How to Make Cities Smarter?

White House praises location-sharing app BlueLight for making cities—and college campuses—safer.

The White House offered a boost to promising ideas with its “Smart Cities” initiative, announced in September. The program aims to help local communities modernize how they manage traffic, crime, and growth. One company recognized as a tech innovation leader was BlueLight, headed by Preet Anand ’10, a veteran of one of SCU’s Solar Decathlon teams.

BlueLight is a location-sharing app designed to address the 911 delay when dialing from a mobile phone. Because the emergency number still operates through landlines, it can take responders minutes longer to pinpoint the location of a cell caller in trouble. BlueLight, where available, solves that problem by routing mobile calls to the closest responder via GPS.

The app can also simultaneously text family members, friends, or other pre-selected contacts a link to a map of the subscriber’s location in real time.

“Most people use BlueLight for a little more peace of mind,” says Anand, who majored in engineering physics at SCU. “Emergency response is the most vital function of any community.” But when it comes to applying technology in this capacity, the United States hasn’t been a leader, he says.

The subscription service is free for 30 days and then $19.99 per year, or $9.99 per year for a student with a .edu email address. The service is available on more than 250 community college and university campuses; it also caters to corporate campuses and ski resorts.

As part of the $160 million Smart Cities Initiative, BlueLight will test a pilot program in four cities beginning in 2016. Here in the Bay Area, Mountain View will be part of the program, and discussions are under way with Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Oakland, and Green Bay.

Before founding BlueLight, Anand worked with game company Zynga—where he was the youngest lead product manager. Formative to Anand’s engineering and management chops: being a member of SCU’s 2009 Solar Decathlon team, which won third place on the planet in the U.S. Department of Energy–sponsored contest to build a solar-powered home. Fellow teammates are also rearranging the stars. Watch for more on them in upcoming editions of this magazine.

Read a cool feature on the Solar Decathlon team in our archives:

post-image Smarter than the average city: BlueLight enabled. View full image. Photo from Adobe Stock
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