Five for Friday: Five Smart Cities to Watch

Five Smart Cities to Watch

Five for Friday: Five Smart Cities to Watch

The term “smart city” refers to the use of data to drive decision making and implement new technologies to improve services and strengthen contact between citizens and government. As populations in cities continue to grow, it is increasingly important the cities get smarter to serve their citizens better. Cities around the country are competing for the title of “smart city”.

Sure, being a “smart city” is the marketing term of the day, but for those of us in the industry it means something. A smart city improves operations, services, and quality of life, increases efficiencies, and reduces costs for the city and its constituents. At least a smart city can do this, that is if we can figure out how to build a smart city. Here are five cities to watch on our journey to get smart.

Austin, TX: Weird . . . and Smart.

Austin is first on this list, well, because of alphabetical order. But really Austin is a great place to jump in. The city has taken a major step in their commitment to planning and development with the Austin Smart City Alliance, a nonprofit  alliance of organizations, companies, and individuals dedicated to advancing communities and the lives of people in Austin through smart city technologies and solutions. The alliance currently has projects in the areas of health and safety, transportation, affordable housing, community engagement, and arts and culture. Their transportation plan is focused on collecting data to create a better experience, and a better way to get around. For example, by tracking buses and bus routes using beacons and cameras, the city plans to reduce traffic and emissions, and improve rider experience including for people with disabilities. Another place Austin leads is on smart energy, being the first city in the world to have built a citywide smart grid in 2009. Today, Austin is expanding their Smart Grid 2.0 to develop the next generation of energy monitoring and control, storage, distribution and use of renewables such as micro wind turbines and solar panels. We know about Keep Austin Weird. Now let’s Make Austin Smart?

Boulder, CO: Smart Technology on Tap

Boulder has long been a leader in smart city innovation, starting with attempts at smart grid technology over a decade ago. The City has lessons learned, and today Boulder is building its smart city from the ground up, focused on infrastructure and data to meet community needs. The city’s Community Broadband Connectivity project is designed to provide critical infrastructure for connectivity services, much like it does with roads, water, sewer and electricity. The Boulder plan calls for the construction of 65 miles of fiber backbone for city and community purposes. In the long term, Boulder envisions this infrastructure could support gigabit speed internet services to homes and various city applications. Where the infrastructure is deployed will be based on data, and Boulder has a lot of it. The City’s Community Dashboard provides the public with data related to city programs and community indicators, organized according to the city’s Sustainability + Resilience Framework. This open data portal is designed by and for the community, creating a common language and set of priorities for the development of smart services.

Charlotte, NC: Smart City Due South

With VERGE Internet founders Jonathan Rhodes and Christopher Wolff being from New Orleans, we’re partial to a smart city from the South. Charlotte has a robust public wifi program to keep people connected. They are also partnering with Microsoft on the Digital Alliance to promote public safety, smart lighting, workforce development, smart zoning and connected mobility and neighborhoods. Much of Charlott’s smart planning is based around data and measurable benchmarks, especially as it relates to smart energy and transportation. Charlotte is developing the North End Smart District (NESD) is a future hotspot for development, attracting new economic activities, particularly centered on technology and innovation sectors. NESD was designated as the Applied Innovation Corridor. Funding from Community Investment Plan bonds was earmarked for collaborative, economic development investments to improve the community. NESD focuses on collaborations with the eight neighborhoods in the district.

Dallas, TX: Smart by 2030

Though hesitant to put up the same state twice on this short list, Texas is a big state and Dallas is making big commitments in the smart city space. The city has set out a roadmap to be one of the most attractive cities in the U.S. by 2030. The bold timeline means they need to get smart and fast, and they’ll do this with the help of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, a public-private agency dedicated to helping Dallas execute its smart city strategy. Dallas defines a Smart City as one that focuses on improving the quality of life of all citizens by adopting new forms of governance, public participation, process improvements, technology adoption, data-driven decision making and provides sustainable services. Dallas is setting out on their roadmap with open data projects, smart grid projects, smart lighting, traffic and mobility programs, and more.

San Francisco, CA: Smart Government is Good Government

Given the number of tech companies in proximity to San Francisco, we’d expect a smart city here. And smart it is. As the second-most densely populated city in the US, the San Francisco smart city plan emphasizes reduction of energy usage by promoting LEED-certified buildings (there are currently over 300 of these green buildings), and creating a “connected vehicle grid” where autonomous vehicles communicate with each other and traffic systems to reduce congestion and emissions. San Francisco is not just a technology roadshow—the city has developed a “Strategic Vision for Smart Cities and the Internet of Things” that is deeply rooted in concepts of equity, good government and economic development. The vision is to make San Francisco a Smart City and the IoT Capital of the World for two primary reasons: (1) enable more equitable, efficient, effective and responsive government; and (2) create the next generation of middle class jobs by helping Smart Cities/IoT companies grow in San Francisco.

Contributors: Jonathan Rhodes and Christopher Wolff founded VERGE Internet to develop broadband and smart city solutions that promote digital equity and provide Internet for All. The views expressed in these blog posts are solely those of the contributors, aimed at fostering conversation and collaboration at the intersection of community and connectivity.

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