As the first year of our Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge program draws to a close, we’re taking a moment to reflect on the progress our first five winning cities have made. After an extensive application process Austin, Indianapolis, Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia were selected as our inaugural winners because the judges felt they were ready to make significant leaps in their smart cities journeys. And as you’ll read below, they have.
Take a moment to download our 2017 Readiness Challenge ebook, which highlights the issues in each city and the steps they’ve taken. Then start (or finish) your Readiness Challenge application so you can be one of next year’s winners. — Kevin Ebi
Austin: Helping those who don’t usually benefit
Austin is growing fast and there’s virtually an unlimited number of projects it could take on to benefit some segment of the population. But it decided to take a step back and look at what it could do to help those who need the help the most. Instead of using the grant on something like airport expansion, it’s focusing on people who don’t normally benefit from big city projects.
Participants in the city’s Readiness Workshop identified needs and opportunities in specific areas, including transportation, community engagement, arts and music, affordable housing, open data, public-private partnerships and healthcare. Building on the initial work, it planned a second workshop this fall to focus on identifying specific projects and funding plans.
Indianapolis: Moving from planning to taking action
“A year ago, the city of Indianapolis was in a learning phase," said Katie Robinson, director of the Indianapolis Office of Sustainability. "Now, the city is in a planning phase, synthesizing available technologies with community needs to determine the most impactful steps forward.”
Indianapolis formed a working group to align priorities, working across departments. The city is also working with Council Partner IceMiller, one of Indiana’s largest law firms, to lay the groundwork so cities and technology vendors can implement more innovative solutions. The city’s chamber of commerce added smart city policy to its 2018 agenda.
Indianapolis-based Global Water Technologies is also developing smart water tools to reduce costs and water loss and improve safety for statewide implementation.
Miami: Smart solutions for rising seas
Miami has two key challenges: rapid growth and rising sea levels. The city's metro area recently topped 6 million residents — nearly 10% arriving in just the past few years. And more frequent flooding and storm surges are hitting coastal communities hard.
The city is using its Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge Grant in part to develop and implement smart solutions and strategies for flood mitigation. Miami has taken several steps toward mitigation and public safety, including its Sea Level Rise Pilot Program which combines smart technologies like geographic information systems, 3-D modeling, waterfront sensors and other data sources to identify the most vulnerable areas and guide efforts to build up its defenses against tidal flooding.
Orlando: Keeping up with an explosive job market
Creating more than 100,000 jobs over the past two years doesn’t seem like a problem, especially when they’re generally high-tech, high-paying jobs. But there are consequences. Every new job brings a new resident. How do you keep traffic moving? How do you keep people safe?
Orlando established a Smart Cities Steering Committee to develop strategies to turn workshop suggestions into action plans. And Charles Ramdatt, Orlando’s director of Smart Services, says when it comes to implementing the smart cities initiatives, city departments will have to work at teammates, not competitors. The city is also making citizen engagement a priority. Orlando is investing heavily in open data so that citizens can see for themselves what the city is doing for them.
Philadelphia: From stakeholder outreach to roadmap building
The application process for the Readiness Challenge helped people in various departments start talking to each other and start working toward common solutions. Philadelphia’s SmartCityPHL initiative is now one year old.
More than 150 key regional stakeholders including the mayor, representatives of a dozen city departments, and regional employers attended the city’s Readiness Workshop last month. The city is working to complete a detailed smart cities roadmap and it used the Readiness Workshop as the key piece of stakeholder outreach to inform that process.
(The application window for the 2018 Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge closes December 15, 2017. Start your application today.)