Inside Winter Park’s Smart City Community Meeting

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Residents had their first opportunity for one-on-one conversations regarding Winter Park’s smart city initiative during a June 15 community meeting at Winter Park Country Club.

Representatives from the city and its technology partner, Magellan Advisors, were available to speak with guests about proposed improvements that will support four smart city pillars:

  • Intelligent Transportation: The measurement and control of traffic by reducing congestion, optimizing routes, detecting accidents, and communicating available parking.
  • Public Safety: Equipping first responders with the technology to improve emergency response times while ensuring public safety and individual privacy.
  • Utilities: Next-generation electric and water services that are efficient, secure and sustainable.
  • Quality of life: Fostering a welcoming environment that thrives on innovation and modern conveniences.

Displays in two presentation rooms offered detailed graphics with summaries of proposed enhancements that are designated for each pillar. The technology ranges from smart lighting and two-way communication to sensors that regulate irrigation and improve traffic management.

Information displays detailed the four smart city pillars and the technology behind them. Much of the urban mobility tech is already proposed for Winter Park’s Transportation Master Plan.

According to City of Winter Park IT Director Parsram Rajaram, the opportunity for discussion is as important for the initiative as it is for the residents.

“It’s part of creating priorities,” he told the32789. “We have a bunch of things we want to do, but we need to know what’s important to the community and how the community feels about what we’re trying to do as a smart city.”

The smart city community meeting attracted several residents eager to learn more about the proposed enhancements to city infrastructure.
City of Winter Park IT Director Parsram Rajaram speaks with guests.
Winter Park residents Nick and Gigi Papa speak with a representative from Magellan Advisors.

“To me it’s all interesting, but then there’s always the cost factor,” said Winter Park resident Gigi Papa, who browsed the information displays with her son, Nick. “There’s a lot of people who just shut down when they hear ‘smart technology’ – if they can understand the benefits, we can reach a consensus of some kind.”

Nick Papa, a mechanical engineer at Siemens Energy, was looking beyond the technology. “I’m interested in how it will work and who will be managing all of it,” he said. “Just making sure the people in charge are being transparent about how everything runs and how easy it is to maintain.”

Magellan Advisors COO Courtney Violette said that a range of smart city options, already in use through the country, were considered as case studies for the Winter Park initiative. “We are due to wrap up reports to the broadband committee within the next 30-45 days,” he said. “As of right now, we’re scheduled to get in front of City Commission for a workshop on August 10.”

“The overall timeline will be implemented after we get the resident feedback,” said Rajaram. “Each of the pillars has its own timeline, and some we have already started.”

A smart metering system is currently employed by the city’s electrical utility, and lake level monitoring sensors will be used this hurricane season. “Right now, lake levels are measured physically,” said Rajaram. “With this new system, the information is automatically fed to us.”

Winter Park resident Paul Conway, a member of the city’s Broadband & Smart City Ad Hoc Committee, attended in an unofficial capacity to look over the displays and chat with fellow residents. The committee is working to provide a comparable support network for the smart city plan, and will present its findings along with Magellan at the August 10 meeting.

“What it’s all about is, how you take the technology and the network beyond city services, and make a difference in the community,” said Conway.

Residents are encouraged to provide feedback on the smart city initiative via the City of Winter Park public forms page by Thursday, July 6.

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