21 Smart communities to watch in 2018 gas efficient cars under 10000

##

Outside of the Seattle area, cities in Washington don’t get much attention for their contributions to tech, but Spokane, with about 215,000 residents just a 20-minute drive from Idaho, is quickly becoming an influential force in the field of smart city research. As the host of a 770-acre living laboratory in the city’s University District, called Urbanova, Spokane is beginning to yield initial research results and gain attention for its design-centric urban technology partnership.

In an interview in February, Urbanova CEO Kim Zentz told StateScoop the partnership was focused toward creating “healthier citizens, safer neighborhoods, smarter infrastructure, a more sustainable environment and ultimately a stronger economy.”

So far, the group has launched pilots that use smart streetlights to measure air quality at a “hyper local” level in hopes of understanding living conditions on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, a shared energy economy project that explores new models of integrating alternative energy sources into the electricity grid, a partnership with management consultancy Gallup that provides data analytics tools for constant monitoring of public sentiment, and an experimental communications system that would bridge multiple utility monitoring systems — like those used by gas, electric and water — on a common platform.

Tampa is a smart city in the making — and the only city in the U.S. using public residents to facilitate a U.S. Department of Transportation-funded connected vehicle pilot. The city won $21 million in grant funding from the U.S. DOT to launch a 1,600-car connected vehicle pilot beginning this month, and will incorporate local drivers and pedestrians into the pilot through mobile apps and connected devices.

"We’re using volunteers for on-board units we put in their vehicles to be used on the connected vehicle corridor, so managing their involvement requires a deft hand," Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority Planning Director Robert Frey said in November.

The pilot is a path toward incorporating connected vehicles into the Tampa traffic ecosystem in the long term, while reducing collisions and environmental impact of vehicles in the city. Pedestrians will be able to download a mobile app allowing them to activate some crosswalk signals and warning them of oncoming trucks or vehicles.

The city is also developing a 53-acre waterfront space to be a hub of smart technologies. Called Water Street Tampa, it’s being developed by Strategic Property Partners, a real estate group with designs on making the development “one of the most connected environments in the world.” With more than $3 billion in private investment going into building the mixed-use space, future residents and patrons can expect free high-speed Wi-Fi, digital platforms for concierge services around the space, and smart and interactive parking platforms.

Detroit is worth watching if for no other reason than to observe its initiatives as an acid test of smart city tech’s rallying power. Detroit escaped federal oversight on April 30 after logging the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in 2013 and ended fiscal 2017 with a $53.8 million budget surplus. Things are looking up, but if there was ever a city in need of a little help revitalizing, it’s Detroit.

City Chief Information Officer Beth Niblock told StateScoop in March that Detroit was sorting through applications for a new “director of emerging technology,” an official who will lead a wide range of innovative projects, including those that use smart city tech. Drones, police body cameras, car-mounted cameras, artificial intelligence, facial recognition, video analytics, digital voice assistants and chatbots are all on the table, Niblock said.

Niblock also says Detroit’s executive leadership has the city poised for technological success. "They’re willing to try all kinds of stuff,” she said. Democratic Mayor Mike Duggan himself has signaled that he isn’t content only to continue Detroit’s slow climb out of its reputation as the worst big city to live in, but has aspired to “ replace desolation with prosperity.”

Madison lost out four years ago on the big Transportation Department grant that eventually jump-started Columbus’s smart-city makeover. But it’s forging ahead with many of the plans it put forth in its grant application as it seeks to become a “living mobility lab” driven by electric cars, autonomous vehicles and data-collecting sensors all over its streetscape.

In February, the city set about installing short-range communications devices on busy intersections near the University of Wisconsin that let traffic lights detect approaching buses, with the goal of using the resulting data to develop rapid-transit lines. Over the longer term, the city also plans to upgrade its gas and electric grids, deploy a network of environmental sensors and build a city-owned 4G network for its public-safety and public-works agencies.

The city and the University of Wisconsin are also wrapping up a three-year project funded by the National Science Foundation to build out a gigabit internet laboratory to attract developers of ultrahigh-bandwidth applications. In 2018, Madison is continuing its transit and mobility projects as part of Transportation for America’s Smart Cities Collaborative.

As early smart city projects have sprouted up, some have lamented a lack of coordination. First in Illinois and now in Ohio, state leaders have launched smart state initiatives designed to corral disparate projects across cities into a common framework intended to ensure interoperability and eliminate duplication of efforts by identifying which ideas work best.

In April, Ohio announced the award of a $5 million contract to AECOM Technical Services to help the state develop just such a framework, with a particular emphasis on the state’s many experimental smart and connected transportation projects. Through a 12-month project, the vendor is expected to address issues of device interoperability, data management, and government-industry partnership. Ohio officials say the state will serve as a valuable convener and organizer, bringing much-needed support especially to smaller cities with less money to spend on experimental technology projects.

Lessons learned through DriveOhio, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s smart mobility program, and Smart Columbus, a project now supported by a half-billion dollars in federal and private investment after the City of Columbus won a $40 million Department of Transportation competition, are expected to gain a wider audience through the smart state initiative.