What is a resilient city? What do you want your resilient city to look like? Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Undersecretary for Science and Technology Dr. Reginald Brothers asked those questions at a panel discussion during Smart Cities Week in Washington, D.C. on September, 27.
The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) conducts research to develop and enhance technologies that will support safety, security, and resilience in cities across the country. These projects and research efforts also aim to help leaders at all levels develop smart city concepts based on resilience standards.
Brothers characterized a resilient city as one with the capacity to absorb future shocks and stresses and to strengthen its social and economic systems and infrastructure, allowing it to maintain functions and its identity in the aftermath of a disaster.
But what type of future shocks are we talking about? What type of stresses? And how do we measure resilience?
Part of the challenge, according to Brothers, is developing the right type of scenarios for any given community, because challenges and resources will be different.
S&T’s First Responders Group (FRG) is actively working to provide answers and solutions to some of these challenges by applying Internet of Things (IoT) and other smart cities capabilities, sensors, and standards. One R&D initiatives Brothers introduced highlighted the development of low-cost IoT flood sensors.
“We are working with the city of Austin and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to do a quick test. We are simulating a flood where we use IoT flood sensors tied into different apps and phones. We’re tying those to a command center in the city. It is a simple demonstration. The point is, we’re developing alerts and geo-targeted warnings specifically to allow first responders to receive first-hand notice to allow everyone to better understand where those flood waters are going,” Brothers explained.
“LCRA covers 44,000 square miles of land, which is the size of Kentucky. A lot of these are flat lands, agricultural lands that are also irrigated. So one of the thoughts we have is, if we can get the cost of these sensors down, for agricultural purposes, we can use them for dyke monitoring, soil water concentrations, or in a drought, you could then focus your water sprinkler system accordingly,” Jeff Booth, the FRG’s Director of Information Applications and Standards Division, further explained the project.
Keeping the cost down for better resilience
Keeping the unit price down for newly developed sensors is even more essential for smaller rural communities. S&T not only works with industry partners to develop new technologies, it also works with them to leverage the existing ones.
S&T is in the process of reviewing its research and development portfolio which includes first responders, cybersecurity, and data analytics to look at ways to leverage capabilities and expertise originally developed for homeland security missions that can be transitioned to local communities. Doing so, S&T aims to provide value as a strategic advisor to the nation’s developing smart cities.
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