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Carlsbad's First Innovation Officer Has Plans that Could Stretch Beyond One City

Carlsbad hired its first chief innovation officer in the hopes of applying technology solutions in new ways.

Carlsbad hired its first chief innovation officer in the hopes of applying technology solutions in new ways.

David Graham told Techwire in an interview on Nov. 9 that he is the first innovation officer in the greater San Diego area. He plans to spend the first 90 days of his tenure "just talking to people. There's nothing like face-to-face interaction to understand where people are at and what they need."

"My feeling is that authentic engagement with the community is the best way to design the city of the future."

Graham's focuses will include:

  • Mobility — AI-based traffic adjustments, expanding microtransit options
  • Sustainability — finding a renewable energy, increasing energy and water efficiency in business and city facilities, growing solar and wind infrastructure
  • Civic engagement — creating a toolkit to improve engagement and request community feedback
  • Government services — seeking innovative solutions to residents' problems
"I would love to solve problems before people even know they have them," Graham said of using predictive analytics to help residents.

He hopes to translate his experience with San Diego's Smart City Initiatives to make an impact in Carlsbad and beyond.

"I think of these one, two, three cities — those that are 100,000 to 300,000 — as having the nature that can allow them to be nimble, they're close to the issues that residents care about and they have the opportunity to do innovative projects that are scalable to other cities around the country," Graham said. "More cities look like the population and makeup of a Carlsbad than they do of a Chicago or Dallas or Miami."

One of those projects will focus on improving Southern California's infamous traffic by harnessing the city's existing connected traffic signals.

"I want to hack the traffic problem," Graham said.

Graham wants to overlay artificial intelligence, offer autonomous shuttles, increase biking and pedestrian options to reduce congestion.

"I think mobility is going to be one of the most crucial areas for people in Carlsbad," Graham said. "There should be frictionless mobility in the city of Carlsbad."

Check for bids on any upcoming projects here.

Kayla Nick-Kearney was a staff writer for Techwire from March 2017 through January 2019.