Love-Wright: Detroit can lead the way in technology

Lauren Love-Wright

Tech and Detroit. Two words many people in this city are working tirelessly to ensure the world sees as synonymous.

This week, as tech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts come together right here in Detroit for Techweek 2015, we must continue to be bold, leveraging relationships in government, business and philanthropy to do what our history has shown that we do best: innovate.

As region president at Verizon Wireless, I not only oversee $4 billion in revenue and nearly 2,000 employees, but I am an advocate for the story of Detroit, my hometown.

For me, tech and Detroit have always gone together. Because of my parents, both educators for the Detroit Public and Wayne County Schools, I was a young girl exposed to the sciences and mathematics. While at Cass Tech, I was taught the importance of these subjects but it wasn’t until I began working at Bell Labs (now Alcatel-Lucent Technologies) that I fully began to appreciate why.

Today, Detroit has the potential to become one of the most connected cities in America, a “smart city,” as leaders make critical infrastructure decisions that will impact Detroit’s future. Through connected solutions, cities can operate streetlights automatically, reducing costs up to 70 percent while making our streets safer. They can cut the cost of manually reading a water meter, which can be as high as $18, by adding a wireless remote device that instantaneously gathers readings. Or consider first responders receiving wireless alerts of traffic jams, thereby reducing response time by providing a faster and less congested route.

These are not just ideas. They are real solutions that can help a city operate more efficiently, more competitively.

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend Detroit’s “Homecoming” event where leaders from around the world, all born or raised in Detroit, started a conversation around fresh and bold ideas to move the city forward. For me, the homecoming was a compelling reminder of the unbelievable talent in Detroit, what the city has accomplished under extraordinary circumstances, and what we can do in the days, months and years ahead to spur innovation.

Verizon is excited to be a part of that conversation, and to invest in the future of Detroit. We believe that intelligent transportation, including the connected car, can be the next momentum driver for Detroit’s auto industry. Verizon recently joined the Leadership Council for the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center to test next-generation technologies right here in Michigan. And Verizon Telematics is partnering with Ford and Magna International to bring Techstars Mobility to Detroit, finding startup companies that will create a hub for transportation and mobility innovation.

Today, we have multiple pilot programs running to find efficiencies.

We’ll continue our multi-million dollar commitment to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the two annual races on Belle Isle that provide economic benefits to the city. And the Verizon Foundation will continue funding programs in the areas of STEM education and health care, including projects at Cass Technical High School, Wayne State University, and The Heat & Warmth Fund’s energy conservation and self-sufficiency pilot.

In the past year, we’ve invested $100 million in network improvements for key parts of the city. With mobile data traffic expected to grow 18-fold between 2011 and 2016 according to Cisco, we’ve installed nearly 100 small cells to add capacity in high traffic areas and extend coverage to hard-to-reach locations and indoor sites. We’ve recently completed network enhancement projects on Belle Isle, the riverfront, Rosa Parks Transit Center, the New Center area and Campus Martius, and a project is underway at Comerica Park.

In 2015, we’ll continue multimillion-dollar investments in our network. We have already spent $2.7 billion in Michigan to keep our brand’s promise to offer the best customer experience. But there’s so much more we can do to make sure the world sees tech and Detroit as something truly synonymous.

Lauren Love-Wright is president of Verizon Wireless for Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky.