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How one city plans to get smarter (and share how they did it with others)

It's the reality so many cities know all too well. Urban populations are growing and that means more people depending on them for essential city services, whether it's mass transit, public safety, energy, water or the other services that make cities livable and safe. Unfortunately, it's common for cities to be short on resources they would ideally have to adequately accommodate that growth. The solution? Innovative solutions and partnerships designed to deliver more and/or better services efficiently and cost-effectively. Our story outlines how one city intends to do that—and why it will share its solution with other cities so they can benefit too. — Doug Peeples


Bellevue is a satellite city in the Seattle metro area. With a population of about 134,000, it isn't particularly large. But it's a busy and growing place, home to more than 100 major companies and it regularly ranks high on lists of the country's best places to live.

It also has a strong smart city program and city leaders are committed to developing a framework that will help it meet its goals for the community. That commitment helped the city secure a Replicable Smart City Technologies grant of $75,000 from the National Institute of Science and Technology's (NIST) Global Cities Team Challenge. The White House announced the program during the Smart Cities Council's Smart Cities Week conference in September. (See more about the Council's contribution below.)

It's a big responsibility. As a lead city in the NIST program, it will work with the agency, Council Lead Partner CH2M and Kansas City, Missouri to develop smart city solutions that can be shared with other cities. The thinking is that by working with partners and other cities, much more can be accomplished than would be possible for one city to do on its own.

"We are thrilled to be selected as one of the lead cities and to collaborate with other community and technology partners to develop a pilot smart city dashboard," according to Chelo Picardal, the city's chief technology officer. "Through this program, we'll be able to address our need for a citywide digital platform in a way that other cities can benefit from as well."

What exactly are they doing?
Bellevue and CH2M are working to create and test technologies they need to make better use of the data it has, collect new data and share it with city employees, businesses, residents and visitors. Through the dashboard, the city expects its analysis of real-time data can help it communicate and coordinate better among departments, operate more efficiently and maximize the benefits of the "smart systems" it has at its disposal.

"Often cities install smart lighting, parking, water and other systems in a vacuum that are costly to integrate with later on," said Ken Thompson, deputy director of Intelligent Water Solutions for CH2M. "Together, we're creating a citywide platform with a vision for the future that breaks down silos, improves efficiencies and provides substantial benefits for residents."

It'll take time
Picardal acknowledged that a framework for other cities will probably not be ready for a years and because it has so many elements, the city plans to develop it a little at a time. For now,  the city has chosen six focal points: buildings, connectivity, energy, public safety, transportation and water. And because it requires integrating technologies, building in enhanced security will be a focus as well to protect the privacy of citizens and city staff.

Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge Grant
Would you like some help to make your city more resilient? The Smart Cities Council will award five American cities Readiness Challenge Grants to make better use of technology to better serve their citizens. It’s part of the White House commitment to help cities use technology more effectively. Start your application today.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.