POLICYSMART #15 Antonio Rucci to Lead GRIDSMART’s Information Security and Threat Intelligence

It’s a first of its kind transportation cybersecurity group formed by a private company. Called the GRIDSMART Information Security and Threat Intelligence Division, this new effort will help identify issues before they become threats in our increasingly connected and automated transportation world. In this special edition of POLICYSMART, Regina talks with Tony Rucci who will lead this effort and dives into his counterintelligence past and how that experience will advance this future work.  

POLICYSMART #14 Tina Quigley, General Manager of Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada

This edition of POLICYSMART features Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, with Regina Hopper to help us kick off a new series celebrating women in transportation.

Tina has helped make the region a leader in autonomous and connected technologies to advance the next generation of transportation. She shares her thoughts about how she became involved in transportation, where she sees the future of mobility headed and how she’s trying to put Las Vegas and southern Nevada on the map when it comes to intelligent transportation.

Lonsdale Elementary: One Step Closer to Playtime

To make a donation to GIVESMART in support of the Lonsdale Elementary School playground, visit our website.

Kids need a place to play, to exercise their bodies as well as their minds. A place to laugh and have fun, to stretch their imaginations free from the burden of desks and books, and in some cases their everyday lives. But over the last several years, amid limited budgets and tough choices, Lonsdale Elementary School’s playground area fell into disrepair.

GRIDSMART Technologies, Inc., is committed to changing that. Leading several community organizations, we are working to build a new playground for Lonsdale. One that will put the fun, the imagination and even the sweat, back into playtime.  One that will allow a safe place for kids to play outside of school hours.

“I have a special place in my heart for Lonsdale Elementary, as do our GRIDSMART employees,” said Bill Malkes, CEO and co-founder of GRIDSMART. “We want the best for these kids because the deserve it. We want them to get a good education with the chance to be active.  The chance to be kids. Healthy bodies lead to healthy minds.”

Lonsdale Elementary is a Priority, Title I school. More than 99% of the students qualify for the free lunch program and well over 80% come from families existing below the poverty line. The 412 students in K through 5th grade represent nearly 10 different countries and speak 13 different languages. Life can be a challenge for many of these kids

“Our current playground is cramped and small with each piece of equipment located just steps from each other. Some of it’s not working right now, and we’re seeing children sitting around a lot,” said Kori Lautner, Lonsdale’s Community School Resource Coordinator. “The new playground design will spread out the whole play space and create running opportunities, so kids can experience outside play as it should be. This playground will help make a difference in the fight against obesity and will help us improve the overall health of our children.”

In a true community exercise Families and students of the Lonsdale community helped design the new play area. This past December at the Lonsdale family planning meeting, students and parents got a chance to look at equipment ideas and pick the structures they wanted most for their playground.

“We had 100 parents and approximately 40 kids vote on their ideal play area, which is great because this is their school and their community first,” said Lautner. “Our kids see other schools with great playgrounds and it’s a constant reminder of what they don’t have. Now, they’ll have their own wonderful space and they’ll understand that they’re special too.”

GRIDSMART kicked off fundraising for the playground last November during INTERSECT17, the high-tech transportation conference held at GRIDSMART’s Knoxville headquarters each year. Conference attendees and sponsors donated nearly $14,000 for the approximately $64,000 effort. While fundraising is continuing, most pieces are now in place to begin construction on the project by July 2018.

Malkes said, “We plan to begin building at least three of the four structures this year and we hope to reach our funding target soon. I really can’t wait to see the ribbon cut on the new park and see these kids having the kind of fun and imaginative playtime they deserve.”

Since becoming a long-term community partner at Lonsdale Elementary school in early 2017, GRIDSMART has recognized 312 students of the month with certificates, goodie bags and books. Through the initiative of a GRIDSMART employee, the company also gave $5,000 worth of hats, coats and other warm clothing to the school this past winter for distribution during the cold months, and overall, the organization has donated another $12,000 in projects and services for the kids.

“This is about doing good for kids in need,” said Malkes. “We’re hopeful other transportation companies will see what we’re doing and take on their own corporate social responsibility programs. When that happens, everyone wins.”

To learn more about GRIDSMART’s partnership with Lonsdale Elementary School or to donate to the playground fund visit our website.

