Municipal focus on resiliency – the ability to recover from a crisis or other difficult situation – is growing as communities contend with climate change, cyberattacks, aging infrastructure, and more. It’s been five years since San Francisco hired the world’s first Chief Resilience Officer, and since that time, at least 80 cities have followed suit.

During DC Infrastructure Week, Chris Rezendes, Founder of IOT Impact Labs, emphasized the point even further, arguing that resiliency is actually the killer app for smart cities. According to Rezendes, instrumenting infrastructure needs to be one of – if not the – highest priority for communities because it can limit their risk of disaster and improve access to capital for other smart city initiatives that need to take place.

How does that work? Again according to Rezendes, sensors on infrastructure can provide the data necessary both to prepare for and resist potentially catastrophic events, and to prove to funders that new investments are a sound strategy.

Chris Rezendes speaks during DC Infrastructure Week


Certainly Washington DC has taken some of this thinking to heart. The city recently announced its first urban resilience strategy, which includes significant focus on system-wide infrastructure improvement. For example, to combat the risk of flooding along the Anacostia River, the city says it “will move beyond traditional infrastructure investments (e.g. levees) and toward layered, distributed, and system measures that work together toward greater resilience. Special attention will be paid to how parks, roads, and sidewalks can work together, as a system, to protect against flooding and to cool neighborhoods on hot summer days.”

In order to be successful, DC will have to collect and analyze more data from the existing environment, and it will have to use that data to ensure that new money is spent wisely.

Recognizing that resiliency is a critical component of smart city strategies going forward, our US Ignite Forum program is planning a Smart City Resiliency workshop in DC for this fall. As with all of our Forum events, this workshop will focus on the nitty gritty of what municipal leaders are doing now, and what lessons they’ve learned so far.

Stay tuned. We’ll have more details to come later this summer.