Coral Gables, Fla., has a remarkable tool used to spur smart city growth: an online digital twin, accessible to the public.
Established with the assistance of Amazon Web Services, the digital twin collects data in real time and allows web visitors to explore Coral Gables through an interactive satellite map.
At Smart Cities Connect 2022 last month, Rayza Collazo, IT systems analyst for Coral Gables, and Ali Asad Hasan, business director for Internet of Things and Smart Cities Partners at AWS, discussed smart city solutions now implemented in the city, which is located just west of Miami. The two also talked about the power of aggregating solutions into a single citizen-services website.
That’s exactly what they helped create for the city: Coral Gables’ publicly accessible digital twin offers live data on traffic, parking availability, the topography of the city, land and asset management, and more. The digital twin is a result of consolidating data from the city’s 14 departments, and it has allowed for easier collaboration between them.
“We built the digital twin not only for us but for our development services division. They can better plan what they want to build or what they're going to approve for permitting purposes,” Collazo said. “It’s great for not only us but for residents as well. You can see our parking facilities and our bus stops as you zoom into the map and really look through the entire city.”
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Live Data and Economic Development
Collazo’s team placed IoT sensors on a main road in town and used them as pedestrian counters to see how many people walked around near local shops and visited them.
Collazo said that some local businesses expressed concern about not getting enough foot traffic. So, Collazo’s team shared with businesses the data from the sensors to offer insights into how to grow revenue. One art exhibit in town, for example, called the Umbrella Sky Project, was attracting large crowds.
“We got to show to all businesses how a simple art project could bring you that much business, because people were just walking through and seeing the shops in that area,” Collazo said.
Public Safety and Efficient Mobility
Another one of Coral Gables’ smart city initiatives is the city’s surveillance cameras, which can analyze what they record. This affects public safety: Camera footage has been used to help law enforcement identify missing persons and monitor criminal activity. At an event called Carnival on the Mile, Collazo recalled, a child went missing among the thousands of attendees.
“We have the technology to be able to see different things, so we can decipher if somebody with a white shirt was walking through, or somebody with a red hat,” Collazo said. “We called the cops immediately.” They were able to locate the child within minutes with the help of camera footage and analytics.
Cameras around Coral Gables also can detect how many parking spots in a lot are available. This enables a smart parking system, where residents can go online and see in real time which spots are open.
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Using Integration Tools to Better Analyze Data
Collazo said the digital twin started with the vision of horizontal integration. Using a specialized tool, the city was able to aggregate data from all departments on one platform.
“We have all this data. It's great, but it does nothing unless you’re really showing it to people or doing something with it. As departments, we have all these cool little features that we keep within ourselves, and then other departments have cool features too. If we don't share that together, we're getting nowhere,” Collazo said. “So, the point was to increase citizen services to help our public safety, to share information with our urban planners and not only our residents but just every department within the city.”
“It's very rare to see all of this technology in one place actually integrated and working together. For me, that was the exciting part,” Hasan said.