POLICYSMART #13 Sue Gander of the National Governors Association on Smart Cities, Smart Communities

The nations Governor’s have been at the center of innovation for years and they continue the trend in intelligent transportation and Smart Cities Initiatives. In this episode of POLICYSMART, Regina Hopper talks with Sue Gander, Division Director, Environment, Energy and Transportation Division of the National Governors Association (NGA) about the work that is happening there on transportation as well as a new Smart Cities, Smart Communities initiative being launched over the course of the next couple of years. In addition, Sue talks with Regina about her life in public policy.


Bridging the Innovation Gap

Newer, better, faster, stronger. That is the mantra of innovation that fuels most industries today, especially tech-related industries. Everyone is always focused on the challenges of tomorrow, the latest trends, and putting developments “on the fast track.” It’s a motto that can be seen featured in many, if not all, of the largest industry conferences. The thinkers of today are focused on creating solutions for the problems of tomorrow. Intertraffic Amsterdam is a great example with their new Innovation Awards and the ITSUP startup event, which saw 46 global startups demonstrate their solutions, motivations, and drive.

“It was encouraging to see the whole world moving towards innovation,” says Bill Malkes, Founder and CEO of GRIDSMART who recently attended the recent Amsterdam conference. “There was a lot of the same old, same old, but an impressive dose of new and innovative as well. Perhaps nothing was more impressive than the Intertraffic Innovation Awards. It was a great way to bring the new into the light. Technology from Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Portugal and Canada, as well has a handful more, were represented. Traffic is an international opportunity to change the world for the better and this part of the conference highlighted just that.”

The concentrated push for innovative technology is amazing. We certainly wouldn’t be where we are now without the out-of-the-box ideas of big thinkers. But in all this hustle of “What’s next?” what happens to Average Joe, the small-town transportation engineer that can’t worry about tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles because he’s still solving the problems of his human drivers? He’s lost in the shuffle, that’s what.

“Sometimes, in the gold rush mentality of a new space like this, companies forget about the man on the street, the smaller, but very relevant opportunities. People focus on the top 20% and not the whole,” says Malkes.

And the more focus we put on innovation, startups, new ideas, “the next big thing” the larger the gap between the engineers, creators, designers, makers and the on-the-ground, man-in-the-bucket-truck blue collar workers grows.

“That realization was the seminal moment for GRIDSMART,” says Malkes. “People have been implementing great ideas and solid products in this industry for years, but in my mind, to be truly great you have to be fully accessible. I go up in bucket trucks to test our products. Our CTO, Jeff Price, goes out on installations to test what his team designs. Our software engineers take help desk calls. Too many times products are implemented by the engineers who can design a power train and not change a spark plug. The man on the street knows what it takes to keep his or her city running. No one is going to care more about their city than them. Our job is to listen and learn from him or her and always strive each day to support them better than the day before.”

Innovation is important and the benefits of the focus on solving tomorrow’s problems are amazing, tangible pieces of technology or ideas that truly change the way we live and advance us as a society. But innovation doesn’t always mean “new.” Sometimes it just means improving the current system. Making the product they have work better for the customer, instead of making them buy a new product. Forty-five percent of the world’s population still lives in rural areas, with no access to, the latest, greatest technological advancements. What they do need is an affordable result to an immediate problem. No more complex, futuristic solutions, just simple, on-the-ground solutions that can be accomplished with real people in the real world.

“Urbanization is real and strongly trending,” says Malkes, “but there is still an overwhelming desire for ready-to-use solutions for hard working people who don’t have a huge network of resources supporting them. I don’t see that happening at the pace it should in our industry. It is disappointing for me personally to see that many companies respond to this market niche with lower cost, but also lower quality products. Anyone can discount a poorly designed product or even make a hard-to-use product with broad functionality; however, the magic comes in making things easy to use and cost effective. Then you are providing real value.”

GRIDSMART aims to bridge this gap, to walk the line between those on-the-ground blue collar workers and the big thinking, C-level, new-product-every-year people. All the processors are capable of being implemented into connected vehicles and are fully ready to make the next step, but there is also a big push to make sure that the field technicians, installation engineers, and blue-collar people aren’t left behind.

“I believe that is what separates GRIDSMART from a lot of things at Intertraffic or anywhere,” says Malkes.  “GRIDSMART does release whiz-bang products, but, we never, never ever quit just trying to make it easier.”