Comcast’s Smart Solutions team and the City of Philadelphia’s SmartCityPHL program recently collaborated on a Smart Cities pilot project called SmartBlockPHL. U.S. Ignite, a non-profit organization that connects cities with private enterprises to advance the development of Smart Cities, brought Comcast and SmartCityPHL together to understand specific problems that the city faced and how smart technology could deliver solutions in a highly secure way that protects the privacy of all Philadelphians.

Ultimately, the City of Philadelphia determined that finding a way to collect data more efficiently with real-time analytics would provide valuable insights and inform decisions. The result was a smart streetlight pilot in the city’s Midtown Village neighborhood that features a mix of dining, retail, and heavy foot traffic. 

The project incorporated Comcast’s connectivity and optical sensors onto 14 streetlights from the smart streetlight provider, Juganu. The resulting smart technology allows the City to collect real-time data to count objects, check air quality, and monitor weather conditions. Previously, the only way for the City to obtain this information was to manually collect it. Now, the retrofitted streetlights collect metadata in real-time and process it on the edge, saving time and resources. The data is then sent through Comcast’s network to the City’s data processing center. From there, City officials can access analytics that help them make more efficient, informed decisions. For example, this data can help the city respond to emergencies faster and make more informed urban planning decisions. It also creates a foundation for the city to make more informed decisions about technology in the future. Absolutely no personally identifiable information (PII) is collected during this pilot.

The solution processes metadata on the edge which allows the city to see objects without any defining features. For example, the data transmitted can be identified whether the object is a pedestrian, a vehicle, or a bicycle without collecting any personally identifiable information. Both the city and Comcast have approached this project through the lens of equity and transparency, soliciting community feedback to ensure a diverse range of viewpoints were incorporated in the project development process, which has been evident in the city’s clear communication policies around data collection, storage, and access.

Emily Yates, Philadelphia’s Smart Cities Director, remarked on this collaborative experience with Comcast: “Comcast has been a brilliant thought partner. They came forward with some really great solution options and have worked with us hand in hand to make this process efficent and successful.”

The current pilot is expected to run through July 2022.