Louisville: The First Smart City to Begin Automating Public Safety
To keep residents safe, city officials in Louisville, KY are using new internet technology to share important information about air quality with the city’s residents. Any resident with internet access can now sign up to receive alerts from the Louisville channel on the IFTTT platform when the air pollution reaches a dangerous level.
IFTTT, which stands for “IF This Than That,” is a free-to-use, open-source online platform that lets users create simple conditional statements that trigger a definitive action. It’s easy to create a condition – the air quality index provided by Louisville Metro’s Air Pollution Control District exceeding 50, for example – that triggers an alert warning those with sensitivities to stay inside.
True to the platform’s democratized approach, residents who subscribe to IFTTT’s Smart Louisville channel can choose the type of alert they want to receive from the platform. Options range from the conventional – a text-based mobile alert or email – to the less so – a connected LIFX or Philips Hue light bulb that changes color based on air quality index.
Matt Gotth-Olsen, a developer for the city of Louisville, told ZDNet.com: “We wanted to create a very flexible service because so many people digest information in different ways. Some people like email, some people like text, some like email or a phone call. IFTTT allows a lot of flexibility not only for us, but the citizen.”
High pollen and mold counts in the Ohio Valley make it difficult for people who suffer from sensitivities like asthma to breath in Louisville when the air quality is low. Targeted alerts, then, aim to protect the health and safety of many of the city’s vulnerable residents.
Information about the local air quality is already available to the public on the City of Louisville’s website. The new IFTTT channel, however, is infinitely more useful because it anticipates the needs of users. It saves those with allergies the trouble of searching for changing air quality information online, only delivering information when it actually affects the person’s life.
Speaking again to ZDNet.com, Linden Tibbets, founder and CEO of IFTTT, said the residents of Louisville and other cities were enthusiastic about the IFTTT project: “It’s clear that people want more access to government data, and they don’t just want to download a spreadsheet. They want to be able to use it. Watch this space – we have no doubt other cities will soon follow Louisville’s example.”
Indeed, by anticipating the needs of residents and responding with innovative solutions, city governments can improve not only their transparency, but also their responsiveness. Thanks to new technology like the Internet of Things, the internet is transitioning from search- to service-based information. Governments that get on board are already able to serve their citizens better.
A good government doesn’t just respond to the needs of its citizens, it anticipates them. City governments could, for example, send residents updates about local road conditions after a storm, before that person even thinks to search for the information themselves. Like the Louisville air quality alert, automating local road conditions could better protect public safety.
Louisville developers began automating air quality alerts because the information was already readily available, but city officials plan to take full advantage of their IFTTT channel in the coming years. More alerts will make relevant public information more accessible to a wider range of residents than ever before.