A smart city is a safe city, Herb Sih said. And technology can help.
“If you don’t have safety, you don’t have anything,” said Sih, managing partner at Think Big Partners, one of the key collaborators in Kansas City’s $15.7 million public-private Smart City initiative.
Having grown up in St. Louis, Sih said he has been disturbed by recent violence and unrest on the other side of Missouri. Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, which left at least 58 dead and more than 500 wounded, however, took that feeling to a whole new level, he said.
“You start to get sick of seeing these headlines. And it makes you sad, disgusted, shocked, horrified and frustrated,” Sih said, noting other high-profile mass killings in Orlando, San Bernardino, Paris and Brussels. “What happened at the Mandalay Bay (Resort and Casino in Las Vegas) … I’m not sure anyone could’ve handled it much differently. Talk about a random event. How do you predict every random event?”
Technology — the same technology that powers apps using location services or running complex analytics — could perhaps be the key, he said. Specifically, data already culled from users’ phones and other devices might provide enough information for forecasting or predicting based on activity, he said.
“There’s a lot of data available … data that maybe could’ve identified this guy,” Sih said, referencing the Las Vegas gunman, a 64-year-old retired accountant with no immediately apparent criminal record.
Part of the trick is determining which technologies can make a difference, and which are nothing more than marketing hype, he said.
An Oct. 18-19 Smart City Tech Summit on public safety seeks to help answer such questions during the two-day conference at Plexpod Westport Commons.
Responding to a call to action from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sih said Think Big Partners is taking a stand with the event, and putting its money where its mouth is.
“In light of recent public safety incidents, Think Big Partners is waiving the ticket costs to government officials, city leaders, smart city project leaders, university security, public venue technology officers and other public sector non-profits in hopes of getting the right people from every community to be able to attend,” a statement posted by the company read.
Think Big wanted to remove financial barriers for those who could not afford to attend the conference, which is set to feature some of the country’s foremost authorities on public safety issues, Sih said. The program is expected to delve into how technology can be a bridge to safer communities — in part, by looking at the dangers themselves, he said.
“Here’s the world that we live in. Here’s the reality of what you’re facing. There are so many ways that people can be unsafe,” Sih said. “We’ve got to be smarter than these guys, and some of them are pretty darn smart.”
Those interested in attending the public safety event, and who fit the criteria of people working in the public’s interest, may use the promo code “SMARTCITYSAFECITY” for access, Sih said. Representatives of for-profit ventures are asked to purchase tickets, he added.
Kansas City’s Smart City initiative is a collaboration between Think Big, the City of Kansas City, Sprint and Cisco.