July 4 parade (J.D.S./Shutterstock.com)

2018 Government Innovation Awards

When smart cities meet event management

Unsurprisingly, the city of Independence, Ore., goes all out on the nation’s birthday, hosting a four-day event that doubles its population of about 10,000. Management of the celebration has largely been left to volunteers, but this year, they got some digital help.

Virtual Situation Room

City of Independence, Ore.

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“Our problem was how do we most effectively deploy staff during this very large event where it’s just madness and craziness, and how do we keep track of all the information?” said Jason Kistler, the city’s IT manager.

The answer was the WiseTown Situation Room, an event management tool created by the city and software development company TeamDev. Kistler likened it to a computer-aided dispatch system. During the event, the tool automatically ingested real-time traffic information, surveillance video and geo-referenced social media posts and shared them on a central dashboard.

“We had an app that ran on all volunteers’ smartphones [and] all city staff smartphones, and that enabled us to track their locations within the event,” Kistler said. “When an issue would come up, we could assign the nearest person…who was available.”

The city also used internet-of-things technology to monitor the crowds and collect demographic information. Using sensors at the entrance gates, officials could track the number of people entering and leaving, along with their age groups and genders.

It was a vast improvement over operations in the past. “Usually, volunteers are just running around putting out fires that they see,” Kistler said.

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