St. Albert plans to get smarter
New master plan will govern how city can use technology to improve operations
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 06:00 am
St. Albert is a smarter city than anyone thought. Unfortunately no one realized it until now.
Initiatives such as using cameras and wireless technology to control traffic lights and mobile phone apps that help transit users find out when the next bus is coming would have won “smart city” awards, if the city had known such awards existed, the city manager said.
“One of the discoveries is that St. Albert is a smart city in many ways. We just don’t go about it that way and we didn’t plan it that way,” said Patrick Draper.
Instead of continuing with a series of isolated initiatives like the traffic lights or transit apps, the city will now develop a complete strategy for how it, residents and businesses can use technology to better enhance municipal services.
Council agreed to develop a smart city master plan Tuesday. Under Draper’s proposal, the planning will start this year with existing budget resources and will be completed in 2015.
Such a proposal could benefit both the city, business and the public, Draper said. The city can rely more on automation, central control and be able to more rapidly consult statistics in real time from how quickly buses are travelling to how much water is leaking out of underground pipes. Residents will benefit from being able to use their smartphones for any number of services, such as checking the real-time condition of the city’s outdoor rinks or, as one municipality in California has demonstrated, finding an open parking space.
And business will be able to bring its ideas and technologies to the city, all in the hopes of turning St. Albert into what Draper called a “centre of excellence.”
The idea met with approval from members of city council, who voted to move ahead with the plan.
Coun. Cathy Heron said she was excited about the smart city plan.
“I think it’s about time we stepped forward in the region. I love it when St. Albert can lead on an initiative,” Heron said.
Smart city initiatives not only have the potential to help the city become more efficient in its operations and potentially save money, it can make city living more entertaining, Heron said.
“It makes for fun living,” said Heron. “It’s interesting and entertaining and good. If we have these technological initiatives, it will make it more entertaining.”