Kansas City, Missouri, Spurs Growth with Smart City Analytics on AWS


It may be the thirty-seventh-largest city by population, but Kansas City, Missouri, is one of the smartest cities in the United States. Along the two-mile corridor of the Kansas City Streetcar, a $15 million public-private partnership has supported deployment of 328 Wi-Fi access points, 178 smart streetlights that can detect traffic patterns and open parking spaces, and 25 video kiosks, as well as pavement sensors, video cameras, and other devices. It’s all connected by the city’s nearly ubiquitous fiber-optic data network. “I like to call it the smartest 54 blocks in the nation,” says Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer of the City of Kansas City.

The successful use of smart city technology has been a key component in bringing people back to Kansas City’s core. “Ten years ago, we had fewer than 5,000 people living downtown,” says Bennett. “We have seen a 520 percent growth in the number of residents in downtown and a 400 percent growth in development investment. I believe our Smart City project has played a prominent role in getting people excited about living here.”

Marble columns, and stairs background, Government Building

The Xaqt solution built on AWS enables us to perform preventive roadwork. We expect to save up to 50% compared to emergency repair.”

Bob Bennett
Chief Innovation Officer, City of Kansas City, Missouri

Putting Information to Work

With devices generating data day and night—plus more than 4,200 existing datasets—the city needed a solution to turn data into tangible outcomes. It turned to Xaqt, which provides an urban analytics and intelligence platform that helps policymakers better innovate how cities function.

“By providing integration, governance, analytics, and a user front end, we make city data useful,” says Chris Crosby, chief executive officer at Xaqt. “Whether it’s an individual looking for a parking space or a manager looking at violation rates across the city, we can serve up the right insights and data based on role.”

Xaqt delivers its services using Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides the agility and scalability required by its growing roster of smart city clients—without the cost and complexity of managing traditional infrastructure. “Using AWS makes our solution high-performing and scalable, enabling us to deliver cost-effectively on client needs large and small,” says Crosby.

The solution ingests streaming data using Amazon Kinesis, processing more than one million real-time events per day for Kansas City alone. Aggregations, queries, and analytics are performed automatically as data arrives, typically by serverless AWS Lambda functions that are billed only when they run.

Amazon Redshift functions as a long-term repository for city and regional data; Amazon DynamoDB is used for application-specific databases. Xaqt uses AWS CloudFormation to create and manage resources, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) to launch resources in a virtual network, and Amazon Cognito for user sign-up and sign-in.

Because security is a chief concern of public entities, Xaqt takes advantage of AWS standard architecture and best practices. “We undergo architecture reviews with our AWS team, and we can share those with customers and prospects to demonstrate that their data is secure.”

Xaqt has recently begun offering its solution on AWS Marketplace, providing a way for cities to easily deploy and test the core Smart City Engage platform including data integration, analytics, and data sharing and collaboration features.

View of traffic congestion in Kansas City via the city's Xaqt dashboard

Reducing Costs, Improving Infrastructure, and Fighting Crime with Data

Kansas City can now make accurate predictions that save money while improving safety and convenience for its citizens. It started with every city’s chief annoyance—potholes. Combining several datasets including traffic patterns and road conditions, the city has been able to more accurately predict where potholes are likely to occur. “The Xaqt solution built on AWS enables us to perform preventive roadwork,” says Bennett. “We expect to save up to 50 percent compared to emergency repair.”

Advanced analytics are also helping the city identify vacant buildings, which typically need additional maintenance and attention. Xaqt combines datasets the city already has—such as permits and traffic—to pinpoint vacant structures with 85 percent accuracy.

An even more ambitious goal is to use big data to understand crime patterns and gauge prevention effectiveness. “We are combining crime statistics with transit, weather, education, and other data and then testing a variety of predictive models. We want to show correlations among conditions that lead to crime and the interventions that work,” says Bennett. “That might mean building a pool in a particular area or providing targeted education funding based on evidence, rather than blanketing an area with programs and hoping they work.”

The city continues to move aggressively into the future. With Xaqt, it is looking at taking advantage of Amazon Alexa and Amazon Lex as public-facing interfaces to data, enabling natural-language voice queries such as “Where’s my bus?” It is also considering using automated chat bots in applications such as Facebook and Slack to tell people what their commute looks like. “Because of the cost structure and agility of AWS, we have been able to launch the Alexa pilot as a free service,” says Crosby.

The solution is also attracting partners across the region, including the states of Kansas and Missouri, which are providing access to more than four million vehicle records per day from highway ramps for regional analytics. The city’s KCMO Smart City Open Access portal has been accessed by partners more than 50 times since going live. Bennett says, “From a digital perspective, we’re getting to a single data lake for regional data, turning this from a smart city into a smart region.” Crosby concurs, saying, “We are helping cities transition from being simply providers of infrastructure to providing rich information services to citizens.”

About Kansas City

With a population of 2.1 million, Kansas City is a fast-growing city located in the heart of the United States. In the downtown area, the city has seen more than $2.1 billion in development over the past 10 years.

Benefits of AWS

  • Saves up to 50% on road-maintenance costs
  • Identifies vacant buildings with 85% accuracy
  • Ingests one million events per day and growing
  • Connects city data with regional data for deeper insights
  • Enables rapid testing of advanced predictive models

AWS Services Used

Amazon DynamoDB

Amazon DynamoDB is a key-value and document database that delivers single-digit millisecond performance at any scale.

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AWS CloudFormation

AWS CloudFormation provides a common language for you to describe and provision all the infrastructure resources in your cloud environment.

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Amazon Kinesis

Amazon Kinesis makes it easy to collect, process, and analyze real-time, streaming data so you can get timely insights and react quickly to new information.

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Amazon VPC

Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) lets you provision a logically isolated section of the AWS Cloud where you can launch AWS resources in a virtual network that you define.

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Amazon Redshift

Redshift powers mission critical analytical workloads for Fortune 500 companies, startups, and everything in between.

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Amazon Cognito

Amazon Cognito lets you add user sign-up, sign-in, and access control to your web and mobile apps quickly and easily.

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AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers. You pay only for the compute time you consume - there is no charge when your code is not running.

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AWS Marketplace

AWS Marketplace is a digital catalog with thousands of software listings from independent software vendors that make it east to find, test, buy, and deploy software that runs on AWS.

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