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How DC’s smart city initiatives don’t sacrifice privacy for safety

Washington, DC, USA
Verizon Public Sector

Government Champion

Office of the Chief Technology Officer

Project Status

Operational since 2016

At a Glance

In 2016, DC launched Pennsylvania Avenue 2040 (PA2040), a smart city initiative with the goal of enhancing citizen experience. The City focused first on delivering publicly accessible Internet through OCTO-sponsored outdoor DC-Net Wi-Fi and remotely managed, sensor-based LED streetlights.

Problem Addressed

Specifically, the city's goals were to enhance public safety and introduce other smart city solutions without compromising citizen privacy, understand how all solutions work individually and in concert with each other, and study how the solutions can translate successfully from urban area deployment to different types of neighborhoods. This pilot would inform broader city wide investments.

Washington, DC used/is using Intelligent Lighting and Intelligent Video solutions to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

DC launched Pennsylvania Avenue 2040 (PA2040), a smart city pilot initiative with the goal of enhancing citizen experience in the nation’s capital. Using IoT technology and Verizon solutions, DC deployed both Intelligent Lighting and Intelligent Video along a 3x3 block area of Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House, where they had just installed a ubiquitous gigabit public Wi-Fi network. The city installed 76 intelligent core node LED luminaires—73 of which are Wi-Fi and 3 of which are cellular—and 20 intelligent video nodes.

DC also installed 20 Intelligent Video nodes for the PA2040 pilot for parking management solutions. When 30% of traffic congestion in urban areas can be attributed to drivers looking for parking, the ability to quickly and accurately find a parking space can not only reduce traffic congestion, but can also reduce fuel emissions spent searching the blocks for open spots. DC’s pilot includes a trial whereby a smartphone based application can display a map of open parking spots on a block-by-block basis in near realtime, a solution that works in both rural and urban locales, with obvious benefits in commuter-heavy areas.

In addition to parking solutions, the video nodes were also able to capture traffic and jaywalking counts at specific intersections, which led to a decision by DC to implement Verizon’s Intersection Safety Analytics solution (ISA) in their next phase of PA2040. ISA provides 24x7 data and analytics that give insights into how cities and transportation leaders can improve the safety of citizens sharing intersections. As accurate analytics are critical to providing safer intersections and infrastructure planning, having better compute technology allows for a more robust overall solution. As such, DC has recently added 4K video nodes (VN4K) along the PA2040 footprint, which provides the extra compute power for better analytics.

Maintaining the privacy of residents and visitors was top of mind for the City officials when deciding to deploy VN4Ks for Phase II of PA2040, because the focus is not on who contributes toward traffic on the streets as much as what that traffic means to citizens. In short, it focuses only on the analytics of objects in motion: how many humans jaywalked, how many cars ran red lights, how many big rigs drove down the street during the week, how many bicycles rode through an intersection on a Saturday. The metadata application used is specifically designed to anonymize, rather than personalize data. Whether the jaywalkers were men or women, or the cars were out of state or local is not the main goal. The purpose of metadata is to effectively count without watching.


  1. 50-70% energy savings from replacing traditional high pressure sodium (HPS) lamps with energy efficient LED luminaires
  2. Remote monitoring allows for repair before a failure, and usually in under 24 hours before a 311 call. Previously required a 311 call plus 24-72 hours before a fix could be implemented.
  3. Increased visibility to available parking from intelligent video
  4. Based on analytics captured from existing video nodes, DC decided to implement intersection safety analytics
  5. Solutions are providing valuable metadata that will assist in meaningful infrastructure planning

Something Unique

There are roughly 75,000 HPS lamps in all of DC; the plan is to replace all of them with LED smart node luminaires, which could reduce energy costs by up to 80%. That’s some serious city savings, just for lights. In orders of millions of dollars per year.

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