September 4, 2018

Discussion of smart city infrastructure and connectivity issues

Meeting date: September 4, 2018 Meeting time: 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM Location: City Hall boards and commissions room

Desired meeting outcomes

  • Alignment on next steps for smart city infrastructure and connectivity issues

  • Action items for National Science Foundation 5G grant application


I. Welcome and meeting overview (10 min)

II. Key issue: Smart city infrastructure and connectivity (60 min) Industry trends and City efforts regarding 5G, small cell, and public wifi -- and how the City might influence the market

  • Industry trends and 5G rollout

  • Infrastructure and Digital Equity

  • Wifi in Austin parks

  • Austin Energy plans

  • National Science Foundation 5G grant opportunity

III. Announcements and updates (15 min)

  • Next steps on smart city strategic roadmap (link to memo)

  • Updates from working groups

  • In the next 60 days, where do you need help, or where can you offer help?

IV. Closing (5 min)

  • Approval of committee charter

  • Recap of action items and future agenda items

  • Next meeting: TBD

Open issues from previous meetings

Last meeting: June 18, 2018 (link to notes)

  • Approved first iteration of committee charter

  • Smart city governance models (ex: Kansas City PPP, Denver Smart City)

  • Purchasing innovation: agile services, open procurement, incremental funding

  • City’s relationship with technology stakeholder organizations

Meeting notes

Meeting slides

I. Welcome and meeting overview

Previous meeting, June 2018, discussed needs that departments have for coordination, communication, and partnering on technology projects. Link to notes.

  • Priority needs expressed by departments:

    • Knowledge sharing among departments on technology efforts

    • Guidance on legal and policy issues with partnerships and contracts

    • Communicating challenges/needs with external stakeholders

  • The Innovation Office shared a memo before the meeting that updates on next steps in the Smart City Strategic Roadmap. This follows up on the needs identified last meeting.

This meeting focuses on the infrastructure and connectivity that enables technology. We want to know where industry is going and where we might move the market to make connectivity available to more communities in Austin.

II. Key issue: Smart city infrastructure and connectivity

  • Distinction between 5G cellular and small cell. Small cell nodes are being installed today. These are on current 4G LTE -- 5G has not yet been deployed in cities.

  • 5G is still a research program. 5G will be in deployment in 2019-2020 once the appropriate standards are adopted.

  • The speed of 5G is necessary for the interaction of connected vehicles and devices and the automation we will want at the intersection level.

Infrastructure and Digital Equity (Rondella Hawkins, Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs Officer)

  • Lots of hype about 5G, but industry is also focused on densifying current 4G coverage. Carriers want to install beacons in public right of way in dense areas.

  • Implications for cities’ regulatory framework.

  • States (including Texas) have acted to preempt cities’ regulatory rates and permitting processes. Anticipating new federal rules this fall that will impact local regulations.

  • Cities want the infrastructure for economic development. Need to balance with public right of way and safety considerations.

  • Have identified opportunities to improve current permitting processes for small cell.

  • Comparing small cell permitting across cities is difficult. Austin’s measure of an “application granted” includes utility connections, which are not considered in other cities’ definitions (because other cities have private utilities). Austin started with traffic signal poles downtown (highest demand area), which no other Texas city has done.

  • Want to expand coverage to areas that provide community benefit but where industry does not see as much profit. Austin has some control over this, but fees are set at the state level below the cost to the city.

  • Financing digital equity is a barrier. Cities in other states have used their permitting fees to fund investments in digital equity. Because our fees are capped below cost, we do not have this flexibility. Direct city funding the expansion of coverage to underserved areas is an alternative.

  • ATD is working on a pilot of underground electronics for traffic signal control. This could make more space for the ground furniture required for small cells.

  • Standards for 5G antennas won’t be complete until 2020. These will impact pole design.

Wifi in Austin parks (Mike Strycharske, Parks and Recreation)

Wifi in Austin parks slides

  • Rising demand over time for wifi in parks. Difficult because wifi covers small range, and parkland is expansive without any walls to install beacons.

  • PARD previously estimated cost to offer wifi in Auditorium Shores at $1.7M, with annual operating costs of $80-100k. Cost prohibitive.

  • In 2017, PARD issued an RFP for a vendor to provide advertising-based wifi in parks at no cost. Will provide wifi to facilities (museums, rec centers) and open parkland. Expect to have sponsor signage within parks (facing the interior of the park) and ads on mobile devices prior to connecting to wifi.

  • Currently negotiating details of a contract for 5 years + 5 year renewal. Will provide 24/7 support to PARD and users. Hope to be up and running by end of 2018.

  • Initial locations where there is high vendor interest: Zilker great lawn, Barton Springs pool, Vic Mathias (Auditorium) shores, Krieg fields. Intend to expand coverage into smaller parks and pools.

  • No wifi in digitally excluded parks to start with.

  • Planning for load on wifi networks (ex: high demand during ACL Fest).

  • Want to avoid installation of poles in parks. PARD would own the poles, and AE would provide the electric service.

