Georgia Tech Leads Public-Private Challenge to Help Small Cities Become Smart Cities

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A report released by the National League of Cities last year showed that about two-thirds of cities reported investing in smart city technology — and for good reason. Connected devices and data monitoring technologies can make cities and local governments run more efficiently, improve traffic and gridlock, and even potentially have an impact on decreasing crime.

Georgia Tech, along with partners from the public, private and academic community, has launched a new program to bring smart cities expertise and infrastructure to smaller communities. The Georgia Smart Communities Challenge invites any city or county government in the state to apply for a $50,000 grant, technical assistance, and a dedicated Georgia Tech researcher to pilot a smart city project.

Four teams will be chosen to participate in Georgia Smart following a discovery period where the coalition will help interested governments develop their ideas and connect with existing smart city companies and technologies. Projects can be related to anything in the areas of smart mobility and smart resilience, areas that could include anything from traffic mitigation to public safety to sustainability.

Debra Lam, managing director of Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation at Georgia Tech, says this program is the first of its kind in the country — the vast majority of smart city initiatives are focused on major metropolitan areas.

“This is a chance to show [smaller cities] how data and technology can improve quality of life,” she says. Lam’s department, part of Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology, also works with the City of Atlanta to analyze data collected from the smart city pilots on the North Avenue smart corridor. Those pilots hope to inform future projects that can be implemented city-wide to improve operations, efficiency and safety.

Lam says the Challenge is also unique because of the wide array of partners involved. Georgia Power is the lead sponsor, joined by additional partners Atlanta Regional Commission, Association County Commissioners of Georgia, Georgia Municipal Association, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Centers for Innovation, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Metro Atlanta Chamber, and Technology Association of Georgia.

“Smart community opportunities can help local governments and the whole region address issues such as social justice, mobility, economic development, and many other important areas,” said Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, in a statement.

The Georgia Smart group plans to hold several workshops in March and April to generate interest with local government officials, educate them on smart city solutions, and identify their unique challenges. Applications for the program are due May 1 and projects will kick off in the fall and run for a calendar year.