By Michaela Ross
Sept. 26 — The Obama administration is pledging more than $80 million in new federal investments for its Smart Cities Initiative and will double the number of participating cities to more than 70, the White House announced Sept. 26.
The investments will focus on improving public safety, transportation, climate and city services through research and public-private partnerships, according to a White House fact sheet. Among the targeted programs: Funding for researchers in Chattanooga, Tenn. to test a city-wide network of connected vehicles; sensor-based flood-warning pilot projects in Maryland and Texas; and drone technology research to improve the electric grid and bridges. Federal agencies will partner with companies including International Business Machines Corp., AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Intel Corp. to create large-scale plans for natural disaster resilience, transportation systems and air quality, the White House said.
The White House launched the initiative in September 2015 to fund research, development and deployment of emerging technologies by municipalities, universities and federal agencies. Local governments are piloting “smart city” models— by connecting data analytics infrastructure and networks of sensors to everything from trash cans to traffic lights—to reduce the costs of waste management, improve traffic flows and cut utility costs, among other benefits. The smart city industry has reached more than $1 trillion in annual sales worldwide as cities compete to foster jobs and talent, Jesse Berst, chairman of the Smart Cities Council, a for-profit association promoting businesses interests and research in the sector, said in a Sept. 26 statement.
“With nearly two-thirds of Americans living in urban settings, many of our fundamental challenges—from climate change to equitable growth to improved health—will require our cities to be laboratories for innovation,” the White House fact sheet said.
“The rapid pace of technological change, from the rise of data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and ubiquitous sensor networks to autonomous vehicles, holds significant promise for addressing core local challenges,” the fact sheet said.
Smart Cities Week
The White House’s announcement kicks off the second annual Smart Cities Week, a three-day conference in Washington D.C. hosted by the Smart Cities Council.
The council announced Sept. 26 it will partner with members AT&T, Qualcomm Inc., Dow Building & Construction and others in a smart city competition awarding five cities in-kind resources and consultation in the coming months.
“A smart city strategy is essential to support a 21st century workforce and to drive economic development,” Berst said.
The Obama administration also said in its Sept. 26 announcement that four additional companies are joining its Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, launched in July. Anritsu Corp., Crown Castle International Corp., Ericsson AB and FiberTower Corp. will join the effort to develop four city-scale advanced wireless testing platforms for new telecommunications infrastructure that supports smart city interconnected technologies.
Last year, the White House's Smart City Challenge spurred 78 U.S. cities to compete for more than $60 million in grants and private resources to pilot new technologies in connected cars and public transportation access improvements.