Technology has made life significantly more convenient; communication can take place over great distances, and complex structures can be built at a rapid pace. Municipalities are taking advantage of advances in technology, transforming into “smart cities.”
What is a “Smart City”?
A smart city is a relatively new concept for how cities are managed. The basic idea is that the smart city will use technology to better manage resources. This is accomplished by collecting data from across the city through a variety of means. For example, a city may set up a sensor that counts how many vehicles drive past a certain location. The city could then use that data to decide whether to widen the street to accommodate increased traffic or install signs to better control the flow of traffic. The applications of data and technology to city management are limitless and cities are increasingly adopting the smart city framework.
Georgia Smart Communities Challenge
To foster the spread of the smart city concept, the Georgia Institute of Technology, in collaboration with Georgia Power, Georgia Municipal Association, and Georgia Centers for Innovations, created the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge.
Communities are encouraged to apply to the program to help accomplish their own smart city goals. Communities of any size are eligible to apply to the program. Winning communities are awarded up to $100,000 to fund their smart city goals. Communities are also connected to resources and networking opportunities.
Despite being a newer program, it has accomplished impressive results. During the initial selection process, a further $1.5 million was raised and made available to assist the first cohort. Additionally, two-thirds of the Georgian population has been engaged by the program in some capacity, with webinars having 1,500 plus views and the newsletter garnering over 4,500 subscribers.
Various Award Recipients
12 different communities, at the time of this writing, are credited as GA Smart Communities. Each of the communities exemplifies a commitment to smart city ideals.
City of Milton
The City of Milton plans to use funding received from the GA Smart Communities Challenge to fund its “Walking School Bus” app. Milton plans to create an interactive smart phone app that will provide parents with real time information on children who want to walk to school in a larger group. The information provided by the app will encourage kids to safely walk or bike to and from school, thereby reducing the number of car trips by parents.
The application will build on previous programs created by Milton, such as the Safe Routes to School program, which was aimed at making it safer for kids to walk to school. The app will allow parents to see where groups are located, volunteer to chaperone alongside other parents, and even get weather updates. Basically, any information that a parent could want when their kids are off walking to school will be readily available to them!
City of Sandy Springs
The City of Sandy Springs will use its funding to partner with the Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority to begin use of the Transit Signal Priority technology. This technology will be tested on selected bus routes with the hopes of improving the flow of local transit systems without the need to invest heavily in brand-new infrastructure such as bus only lanes or new signage. This will be accomplished by using data published through a new system instead of on the bus themselves. This should make it easier for buses to move through the city, increasing walkability as well as sense of place.
City of Savannah
The City of Savannah has a recurring issue with vacant and blighted properties. Estimates put the annual use of public funds by each blighted property at around $1,300, which adds up to millions of dollars every year. The City of Savannah plans on using available funding to create systems that will make it easier to use data to decide the best course of action when dealing with any blighted properties.
Professors from Georgia Tech will assist the city in identifying different types of data, such as energy usage, that can be analyzed. By accumulating all the possible data, the City of Savannah will be in a better place to make informed decisions.