The Future: Smart Cities


Written by Carmen Fong

What is Smart Cities?

          Smart cities is a leading urban development used to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and internet of things (IoT) to collect and analyze data to improve services and efficiency in a city.

Information and Community Technology

ICT is the infrastructure and components that will enable modern commuting. The development of smart cities will include ICT to offer a better quality of life for residents while being more sufficient and cost efficient. An example of ICT would include autonomous vehicles such as self-driving vehicles.

The Next Level: Self-driving vehicles


In 2009, Google created a self-driving car project to promote road safety and improve mobility for everyone. Google first used Toyota Prius’ to create autonomous features including sensors to detect streetlights, vehicles, speed limits, and steering.

In 2015, the “Firefly” was created by Google and hit public roads for the first time, limiting to the following cities: Mountain View, CA; Austin, TX; Kirkland, WA; and Metro Phoenix, AZ.

In 2006, the self-driving project became Waymo, a self-driving technology company.

Technology behind autonomous vehicles



The Firefly is newly designed and equipped with sensors, computers, steering and braking, and no steering wheel or pedals.

 Firefly includes sensors and software that detects numerous variables including:

·       Pedestrians

·       Vehicles

·       Road work

·       Distance of up to two football fields in each direction

·       Cyclists

o   Detecting hand signals to predict when cyclists need to change lanes

o   Slow down to make room for cyclists to pass safely on the road

·       And much more!

Information of Technology

Information of technology will also be used to create smart cities in the future. IoT devices can include: connected sensors, lights and meters to collect and analyze data in a city. With the collected data, a city can improve infrastructure, public utilities, and services. For example, smart parking, an application that may improve the efficiency and ease of parking within a city.

Smart Parking


 The image above summarizes about smart parking. Smart parking uses specific sensors that are installed in streets, parking lots, and parking garages to determine whether a stall is vacant or occupied. With metered parking, parking enforcers will be notified if a vehicle has overstayed their allocated time and receive a parking citation. Smart-parking technology can be quite expensive and is still in its early stages. San Francisco has received grants from the Department of Transportation, and created a pilot project called SFpark.

What is SFpark?


San Francisco received a $19.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Urban Partnership Program to create a pilot project in San Francisco called SFpark.

How does it work?

Wireless parking sensors at designated lots report spaces that are either vacant or occupied. Data is available to drivers, and prices for paid parking varies depending on parking availability. Once the price is determined, it is transmitted to meters to display cost. After finishing the pilot, SFPark discontinued the wireless parking sensors, and depends on real-time data to determine meter prices.

Benefits of SFPark

·       Easier parking (App makes it easier to park faster, easier, and pay conveniently through credit cards or debit cards)

·       Keeping roads clear – this will help Muni and emergency vehicles get through streets faster.

·       Minimize distractions from drivers will keep bicyclists and pedestrian’s safe from accidents.

Cities are slowly moving to a different trend with the help of technology. As a result, certain things are becoming obsolete and replaced with newer technology. For example, New York replaced its pay phones with interactive, digital kiosks that provide information and internet access. As a community, we may begin seeing old technology being replaced and new strategies created with the incorporation of technology.


Prospect SV develops networks to solve significant challenges and pressures Silicon Valley faces. For example, helping startups and corporations to build and prove new solutions for essential foundations such as transportation, mobility, and energy in our cities.

Earlier this month, Prospect SV announced their continued support from Bank of America as a key partner. The support of Bank of America allows for advancement of cleantech innovations and initiatives focusing on economic development and underserved communities.


Prospect SV and Bank of America has helped accelerate programs such as Innovate NetZero, a project in San Francisco that deploys new technology in low-income multi-family apartment buildings.

Another on-going project includes ProspectSV and the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) where they integrate electric buses and grid services to the VTA service area with their “Vehicle-to-Grid” pilot program to increase economic development in sustainability.

For more information about Smart Cities in the Bay Area, contact Troy, Clean Cities Coordinator, at