This year’s winners were selected form a list of nine finalists, which included the likes of Albuquerque, N.M.; Aurora, Ill.; Fairfax County, Va.; and Los Angeles. Puerto Rico, which is recovering from devastation left by Hurricane Maria, will be awarded a separate Readiness Challenge Grant.
Four cities – Louisville, Birmingham, Cary, Las Vegas – and the state of Virginia have won the 2018 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge for their innovative project plans ranging from smart street lighting and fiber-optic connectivity to Wi-Fi and video analytics to improve public service.
The Smart Cities Council grants include a year of expert mentoring along with a workshop tailored to support specific community needs. The recipients also will receive free products and services from companies such as Qualcomm, Battelle, SYNEXXUS, CompTIA and IES.
“The five winners had three important things in common,” Smart Cities Council Chairman Jesse Berst said in a statement. He noted the winners were looking for opportunities for “uncovering synergies and cost-efficiencies between departments.
“The (cities) also fostered coordinated collaboration between internal departments, external stakeholders and nearby regions,” Berst said. “Finally, they exhibited a determination to include underserved and vulnerable populations.”
1. Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville plans to use the Council’s expertise to further develop its smart cities plan and strategy. Part of that plan is the deployment of some 115 miles of fiber-optic cable to enhance communications in the region.
“A world-class city has to be positioned to understand and adapt to the world around us, especially in the fast-moving realm of technology,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “That’s why our city’s Office for Civic Innovation has worked so diligently on projects like attracting Google Fiber and working with the app IFTTT to sync city data with smartphone apps, and smart devices, like internet-enabled light bulbs.
“This partnership with the Smart Cities Council will help us take even more big leaps into the future.”
2. Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham will use the Council guidance to expand projects like smart street lighting, open data, community Wi-Fi as well as a bus rapid transit system.
“Effective and efficient smart city initiatives are a conduit for amplifying growth and achieving equity,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin in a statement. “Birmingham is committed to having sustainable and inclusive growth, and the Smart Cities designation will enable us to put that flag in the ground.”
3. Cary, North Carolina
Cary plans to pursue projects like smart street lighting, and also add “destination centers” — facilities in underserved neighborhoods to assist in housing and jobs. With the Council’s guidance, it plans to advance several projects including One Cary which seeks to create a single platform to promote data sharing between city departments and residents.
“Making more data-driven decisions is integral to the future of Cary, not just within the function of the government but also for civic engagement and transparency,” said Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. “The resources provided by the Readiness Challenge Grant will be a huge help in our effort to gain a 360-view of Cary and our citizens.”
4. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas wants to become a “fully connected smart city” by 2025, and will use the grant resources to get there. Today, the city is working on an open and adaptable public safety platform to pull in data from many sources for “collective analysis.” It currently has three pilot projects under way involving video analytics.
“Las Vegas is a leader when it comes to innovation and we thank the Smart City Council for this honor,” Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman said. “The city will utilize the mentoring, workshops, products and services provided in this grant to continue to be a testing ground for new technologies that improve safety and livability for our residents and visitors.”
As for the only state selected, Virginia plans to expand broadband throughout the state, adopt interoperability standards, as well as develop a cybersecurity privacy plan. Expansion of broadband is much needed in the state, where only 55 percent of homes in rural areas have access to high-speed broadband, according to a 2016 Virginia Chamber of Commerce study.
“The grant will aid Virginia in supporting communities across the Commonwealth to improve livability, workability and sustainability through smart technology,” said Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Esther Lee.
Last year, Austin, Indianapolis, Miami; Newport News, Orlando and Philadelphia were selected to participate in the Readiness Challenge Grant program.