Over recent years, smart technologies that emphasize automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and data monitoring have become critical components of infrastructure modernization projects. Public officials are doubling down on these types of technologies because of the benefits they deliver.

Smart technology was first noticed when governmental entities installed LED lighting, synchronized and adjustable traffic systems, call centers, and citizen service portals. Now, however, smart technology components are in high demand for almost evert type of project – water systems, public safety, roadways, electrical grids, research centers, telehealth, ports, Etc.

The 2024 federal budget allocates $1.2 billion to the Department of Energy for smart technologies to reduce carbon emissions, improve resilience and bolster sustainability. States are also launching and funding smart technology projects for all types of modernization initiatives. In New Jersey, state officials are using smart technology to overhaul collection, analysis and sharing of data across all state agencies. Local government officials are also investing heavily in projects to explore more expansive uses of smart technology.

Photo courtesy of the Department of Energys National Energy Technology Laboratory 300x169 Smart technologies are in high demand when public officials have problems to solve

Photo courtesy of the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory

The University of Florida is partnering with the city of Jacksonville to develop a research center that will consolidate biomedical data and financial technology along with artificial intelligence to improve healthcare records and services. Just this month, local leaders in Jacksonville announced a $50 million funding allocation to support the project. Another $20 million is available for preliminary planning and concept design work. A new facility will be constructed, and it is ultimately projected to cost $200 million. An agreement between the city of Jacksonville and the University of Florida provides a construction deadline that places the project on an escalated timeline.

The New York State Health Department is requesting information and input from smart technology firms related to improving the management of public health-related data. The outreach is part of the state’s effort to enhance electronic disease and condition surveillance (EDSS) solutions. State officials plan to procure smart technology that will allow health data to be managed more efficiently. The technology will be used to build out an internet browser-based system for collecting and mapping health data that will then be made available to public health officials throughout the state.

Numerous very recent federal spending programs have a common component – they are prioritizing funding for a program known as ‘Complete Streets’. The program also focuses on projects that use smart technology. Along with all of the increased funding, recent federal mandates have also been eliminated. In the past, funding grants for smart technology required matching funds. On March 13, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced that—until the end of 2026—localities will no longer be required to match funding for Complete Streets projects. This will accelerate deployment of smart technology to increase safety and accessibility of the country’s transportation infrastructure.

The city of Chicago will soon launch two Complete Streets projects. City officials will now identify qualified vendors to assist with each of several recently approved projects. The first initiative will involve installing surveillance cameras along multimodal corridors as well as on transit vehicles to monitor illegal parking in bus-only lanes, crosswalks and no-parking zones. The second project will authorize the use of license plate reading cameras to automate how the city oversees parking in commercial loading zones. Chicago’s Department of Transportation and Department of Finance will evaluate the pilot programs and their findings will likely open the door to even greater long-term investment in smart technology.

The city of Austin, Texas, plans to acquire a software platform that will use data from multiple sources to facilitate smarter, more efficient movement of people and goods across transportation corridors. The city’s transportation department is spearheading development of new roadway closure notification software, which will canvas agencies, contractors and public utilities operating on city roadways for real-time traffic updates. The software will map all notifications continually to provide data for citizens and motorists. On March 17, a solicitation for software providers was released to select one partner to help scope the project.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is already funding the next generation of smart technologies to improve transportation infrastructure. An allocation of $20 million will be used to establish a National Center for Infrastructure Transformation on the campus of Prairie View A&M University. The university will use federal funding to investigate the deployment of machine learning, artificial intelligence, unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e. drones) and other smart technologies to manage infrastructure assets more efficiently.

In Virginia’s Fairfax County, local leaders have allocated $2 million through each of the next several years for technology that will automate how public buildings are heated and ventilated. Beginning in 2025, the county will begin work on an $18 million project to upgrade building automation systems (BAS) across all county facilities. In addition to reducing energy consumption, the proposed upgrades will be scoped to save the county millions of dollars each year. During the project’s initial phase, BAS upgrades will be implemented at the county’s central fire station, multiple community centers and other buildings. This is one of several smart technology projects in development for Fairfax County, which recently invested $9 million to convert street lights to smart technology-powered LED lighting.

In Idaho, municipalities are investing in smart technology for more precise and efficient water infrastructure, even as drought conditions produce mounting strain on western water supplies. The municipality of Barre City, Idaho has allocated $350,000 for a project designed to automate local water distribution systems with smart technology. Beginning in 2024, the city will invest an initial $100,000 towards testing and improving access to existing valves within the Barre City water distribution system. Following this evaluation phase, the city will fund the replacement of outdated, analog valves on water pipes with automated, smart technology enhancements.

Smart technology is in high demand at all jurisdictional levels of government. Opportunities will be abundant throughout 2023 and are likely to be even greater in the next several years.

Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.