This week, the US government has announced a new Smart Cities Initiative that will invest over $160 million in federal research and leverage more than 25 new technology collaborations to help local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services.
The initiative has set out more than $35 million in new grants and over $10 million in proposed investments to build a research infrastructure for smart cities. And it promises nearly $70 million in new spending and over $45 million in proposed investments to unlock new solutions in safety, energy, climate preparedness, transportation, health and more.
Funding for key business sectors include $11.5 million for cloud-based public safety, transportation and wellness apps, $50 million for emergency response technologies and $10 million to support research into technologies such as smart buildings and self-driving cars.
The Obama administration envisages an emerging community of civic leaders, data scientists, technologists, and companies are joining forces to build “Smart Cities”. These communities will build 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” the official statement said.
At the White House Smart Cities Forum, President Obama outlined the need to address challenges in cities at a community level. "Every community is different, with different needs and different approaches. But communities that are making the most progress on these issues have some things in common" he said. "They don't look for a single silver bullet. Instead they bring together local government and non-profits and businesses and teachers and parents around a shared goal”.
Major corporations such as Microsoft, GE and Bank of America also share the government’s goal on smart cities, and have publically endorsed the project along with firms; Autodesk, Cisco, Duke Energy, Itron, Landis+Gyr and Qualcomm Technologies. Each firm is adding their own expertise to the project, Microsoft, for example, is providing each winning city with one year of access to the Microsoft Azure Government cloud platform, with ongoing assistance to develop smart city solutions.
More than 20 US cities will be taking part, including New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta, San Diego, Portland, South Bend, San Jose, Providence, Portland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Montgomery, Houston, Madison, Memphis, Detroit, and Cuyahoga.
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Software firm Accelerated Innovations will equip winning cities with the Envision America app, a community engagement platform built to facilitate, measure and gamify large-scale sustainability action campaigns. Also this week, IBM revealed a new smart cities division that will use data from The Weather Company, smartphone chip manufacturer ARM, as well as AT&T, to gather and distribute information on weather, public safety and food supply for government and corporate clients.
“Data is becoming the currency of the 21st century,” said Michael Dixon, general manager of IBM’s smart cities division. “It’s a haystack of data, and we’re finding all sorts of needles”.
The US governments Smart Cities Initiative comes hot off the heals of President Obama’s long awaited Climate Action Plan, which set out a variety of policies to reduce carbon emissions, prepare for the effects of climate change, but distinctly lacked a “Smart” focus. The news will be well received by the smart city and smart building industries, who will hope the $160 million initiative will be the start of a long period of strong support for US smart city development, which has fallen behind pioneers such as Seoul and Amsterdam.