Austin Energy plans (Victor Carr, Austin Energy)

Overview of planned and current research projects using connected tech:

  • Looking into replacing trunk radio systems and expanding to cell phones.

  • Pull pumps /refrigerators/ thermostats - communication with those so we can do prepay facilities. Pay prepaid for a minute instead of waiting 2 hours.

  • Testing aerial drones for inspecting utility lines for breakage and maintenance. Would need 5G connection to stream this video data to several agencies. Currently awaiting Federal Aviation Administration review of aerial drone permit.

  • Exploring using sensors on utility poles. Use case: vehicle vehicle collision with a pole. The sensor would dispatch a drone for inspection (and follow with work crew), send collision location, alert first responders for faster response.

  • Exploring underground sensors for ground moisture around poles, for predictive maintenance and flood prediction.

National Science Foundation 5G grant opportunity (Ted Lehr, Communications and Technology Management)

National Science Foundation 5G grant opportunity slides

  • Grant goal is to set up city-wide platforms for public/private/universities to do research on 5G. $25 million potential grant. Proposal due December 11, 2018.

  • Austin applied last year, but was not selected.

  • Application verticals are same as first round: Public safety, Mobility, Health, Energy.

  • Asks:

    • Community engagement resources (to shape research plans with community needs, and identify ways for the research to benefit community)

    • Executive and political support (ex: for NSF site visit to Austin)

    • Permitting and logistics for infrastructure installation.

  • Feedback from first round that we aim to course-correct for this round:

    • Data management structure and sharing among partners

    • Industry partnerships

    • Transformative use cases

  • If the infrastructure will not be used for commercial purposes, we may have a different process for permitting and logistics (ex: temporary use permit; Public Works, Austin Energy, Transportation Department review).

III. Updates and Announcements

Next steps on smart city strategic roadmap

Link to memo

  • CTM and the Innovation Office are planning next steps focused on market research into emerging technologies, clarified legal and policy guidance for projects, and building an equity lens for technology initiatives.

  • This follows up on the June OSAC meeting, which discussed departmental needs for coordinating and partnering on projects.

  • Look for requests for meetings and participation in a co-creation process. Will need resourcing from departments that are involved to move forward.

Updates from working groups

  • Governance: Planning out a playbook for technology pilots.

  • Emerging tech: After Mayor’s Challenge grant submitting, now scoping out a process to highlight emerging tech issues. Looking to Austin Energy for needs and challenges.

  • Projects: Updating inventory of projects. Inventory includes some new projects.

  • Equity: Focusing on demographic data to enable better data segmentation and impact on different communities. Also adapting the current department equity assessment for use on projects.

Needs and offers for help in next 60 days

  • Austin Energy needs contact at Watershed or Public Works for the underground water sensors.

  • Neighborhood Housing: give an update on data hub on affordable housing

IV. Closing

Future agenda items suggested

  • NHCD affordable housing inventory (closing loop from April OSAC meeting)

Approve committee charter

  • Need to include Development Services, Watershed, Public Works on issues of infrastructure. Rey to extend invite.

  • Need for an infrastructure working group.

  • Need to clarify relationship between OSAC and IT governance.

Action items

  • Updates to the committee charter

    • How OSAC related to technology governance/IT steering committee

    • Update membership section

    • Voting process; who has a vote

    • Mark Washington's departure

  • Invite Public Works, Watershed Protection, Development Services to OSAC

  • Scope out an infrastructure working group


  1. Rey Arellano, Assistant City Manager (chair)

  2. Stephen Elkins, Chief Information Officer

  3. Greg Guernsey, Planning and Zoning Director

  4. Rondella Hawkins, Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs Officer

  5. Doug Matthews, Chief Communications Director

  6. Kerry O'Connor, Chief Innovation Officer

  7. Kim Olivares, Chief Performance Officer

  8. Kevin Williams, Chief Information Security Officer

  9. Chandra Bhat, University of Texas

  10. Victor Carr, AE/3-1-1

  11. Babu Chakka, AE/3-1-1

  12. Maneesh Chaku, NHCD

  13. Paul Cook, CTM

  14. Daniel Culotta, Innovation

  15. Kathryn Darnall, City Clerk

  16. Ben Guhin, CTM

  17. Daniel Honker, Innovation

  18. Ginger Jacinic, AE/3-1-1

  19. Jason JonMichael, ATD

  20. George Koutitas, Texas State University

  21. Ted Lehr, CTM

  22. Yolanda Miller, Purchasing

  23. Elaine Nicholson, Law

  24. Jordan Payson, ATD

  25. Matthew Ramirez, NHCD

  26. Amanda Rohlich, Sustainability

  27. Sabine Romero, Innovation

  28. Josh Rudow, NHCD

  29. Marion Sanchez, CPIO

  30. Kirk Scanlon, ATD

  31. Jamila Siller, OPM

  32. John Speirs, TARA

  33. Michael Strycharske, PARD

  34. Marni Wilhite, CTM