City Uses and Shares Smart City Data: Over the past several years, Denver has worked to assimilate Internet of Things data into its overall data collection and management, though IoT devices are on a separate network, says James Lindauer, an application architect for the city and county of Denver.
Denver uses Microsoft’s Power BI as well as Snowflake’s cloud data warehouse or hub to manage and analyze its data. “We looked at this kind of holistically, because what we didn’t want to create was basically siloed software components that don’t talk to each other,” Lindauer says. That has required significant collaboration inside Denver’s Technology Services unit, as well as with city departments and external entities.
The data warehouse is very good at handling structured and semistructured data, according to Lindauer. Denver has set up a process that allows government users to submit data requests to the city’s data team. The request is then analyzed, and the data classification is determined (for example, whether it includes any personally identifiable information) to ensure Denver is complying with regulatory controls around data. Denver applies role-based access controls over all of its data sets, making certain data sets available either to large groups or specific sets of users.
“What that allows us to do is to make sure that we have some control and structure, and we know who has access to what data and we go through a formal process,” Lindauer says.
Kresser notes that if smart city data “isn’t governed, if it isn’t classified appropriately, if there isn’t good metadata associated with it, and if there isn’t a data steward or an owner assigned to it, then it gets lost, it remains in a silo, it doesn’t stay current, and people lose faith or trust in that data.”
In the third quarter of 2022, Denver is going to start work implementing a data catalog for the data hub, Kresser says. That will enable data analysts in other city departments to scour the hub via plain text searches and identify data sets, see who the data steward for a particular data set is and view all the metadata associated with it, according to Kresser.
Denver’s long-term goal with the data catalog is to make it a self-service, automated workflow, according to Lindauer. Users will also ideally be able to know the last time data sets were updated and how often they are updated.
The catalog is also going to have AI capabilities that will suggest when different data sets would benefit from being joined together.
“That is what’s really going to kind of enable the analytic explosion we’re expecting,” Kresser adds.
Words of Wisdom: