San Jose Sees Progress in Smart City Initiatives

The self-proclaimed Capital of Silicon Valley is partnering with AT&T on smart city initiatives.

Brian Buntz

June 27, 2019

4 Min Read
San Jose is making progress on its smart city initiatives.Getty Images

Officials in the city of San Jose have big smart city ambitions. Its smart city vision aims to make the largest city in Silicon Valley “America’s most innovative city by 2020.” Officials unveiled the plan in 2016. In addition, the city’s website details its intent to use technology to make San Jose “the safest big city in America.”

Recently officials from San Jose and executives at AT&T announced a collaboration to help cement the city’s status as a tech trailblazer while also helping to address the digital divide. Nearly three out of 10 San Jose residents lacked broadband access at home, according to a 2018 San Jose Inside article.  

The partnership between AT&T and the city is worth more than a million dollars, according to a joint statement released in May, which outlines the telco’s plan to donate $200,000 to address the digital divide there as well as helping deploy smart city technologies in 14 parks in the city. San Jose’s smart city initiatives will make use of some 670 smart lighting controllers, 550 LEDs, more than 100 Wi-Fi extenders and 15 digital infrastructure nodes. 

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More recently, San Jose officials announced the city is the first in the nation to have deployed the public safety communications platform FirstNet to all public safety personnel and emergency response staff. FirstNet, whose name derives from First Responder Network Authority, is designed to provide reliable communications between police, firefighters and other types of first responders. The roots of the FirstNet platform trace back to the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, which laid bare communication challenges for first responders. Later disasters such as the Boston Marathon bombing and natural disasters such as the recent wildfires in California have further stressed traditional first responder communications. 

In a statement, AT&T stated its FirstNet deployment was “ahead of schedule with more than 600,000 connections across more than 7,250 public safety agencies.” Ray Riordan, director of the San Jose Office of Emergency Management noted: “We can’t predict when the next emergency will strike, but with FirstNet, we can be better prepared to respond, recover and keep our people safe.”

In San Jose, a variety of government agencies will make use of the FirstNet platform, including the police and fire departments, the city manager’s office, the office of emergency management, the San Jose International Airport and several other offices. 

“Implementing FirstNet at full scale across the City is key to helping us create a new standard for public safety,” said Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose in a statement. 

In addition to its FirstNet deployment and other smart city projects, San Jose has also worked to encourage private industry to help drive related projects within its city limits such as demonstrations of autonomous vehicle technology. The city has struck broadband agreements with Verizon and Sprint vendor Mobilitie to build out a small-cell network. 

On a related note, Google is constructing a so-called “mega-campus” known as “Platform 16” in downtown San Jose. HPE has also established its headquarters there and Adobe is expanding its headquarters there. Networking giant Cisco is also based there. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) also plans to extend service to the city. 

In the city’s 2016 “Smart City Vision” document, San Jose officials acknowledge the city “has emerged from a decade of unparalleled fiscal distress,” but that the city “can become a global leader for civic innovation.” 

The key smart city initiatives outlined in the document aspire to use technology to make San Jose, safe, inclusive, user-friendly and sustainable. 

“San Jose definitely has wanted to be on the forefront for a while,” said Mike Zeto, vice president, Internet of Things solutions at AT&T. “Mayor Liccardo is very forward thinking,” Zeto added. And the city also has a number of officials who have come from private industry. “When you have people from private industry who come into public service, they tend to be a little bit more forward-thinking,” Zeto said. 

When this public-private partnership discussion started last summer, city officials and AT&T officials collaborated on a strategic plan when they identified 14 different areas to deploy technology across the city. “That [plan] allows us to help them create the foundation for what will become their smart city,” Zeto said. “We’re really trying to approach it from a programmatic perspective and very strategically, versus just deploying technology for technology’s sake.”

About the Author(s)

Brian Buntz

Brian is a veteran journalist with more than ten years’ experience covering an array of technologies including the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, and cybersecurity. Before coming to Penton and later Informa, he served as the editor-in-chief of UBM’s Qmed where he overhauled the brand’s news coverage and helped to grow the site’s traffic volume dramatically. He had previously held managing editor roles on the company’s medical device technology publications including European Medical Device Technology (EMDT) and Medical Device & Diagnostics Industry (MD+DI), and had served as editor-in-chief of Medical Product Manufacturing News (MPMN).

At UBM, Brian also worked closely with the company’s events group on speaker selection and direction and played an important role in cementing famed futurist Ray Kurzweil as a keynote speaker at the 2016 Medical Design & Manufacturing West event in Anaheim. An article of his was also prominently on, a website dedicated to Kurzweil’s ideas.

Multilingual, Brian has an M.A. degree in German from the University of Oklahoma.

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