Building a Smarter Boston

Boston has always been ahead of the curve. Since our founding, we have truly been a “city upon a hill,” pioneering new ways of thinking and new technologies. Countless innovations have been born in Boston and their impact has been felt around the world. 

More than a decade deep into the twenty-first century, Boston continues to be on the forefront of “what’s next.” In fact, our city has already started to build the Boston of the future; a smarter Boston powered by Big Data and cutting-edge technology.

The City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have partnered with IBM in their Smarter Cities Challenge. The Smarter Cities Challenge aims to leverage the power of Big Data to solve urban challenges, improve cities operational efficiencies, and enhance quality of life for the city’s residents. 

Buried in Big Data are actionable insights that have the potential to improve city functionality across all sectors. To harness this power, the Smarter Cities Challenge calls for interconnecting city departments. Currently, city systems are siloed as each department manages its own data. It’s time to start viewing our city not as a sum of separate elements, but a web of connections. Uniting city departments and sharing city data is the first step to unlocking crucial analytical insights.

“Increased interconnection and data sharing can enable more sophisticated analytics that can lead to more intelligent systems that benefit urban planners, transportation engineers, law enforcement agencies and citizens,” the Smarter Cities Challenge report said.

Once data is centralized into one management system, every element of a city’s functionality can be monitored and measured. The City of Boston can then mine this wealth of analytics to improve efficiency across all sectors of the city. Check it out!


Buildings account for almost 40 percent of the nation’s energy consumption in the U.S., IBMreports. Boston plans to optimize building energy efficiency by leveraging sophisticated technology like building automation systems to access a more complete view of building use and leverage predictive analytics. Predictive analytics enables the City to anticipate routine maintenance and better coordinate repairs.


Traffic accounts for about 25 percent of the Boston’s carbon emissions, according to the Smarter Cities’ report. By linking traffic data systems, Boston could access more accurate traffic reports, and apply analytical insights to reduce vehicle miles traveled and the resulting pollution. 


The Massachusetts Port Authority has also implemented predictive maintenance software to empower efficient management of air conditioning systems, doors, escalators and other terminal equipment and machinery.

Physical Assets

Managing and maintaining Boston’s massive infrastructure is no easy feat. For example, there are over 60,000 streetlights in the City of Boston, and at any time, roughly three percent of them are in need of repair, IBM said. The nonstop maintenance requirements of the city can certainly add up. Smart solutions equipped with predictive analytics capabilities can improve operational efficiencies, driving down costs, and saving the taxpayer money.

Special Events

Boston is always alive with events. While events are an important part of our city’s cultural fabric, they can be a logistical nightmare to manage. Not anymore. Intelligent city dashboards will provide officials across departments a unified view of city events as they occur so they can deploy resources as needed. This smart technology will empower efficient management of everything from traffic to public safety.


The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) provides water and sewer services to 2.5 million people. Maintenance of this massive water supply required significant corrective repairs. To eliminate this costly reactive work, the MWRA implemented predictive analytics software which reduced project work orders by 38 percent. This significantly improved efficiency and reduced costs.

Check out the infographic below for the big picture view of building a smarter Boston.

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