Jan 11 2023

Q&A: Coral Gables, Fla., CIO Raimundo Rodulfo Shares Smart City Initiatives

The municipality’s current efforts include augmented reality, digital twins and smart city poles.

Coral Gables, Fla., is in the middle of a five-year smart city plan. As CIO and director of innovation and technology, Raimundo Rodulfo leads several digital transformation initiatives, including a smart city hub, augmented reality apps and a digital twin effort.

The city has won numerous accolades recently, including the 2022 IEEE Smart Cities Jury Award, and was named one of StateTech’s Smart Cities to Watch in 2020. Coral Gables also recently won the Smart City Innovation Excellence Award from the Smart Cities Council.

Rodulfo has a background in engineering in the telecommunications industry. Before joining the city of Coral Gables in 2004, he worked for 10 years in the private sector for companies such as BellSouth, Motorola and Siemens.

Rodulfo spoke with StateTech to provide a rundown on some of the city’s innovative smart city projects in the works.

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STATETECH: How has Coral Gables’ five-year smart city plan evolved?

RODULFO: There have been many initiatives like our public safety headquarters building, smart parking garages and smart building renovations. We piloted a first-of-its-kind integrated, modular artificial intelligence-powered smart city pole, which uses edge analytics and aerospace engineering modular technology, in downtown Coral Gables. Now we are adding 10 more smart city poles. That, to me, is the next evolution of the Internet of Things infrastructure or cyber-physical technology for smart cities because it lowers the footprint and consolidates all the technology in one place. It's like plug-and-play; it's more cost-effective because now you only do construction once.

We’ve also been doing research with universities. A research project funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Energy will investigate intelligent signals that connect to smart vehicles in real time to optimize traffic. So that's something that we started in the previous two years.

STATETECH: What projects are you most excited about right now in your role as director of innovation and technology in Coral Gables?

RODULFO: There's the Smart City Hub, which is frequently used by businesses to get data when they want to see traffic downtown. If you are a retail business or a restaurant downtown, you care about this kind of data because it helps you to improve your sales. It's also used by urban planners and universities, and even by middle school students who use the platform sometimes for their homework. For example, students were doing research on nature and conservation, and they reached out to us to see if we have data to share. First responders and city officials use it, and residents who want to see data about water canal sensors. We are trying to get more people to use it. The most popular feature is the mobile app to pay for city services, such as parking, online.

RELATED: How the city of Coral Gables is spurring smart city growth with a digital twin.

STATETECH: Tell me about Coral Gables’ work with digital twins.

RODULFO: We have a lot of geospatial analytics applications in our digital twin platform where we connect data from assets like smart lights. We leverage a lot of the tools, intelligence and cloud capabilities we have from Amazon Web Services to interpret our urban analytics. Now we are experimenting with Web3 immersive devices such as virtual reality headsets, including Oculus, Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap. In our lab, we test applications that allow us to use those VR headsets to conduct visual inspections. That also includes a little bit of augmented reality, because that gives you the metadata related to the object you're watching. We also work together with the University of Miami’s business technology researchers who are testing an assisted reality device that looks a little bit like Google Glass.

Raimundo Rodulfo
We are...expanding our smart districts by adding 25 more fiber corridor segments, connecting to the south and to the north of the city. So, we have a lot of goals that will have a regional impact.”

Raimundo Rodulfo CIO and Director of Innovation and Technology, Coral Gables, Fla.

STATETECH: How do Coral Gables’ projects put actionable data into the hands of its citizens?

RODULFO: One example is the data we publish on the Smart City Hub. The transparency portals show productivity data from city accounts, or financial data about how the city is spending taxpayer dollars. All of that data is published and shared with the public. We share traffic data with businesses so it can be used for economic growth and productivity. That's actionable data, especially the information about public safety.

STATETECH: What are some recent public safety deployments in Coral Gables? What technology is involved in those?

RODULFO: In our community intelligence center here, the police department launched a VR center where they conduct simulations for response scenarios. We also remodeled the emergency operations center for public safety. The city aggregates emergency operations here for Coral Gables and six other partners: the municipalities of Pinecrest, West Miami, South Miami, Cutler Bay and Sweetwater, and the University of Miami campus located in Coral Gables.

EXPLORE: How the city of Carlsbad improved data sharing across local government.

Also, the police department recently started an innovative manned drone program that can take it anywhere in the city within three minutes to expedite response when there's an incident. My team also uses drones to inspect towers or rooftop water damage, and to conduct operations such as a drone delivery of supplies when there's no physical access or rescue reconnaissance after hurricanes.

STATETECH: What are your top goals for the future? What milestones do you expect to achieve?

RODULFO: We have to finish implementing our cloud suite of enterprise systems. We are working with all departments, including finance and human resources, to implement the systems. With this new core financial and HR enterprise system, we will be completely digital and paperless, so it's a major milestone for our digital transformation journey, becoming completely digital, interoperable and integrated.

We are also expanding our smart districts by adding 25 more fiber corridor segments, connecting to the south and to the north of the city. So, we have a lot of goals that will have a regional impact.

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