The Emergence of Smart Cities

by Diane Vautier on July 7, 2017

The Emergence of Smart CitiesWhat is a Smart City? The concept of a Smart City is an emerging one, and one that still eludes exact definition for most people. Although cities of all sizes are expressing interest in adopting the smart city concept, the manifestations of ‘smart’ qualities present themselves in many different forms. Some cites want to wirelessly manage streetlights and traffic, some want to manage waste management. Others consider solar lighting on walking paths to be ‘smart technology’ while others want to provide area-wide wireless internet access to underserved areas or high-use public spaces.

While cities continue to explore the concept and struggle to define exactly what it means to their communities, the general idea of a smart city can be boiled down into the following short phrase.

smart city is an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets.  ~ Wikipedia

In other words, the concept of a smart city includes technology enabled assets, connected via a robust communications infrastructure capable of high-capacity data transmission, and the means to aggregate and manage the resulting asset generated data.

Smart City Challenge

In December 2015, the Obama Administration launched the Nation’s first Smart City Challenge to create innovative and scalable technology solutions toward global climate sustainability. The U.S. Department of Transportation in partnership with Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., “inspired 78 mid-sized cities to compete for the opportunity to demonstrate how advanced data and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technologies and applications can be used to reduce congestion, keep travelers safe, protect the environment, respond to climate change, and support economic vitality.”

Last summer (June 2016), the City of Columbus, OH was selected as the challenge winner. As the winner, they received $40 million from U.S. DOT and $10 million from Vulcan. The City itself had already raised nearly double that amount before being awarded the prize money, collecting $90 million from private partners to be used toward implementing their smart city initiatives.

The Smart City Challenge is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation and Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. which aims to catalyze cities across the country to demonstrate “what’s possible” through scalable solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create innovative and practical climate change solutions.  ~ Smart City Challenge

Smart Columbus

The City of Columbus in collaboration with Columbus Partnership, a membership-based CEO leadership organization, now support the newly formed “Smart Columbus” initiative for the greater Columbus Region. Smart Columbus will be using the roughly $140 million dollars to push innovation forward and become a model for other national and global cities. Smart Columbus is actively reaching out to potential vendors, partners and technologists to capitalize on the commercial/municipal collaboration opportunities that advance their mission, vision and goals.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced that local communities across the country will receive nearly $65 million in grants to support advanced technology transportation projects.

Smart America

To continue the future of innovation theme, in October of 2016, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced nearly $65 million in grants supporting advanced technology transportation projects will be given to local communities across the country. Foxx is quoted as saying that “T[t]hese grants will enable cities and rural communities to harness new technologies to tackle hard problems like reducing congestion, connecting people to mass transit, and enhancing safety.”

Two U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) programs are awarding the grants: the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment (ATCMTD) program run by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox program overseen by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

With grant support from federal agencies, proactive initiatives from local municipalities, and the resources of academia and the private sector, the concept of smart cities is emerging. We still may not have an exact definition of it, but we know that it’s coming, and defining itself along the way.

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