WASHINGTON, September 16, 2015 - A movement to make cities "smart" by using the power of broadband and information technology processing power is reaching critical mass, with the White House on Monday announcing a comprehensive initiative to support municipal efforts.
Coinciding with the Smart Cities Week conference here this week, the White House released a 4,000-word summary of more than $160 million in federal research investments, leveraging more than 25 technology collaborations with local communities.
The goal of these efforts? Tackling such key challenges, in the words of the White House, as "reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services."
"Advances in science and technology have the potential to accelerate these efforts," read the White House statement. "An emerging community of civic leaders, data scientists, technologists, and companies are joining forces to build 'Smart Cities' – communities that are building an infrastructure to continuously improve the collection, aggregation, and use of data to improve the life of their residents – by harnessing the growing data revolution, low-cost sensors, and research collaborations, and doing so securely to protect safety and privacy."
None of these Smart City innovations would be possible without the connectivity enabled by fiber-optic networks. These new opportunities for city services may prove to be the most effective driver of Gigabit Networks. As I wrote in an article last December on "The Year of Community and Municipal Gigabit Broadband," this is "a world in which cities and municipalities are playing the leadership role."
The White House Weighs In
Among the most significant facets of the administration's announcement include:
- More than $45 million in grants and investment for Smart City research and infrastructure by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
- Nearly $70 million in new spending for technologies to promote solutions in public safety, energy, climate preparedness, transportation and health by federal agencies.
- More than 20 cities participating in multi-party efforts "that will help city leaders effectively collaboration with universities and industry."
In a separate statement on the White House web site, Dan Correa, administration senior adviser for innovation policy, wrote:
By coordinating adjacent traffic signals to optimize local traffic throughput, a pilot project in Pittsburgh has reduced commuting travel times by more than 25 percent, on average. In Louisville, the city is using data gathered from sensor-equipped asthma inhalers to understand the connection between asthma “hotspots” and air quality levels and other environmental factors in order to inform policymaking and community-level interventions.
One new aspect of the Obama Administration's Smart Cities Initiative will be a focus on creating new technological test beds for "Internet of Things" applications.
Another will be collaboration with the civic tech movement, the "growing community of individuals, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits interested in harnessing [information technology] to tackle local problems and work directly with city governments."
In a manner similar to the way open source technology allows new innovators to build upon others' software, this "open data" movement allows entities outside of government to make use of government data streams in real time.
Additionally, the White House said, the government plans to use other federal agency research -- from sensor networks to broadband infrastructure -- in its Smart City efforts, and to pursue international collaboration, particularly research aimed at climate and resource demand.
The agency also announced the release of a new framework for coordinating actions by a range of federal agencies, and a science and technologies priorities memo that will impact the administration's pending 2017 budget proposal.
Actions by Cities and the Private Sector
In addition to White House and federal agency developments, more than 20 city-university collaborations are taking part in what is being called the MetroLab Network.
These collaborations include:
• Atlanta, with Georgia State University and Georgia Tech
• Boston, with Boston Area Research Initiative
• Chicago, with the University of Chicago
• Cuyahoga County, with Case Western University
• Dallas, with Texas Research Alliance
• Detroit, with Wayne State University
• Houston, with Rice University
• Madison, with University of Wisconsin-Madison
• Memphis, with University of Memphis
• Minneapolis & St. Paul, with University of Minnesota
• Montgomery County, with University of Maryland and Universities at Shady Grove
• New York City, with New York University
• Philadelphia, with Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania
• Pittsburgh, with Carnegie Mellon University
• Portland, with Portland State University
• Providence, with Brown University, College Unbound, and Rhode Island School of Design
• San Diego, with University of California San Diego
• San Jose, with San Jose State University
• Seattle, with University of Washington
• South Bend, with University of Notre Dame
• Washington, DC, with Howard University, Georgetown University, and George Washington University
And among the more than 60 Smart City pilots taking place over the next year include:
- City Digital, a Chicago-based consortium, focusing on urban infrastructure challenges
- Dallas Innovation Alliance effort to enhance infrastructure, mobility and connected living
- An IBM deployment of a Smarter Cities Challenge team in Detroit for cost-efficient removal and recycling of debris from abandoned and neglected properties
- The National League of Cities and 25 local government and the 2015 winners of its Multi-City Innovation Campaign: The Bluelight mobile 911 application, and Ride, a collaborative tool for analyzing bicycling data.
- New York City's new neighborhood innovation labs that will leverage Mayor Bill DeBlasio's efforts to expand a free public WiFi network throughout the city.
Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN, Google+ and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.