Microsoft Driving Smart New York City Innovations

 |   Laura Clayton McDonnell

I’m excited to join leaders from government, business and startups at this week’s first-ever Smart Cities NYC. As the premier sponsor of this unique event and through our ongoing business, Microsoft is helping customers drive smart-city initiatives around the globe, including many innovations here in New York.

Student wheels

The New York City Department of Education’s Office of Student Support Services (OSSS) “Illumination Program” is architecting some key innovations that leverage the Microsoft cloud, data warehousing and analytics, and artificial intelligence:

  • The New York City Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation, which transports more than 600,000 students each day—the largest school transportation department in the U.S.—recently rolled out a pilot Global Positioning System (GPS) bus monitoring system on 500 school buses to increase efficiency, enhance safety for students, and better address parent and family inquiries and requests. The system is built on Azure and uses Power BI to capture and illustrate real-time information on locations, traffic conditions, students, drivers and attendants entering, riding and exiting a particular bus, and vehicle performance indicators. It monitors day-to-day diagnostics and also identifies which students get on and off the bus at certain times and at certain places so it can improve its routes and increase student safety.

Tech for traffic safety

Through a partnership with DataKind, Microsoft recently completed the Vision Zero Labs Project to develop valuable analytical models and tools to help the cities of New York, New Orleans and Seattle further their work to increase road safety. Vision Zero cities aim to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries to zero, and the more than a year-long Labs project was the first and largest multicity, data-driven collaboration of its kind supporting Vision Zero efforts within the U.S.

Family bonding over Skype

Hackensack University Medical Center was among the first to use Skype for Business to connect parents with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), providing a simple, secure and cost-effective way for families to bond when they cannot be together physically. This video provides a good overview, with more information in For NICU Parents, Skype Provides the ‘Next Best Thing’ and Skype in the NICU.

Better city services

New York City is embracing digital transformation to deliver better services, reduce costs and increase impact. For example:

  • Over 200 languages are spoken in New York City and 49 percent of New York families speak languages other than English at home. Having recently tested and proven that Microsoft Translator can handle many translation needs at little to no cost (as compared to $4 per minute for call-center translators), the city is now exploring how this technology and Surface devices could manage these conversations more effectively and efficiently. Translator also helps break the language barrier for schoolchildren learning English as a second language.

YouTube Video

Supporting startups; training tech professionals

As our city looks for new ways to compete in the global economy, Microsoft is supporting local startups and training New Yorkers for good-paying tech jobs.  

  • Dedicated to fostering an ongoing engagement and dialogue between Microsoft and the local developer and startup community, New York’s Reactor provides a community space for connections, resources and talent. Located at leading startup incubator Grand Central Tech (GCT), Microsoft keeps regular office hours, with casual conversations in the GCT Hub area often leading to more engagement with the roughly 90 startups and entrepreneurs based there. By connecting with startups in their early phases, Microsoft experts can help address technical challenges and architect solutions.
  • In 2015, Microsoft joined with the City of New York to launch a first-of-its-kind, $10 million public-private partnership designed to support the growth of the city’s tech ecosystem. As part of that effort, Microsoft created the Tech Jobs Academy (TJA), an intensive, 18-week technical training program for unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers to gain the skills needed for in-demand tech jobs. Of the roughly 500 applicants to the first and second TJA cohorts, 50 were accepted into the program and 47 graduated, with the majority now working full-time in significantly higher paying tech careers.

YouTube Video

These are just a few examples of our smart-city solutions, which are making New York an even smarter, more vibrant place to live and work. Please learn more at:

Real stories of digital transformation.

As general manager of the Enterprise & Partner Group for Microsoft’s New York Metro District, Laura A. Clayton McDonnell is focused on driving positive results, growing market share, developing high performance teams, and transforming customers and culture. She has held executive-level roles at Aspect Software, IBM, Rational Software, Sun Microsystems, Cisco and Apple, and previously was in a private corporate and securities law practice. Clayton McDonnell received a bachelor of science degree, with distinction, from San Jose State University, and a JD-MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. She is admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C., and California, and received the 2008 YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Award. Clayton McDonnell is a member of the Women’s Forum of New York, an advisory committee member of the 92Y’s Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact, and a member of the board of directors of the Metro NY Chapter of the USNC for United Nations Women.

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