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Hutchinson Picked As Test Site For New Smart City System

The city of Hutchinson is set to become a test site for new technology that’s designed to improve public safety and city operations.

AT&T selected Hutchinson to try out its new Smart City program beginning this summer. The company will provide and install sensors, cameras and communication technology at no cost to the city.

Hutchinson Police Chief Jeff Hooper presented the proposal to city leaders at a council meeting last Tuesday.

He said AT&T leaders were in Reno County last week and announced their selection of Hutchinson to serve as a beta test site.

"The way they put it to us is they want an urban environment that’s not so big so that the project is too big," Hooper said. "So Hutchinson is just the right size. It’s not too small but also not too large for a project like this.

"That coupled with our success on former beta projects, they selected us their number one choice in the nation."

One feature of the program would allow 911 dispatchers to tap into a caller’s cell phone camera for a live feed. Hooper said the real-time information would help direct law enforcement during a crime in progress.

"The dispatcher wouldn’t have to give you a description of the suspect because you would see what’s going on en route to the call," he said.

Hooper said the program would also provide drones with cameras to give first responders a better view of large-scale disasters. He said that kind of tool would have had an impact during the wildfires that struck in recent years.

"It would give us instant video feedback of that scene so we know whether people were in danger or people were evacuating without putting emergency services and lives in danger," Hooper said.

Another example: Sensors at intersections would provide up-to-the-minute details on traffic flow and congestion.

Hooper said AT&T would provide the smart city equipment, hardware, and software for free, and would use the city’s existing infrastructure so there is no upfront cost to the city. He said the company would leave all the hardware in place after the test period, and there would be a service fee if the city decides to continue any of the program features.

City leaders support the testing proposal and plan to send a letter of commitment to AT&T.

Hooper said Kansas is a considered a nationwide leader in emergency communication systems. He said 98 dispatch communication centers are currently connected to a statewide system.

Reno County areas previously served as test sites for the NextGen 911 system, which uses a digital technology or Internet Protocol (IP)-based 911 system.

The federal government selected AT&T to develop the first nationwide public safety broadband network called FirstNet. The company is integrating smart technology into this system.

The company plans to launch the Smart City program nationwide in early 2020.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Copyright 2020 KMUW | NPR for Wichita. To see more, visit .

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.
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