Will involve government collaboration with outside organizations to launch eight pilot technology projects
Earlier this month, the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) announced the NYC Smart City Testbed Program.
The new program will be a collaborative one that will see city agencies work with outside organizations to pilot different technologies over the coming years. Previously, new technologies with the potential to impact the city were not easily tested or adopted due to the size and structure of the city government.
The testbed program will formalize the process of testing and implementing new technologies, said Paul Rothman, OTI’s director of smart cities and IoT.
Rothman said the program will involve public realm technology that will, directly or indirectly, touch New Yorkers and help gather data about how changes within the city are designed and implemented to improve operations.
Through the program, city agencies, private companies and academic institutions will be able to test and evaluate eight projects each year to determine whether to scale them more broadly.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis for pilots. Two will be selected per quarter to participate, with any seasonality components considered for the timeline of pilot launches. The organizations will self-fund pilot costs over the course of the six to nine months the pilots will run. Each pilot will include access to city assets, technical support, administrative guidance through legal and regulatory processes, and perhaps most importantly, partnership. The pilots will also receive feedback both from New Yorkers and the relevant city agency.
“We want New York City to be a place where the latest and greatest technology can come to be utilized,” Rothman said.
In the initial slate of pilot projects, several will focus on climate-related solutions. For example, OTI is partnering with the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and researchers from New York University to pilot technology involving drones and robotics that can scan building envelopes for failures that might contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Another project will feature a collaboration between OTI, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and private partners to monitor air quality. The initial focus on climate was consequential to the program’s goal.“Essentially, we’re looking to tackle the issues that are affecting New York City and New Yorkers,” Rothman said.
The initial slate of pilots predates the formal launch of the testbed program, Rothman said. Moving forward, the process will be slightly different as OTI will meet with different city agencies — acting as a “matchmaker” or technology facilitator of sorts — to determine which pilot projects to advance based on agency goals and needs.As Rothman noted, because OTI is an organization that works across city agencies, it is well positioned to disseminate information across the city following the pilots. For example, if a pilot works for one agency, that particular technology may be beneficial for another agency with overlapping goals.
Currently, the city is working on a slate of pilots set to launch in 2024.
Information about the pilots will also be shared on the program’s website to increase public awareness about the technologies being used. Rothman said that because OTI is a steward of city data, there is potential to make pilot data available, as well.As Rothman underlined, the city is accepting applications for pilots on the program website.