SCHENECTADY — Schenectady’s mayor and traffic signal superintendent are back from a Smart Cities conference in Spain with new ideas on how technology can make the city work better.
Mayor Gary McCarthy said Schenectady stood out among much-larger municipalities, such as New York City, Kansas City and San Diego, because those cities mostly wired individual neighborhoods or business districts.
“What we’re looking to do here is a full, citywide deployment,” he said.
The city in January 2016 formed a Smart City Advisory Committee to investigate how to incorporate new technology into Schenectady’s infrastructure. It has budgeted $1 million for Smart Cities initiatives and infrastructure in its 2018 budget. A major component will be streetlights that use LED bulbs, which consume much less electricity than conventional streetlight bulbs and will produce an estimated $400,000 annual cost savings.
Other components of the plan are still being determined and could include sensors and transmitters that will do anything from monitoring weather and traffic to boosting Wi-Fi signals.
The city is working in partnership on its Smart Cities initiative with entities including National Grid. The electrical utility is awaiting state regulatory approval for its proposed portion of the plan, the mayor said.
McCarthy said he attended the conference last week in Barcelona, Spain, at the request of the U.S. Department of Commerce, after making presentations in Washington at the request of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
On the trip to Spain, he was accompanied by Signal Superintendent John Coluccio, who has greater technical expertise and will lead some of the infrastructure work needed in Schenectady.
“We were there to talk about some of the things we were doing, but also to learn about things that were available,” McCarthy said.
The city covered the cost of airfare for the Barcelona trip, about $1,200, and four nights in a hotel, about $1,100. McCarthy paid for the 150-mile drive to and from the airport, as well as parking and meals.
“It’s a relatively cheap expenditure for raising the profile of the city of Schenectady,” he said, noting that he appeared on the platform with leaders from across the United States and other nations.
McCarthy said the recent agitation for Catalonian independence — a demonstration in Barcelona the day before he arrived drew a reported 750,000 people — was not on display during the conference.
“It surprised me; I thought there’d be some,” he said. “There was not a sign or piece of litter. People were very gracious.”