Sioux Falls takes another step to explore the data world

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Think of data as a new frontier for exploration.

Those who work with data, like Mike Grigsby, the director of innovation and technology for the city of Sioux Falls, aren’t astronauts traveling into space, or explores combing the depths of the ocean, but they are still exploring.

“In my book that’s not very far from the truth,” Grigsby said. “Here we are in 2020, and because of the advent of the internet and so much information that’s out there, we have as far a look out into the future horizon as we ever had. And it can create a little bit of paralysis. We see it out there but we don’t know how we are going to get there.”

The coronavirus pandemic has led to Sioux Fall’s participation in the Coronavirus Emergency Response or CoVER project. It’s six-month pilot project with an information platform developed by Quantela.

The platform will be used at the same time the city team continues with its daily operations such as pandemic response, Grigsby said.

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, Sioux Falls has used data for pandemic response and planning. Data such as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the metro area is posted on the city’s COVID-19 dashboard.

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“CoVER will not be used for the city’s official COVID data tracking/reporting, but will instead run side by side of current systems for evaluation purposes,” Grigsby said.

The city is already using data for COVID-19 planning but there is more to learn, more to analyze, more to explore.

“We’re challenged by what COVID has introduced to us. We’re having to make decisions faster than we may have anticipated previously,” Grigsby said. “How do we do that and minimize the potential fall out?”

The platform will process data to show correlations between data such as “If we push lever A over here what is that going to lever B over here?,” Grigsby said. “Knowing that ahead of time would be really good.”

The platform has been applied to the coronavirus pandemic but Grigsby said there are more areas where it can be used.

Some cities have used the platform for flood planning and response, he said.

“Let’s say there is an area of town that is, or a street in town that is prone to prone to standing water when you have large rain runoff…,” Grigsby said. The platform could be used to create a working relationship between different kinds of systems.

So, “if you have a water sensor that detects rising water, it automatically speaks to a control arm or barrier that comes down and automatically blocks traffic. It can speak to a smart lighting solution that increases luminosity in that area to help pedestrians and motorists and first responders,” Grisby said.

The platform could also be used to automatically contact public works for a work order in that area and to contact emergency, he said.

The city doesn’t have such a system in place yet but it’s a possibility in a technology and data connected city, Grigsby said.

It’s another part of exploration.

“The biggest reason we are looking at this as a pilot is we really don’t know what the needs are going to be in say five years, 10 years, 15 years from now. We know that data plays a tremendous role,” Grigsby said.

South Dakota State University has a data science major. SDSU professor Kurt Cogswell told KELOLAND in March that data science is growing field as applications grow.

“Data science, statisticians, and mathematicians team with other professionals.  They use data and mathematical and statistical models to make data-driven recommendations to health care and public policy leaders and decision-makers, who then base their decision on this,” Cogswell said in a March 25 KELOLAND story about using data during the coronavirus test.

The opportunity with the pilot is to test solutions or test possibilities as the city eventually determines the right solution, Grigsby said.

“We need this kind of exploration opportunity…” Grigsby said.

Grigsby said the public can be skeptical and wary of the use of data in decision making and city operations, Grigsby said. It’s not like ‘Big Brother’ is watching, he said.

Instead, in Sioux Falls, it’s gathering information to improve decision making both now and in the future, Grigsby said.

Some day, data could even help a Sioux Falls resident determine if air quality should prompt them not to drive their car but take the bus to work or not to exercise in the park, Grigsby said.

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