White House announces $160 million smart cities initiative

Mon, 2015-09-14 20:59 -- Liz Enbysk

Dan Correa, left, Senior Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology, talks with South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, center, and Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto, right, during the White House forum.

The White House Monday announced  a sweeping smart cities initiative that will invest more than $160 million in research and technology collaborations to help communities across the country tackle key challenges – from fighting crime to reducing traffic congestion to fostering economic growth.

Part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to use federal resources to meet local needs and support community-led solutions, the announcement during the White House Smart Cities Forum put on by the Office of Science and Technology Policy kicked off the Smart Cities Council’s Smart Cities Week conference and exhibition taking place this week in the nation’s capital.

A tipping point
“We think this marks a watershed, a tipping point for smart cities in America,” Council Founder and Chairman Jesse Berst said about the Obama Administration’s wide-ranging initiative to help local communities deploy smart technologies to improve the quality of life. “As the President has said, we need these tools in every city in America,” Berst added. “And that’s a good thing, because we’re behind other parts of the world.”

The multi-pronged initiative revealed Monday involves investments by several federal agencies. Among them:

  • The National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology will authorize $35 million in new grants and over $10 million in proposed investments to build a research infrastructure for smart cities.
  • Departments of Transportation, Homeland Security, Energy, Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency will devote nearly $70 million in new spending and over $45 million in proposed investments to develop new solutions in safety, climate preparedness, energy, transportation and health.

But new collaborations are also a key piece of the White House strategy and several were announced by stakeholders from government, business and academia attending the forum. For example, Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto – whose city has enjoyed a productive partnership with Carnegie Mellon University – announced launch of the MetroLab Network, an effort that will involve more than 20 city-university collaborations resulting in more than 60 smart city projects in the next year. Supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, the MetroLab Network intends to leverage university expertise to help cities address challenges and then share lessons learned and best practices. Peduto said he expects profound results.

Obama: No silver bullet
“Every community is different, with different needs and different approaches,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “But communities that are making the most progress on these issues have some things in common. They don’t look for a single silver bullet; instead they bring together local government and nonprofits and businesses and teachers and parents around a shared goal.”

Among a number of other collaborations announced at the White House Monday:

  • Envision Charlotte, the successful public-private partnership in Charlotte, NC that has achieved a 16% reduction in energy use in participating buildings, announced it will go national with an Envision America competition that will invite cities to work with leading experts from industry and  academia to develop smart, sustainable initiatives in their communities. Council Lead Partners CiscoGE, ItronMicrosoft and Qualcomm, are supporting the Envision America effort.
  • IBM is deploying a Smarter Cities Challenge team in Detroit to help the city and the Detroit Land Bank Authority remove blight and build smarter neighborhoods. IBM is a Council Lead Partner.
  • City Digital is a Chicago-based consortium launching two pilots; one will use Chicago as a testbed for deploying a sensor network to gather data on green infrastructure and the other is a virtual underground mapping platform to detect and monitor underground infrastructure. Among those supporting the effort are Microsoft and Associate Partner Siemens.
  • Dallas is launching the Dallas Innovation Alliance, an effort focused on infrastructure, mobility and connected living in the downtown’s West End district. Charter members include Council Lead Partners IBM , Microsoft and Schneider Electric, among others.
  • Siemens will make its City Performance Tool available in support of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, an effort launched earlier this year by mayors of 17 international cities.
  • A safer Super Bowl 50 is the objective of a collaboration to enhance public safety in the San Francisco region in advance of the next Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers, local transportation and public safety agencies and Council Lead Partner Allied Telesis are among those involved.

To learn more, watch the video from the White House Smart Cities Forum below.