MAKING DENTON SMARTER

DANIELLE GAITHER

21623877_10155655751054919_1061471990_n.jpg

Do you love coffee? Are you interested in improving the efficiency of city services?

If so, Abdulrahman Habib has good news for you.

In March, we asked Habib about what a smarter Denton might look like. Since then, interest in smart cities has only increased both locally and elsewhere. Now Habib has collaborated with UNT’s College of Information and the City of Denton to ask Denton residents what they would like to see in a smart Denton.


Habib hopes to learn what kind of services residents want, as well as to educate them on what services are currently available that residents might not know about. An example of a project from elsewhere that Habib would like to see in Denton is real-time traffic information. Chicago and New York City are able to offer this service thanks to sensors in the roads that can report the amount of traffic at any given moment. However, most traffic-related services, such as Google Maps, currently give predictions based on past traffic patterns for that time period.

Of course, traffic data is helpful for planning where to drive, or even more importantly, where not to drive, but such data can have other uses. For example, if a person is planning to open a business, knowing the traffic patterns in the area could be extremely useful. While there are methods currently in place to estimate this information, such methods are expensive and labor-intensive and still only provide approximate answers.

21640245_10155655643004919_682087095_o.jpg

Weather is another potential area for smart data. What if you could get a notification on your phone that rain was expected, so you can skip watering the lawn that day? Weather data could also potentially help first-responders in the event of a natural disaster.

On a smaller scale, imagine you encounter a pothole while driving in Denton (we know this almost never happens, but use your imagination). The current procedure to report such a problem involves digging through the city’s website to find out which department handles your issue, at which point you can either fill out an online form or make a phone call. Now imagine if you could report a problem with a mobile app that detects your location and encourages you to upload a photo of the problem. Postscapes offers excellent examples of how cities such as Amsterdam, New York, London, and Barcelona have leveraged mobile apps and the Internet of Things to improve life for their residents.

Some of you might be nodding your heads and saying, “That’s great, but how are we going to pay for all of this?” This concern appears to be the main reason a proposal for a 311 system (a central avenue for reporting non-emergency problems) in Denton was shot down in 2013. However, Habib’s survey takes cost into account and even requests input on which funding approaches people might prefer. Some possibilities include small increases in service fees or watching brief ad videos.

Another reasonable concern that some residents have with smart cities is data privacy. The good news is that the vast majority of information that people see is aggregated; i.e., you only see collective numbers for a group of people. There are privacy laws in place to protect most individually identifiable data.

So how would you like to bring Denton into the future? Are self-driving cars your thing? Do you want to be able to locate an open parking space at all times? The best way to make your voice heard is to take the survey! Then enjoy your free coffee afterward, of course. But hurry – the survey won’t be open too much longer!