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Congressional Smart Cities Caucus co-chairs Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) in coversation with Axios' Kim Hart. Photo: Jeff Snyder for Axios

On Tuesday evening, Axios Cities Correspondent Kim Hart hosted a series of one-on-one conversations to discuss the future of smart cities, highlighting technology like AI and IoT.

Jeff Marootian, Director, District Department of Transportation
Jeff Marootian answers a question from Kim Hart. Photo: Jeff Snyder for Axios

Director of the District Department of Transportation, Jeff Marootian, discussed how transit in Washington, D.C. has changed in the past ten years, and how the advent of ride-sharing apps has put pressure on the curbside.

  • How cities are fundamentally reimagining how the curbside works: "[D.C.] recently finished a pilot program with a curbside reservation system which allows for commercial delivery drivers to reserve curbside access so they don't have to circle around a block in order to find a place to pull over, to make a delivery or to do a food pickup.
  • On looking for creative solutions at the DDOT: "We have a great opportunity to reimagine our infrastructure. We know that the technology alone isn't going to get us there and the infrastructure alone isn't gonna get us there. It's really the marriage of those two things."
Hicham Abdessamad, Chief Executive, Global Social Innovation Business, Hitachi, Ltd. and Chairman of the Board, Hitachi America, Ltd.
Hicham Abdessamad in conversation with Evan Ryan on the Axios stage. Photo: Jeff Snyder for Axios

In our View From the Top segment, Hicham Abdessamad sat down with Axios Executive Vice President Evan Ryan to discuss leveraging available data in cities to solve big problems around congestion. He highlighted the success of a recent initiative in Tequila, Mexico, which tracked the flow of people in and around the city center.

  • On looking at the big picture: "It's not really about smart cities. It's about solving big problems."
  • On utilizing available data to create smart cities: "We don't have the luxury to build cities from scratch all day. Countries around the world do that. So how do you retrofit or how do you leverage what's already out there to basically look at the problem and solve it in a different way?"
Kim Nelson, Executive Director, State and Local Government Solutions, Microsoft
Kim Nelson on the Axios stage Tuesday evening. Photo: Jeff Snyder for Axios

Executive Director of State and Local Government Solutions at Microsoft, Kim Nelson, discussed the challenges for cities of all sizes to figure out what their top priorities are for leveraging technology, both in the short and long term.

  • On what catalyzes change: "Sometimes it's just an event that actually grabs a city, a leader or a mayor, and says it's time for us to do something about it...Houston is a great example. In the aftermath of [Hurricane Harvey], the mayor soon realized into his term that city wasn't nearly as resilient as it needed to be. And that started the conversation. "
  • On what it means to be a smart city: "Smart isn't simply about the technology. It's not about just the infrastructure, the sensors or the hardware. Being smart is about having the information."
Rep. Yvette Clarke and Rep. Susan Brooks, Congressional Caucus on Smart Cities Co-chairs

Congressional Caucus on Smart Cities Co-chairs Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) took the stage together to discuss constituents' priorities around access, cybersecurity, and privacy as cities continue to get smarter.

Rep. Yvette Clarke

  • On converting phone booths into wi-fi kiosks: "It's nowhere near what it needs to be in terms of being ubiquitous throughout the city of New York. But we know that the infrastructure and the commitment is there. And that commitment and investment has yielded dividends already."

Rep. Susan Brooks

  • On preparing the workforce of the future, particularly around cybersecurity: "We have to invest in those strategies at all levels of education, whether it's the teams in schools, whether it's coding camps, whether it's certification programs. We've got to think very differently about higher education and about how we are ensuring that everybody is ready for what is coming."

Thank you Hitachi for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden turns to experienced hands for White House economic team

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden plans to announce Cecilia Rouse and Brian Deese as part of his economic team and Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: These are experienced hands. Unveiling a diverse group of advisers also may draw attention away from a selection of Deese to run the National Economic Council. Some progressives have criticized his work at BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm.

Biden taps former Obama communications director for press secretary

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Jen Psaki, who previously served as Obama's communications director, will serve as President-elect Joe Biden's press secretary, the transition team announced Sunday.

The big picture: All of the top aides in Biden's communication staff will be women, per the Washington Post, which first reported Psaki's appointment.