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September 16, 2015

U.S. Smart Cities Effort Targets Data Apps

George Leopold

The Obama administration this week said it would invest more than $160 million in a U.S. “smart cities” initiative by, among other steps, “harnessing the growing data revolution [and] low-cost sensors.”

Along with harnessing big data, the White House said its initiative would fund federal research and more than 25 technology collaborations tied to efforts to ease traffic congestion, reduce crime, manage the effects of climate change, improve the delivery of city services and generally foster economic growth.

“An emerging community of civic leaders, data scientists, technologists and companies are joining forces to build ‘Smart Cities’ – communities that are building an infrastructure to continuously improve the collection, aggregation and use of data to improve the life of their residents,” the White House noted in a Sept. 14 announcement.

More than 20 U.S. cities are expected to participate in the initiative along with universities and technology companies. Among the planned collaborate efforts are launching test beds for Internet of Things applications and greater collaboration in areas like data analytics.

“Cities represent strong potential test beds for development and deployment of Internet of Things applications,” administration officials noted.

The initiative also would seek to leverage federal research efforts in areas like sensor networks, cyber-security, broadband networks and intelligent transportation systems.

The administration said it would commit $70 million in new spending and more than $45 million in “proposed investments” on public safety, energy, health, transportation and climate preparedness projects. The departments of Homeland Security, Energy and Commerce along with the Environmental Protection Agency would oversee the projects.

More than $35 million in new grants along with more than $10 million in fiscal 2016 spending would be used to create a smart cities research infrastructure overseen by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST). NSF generally awards research grants to U.S. universities.

Among the NSF grants announced this week were $11.5 million in new awards to develop and scale next-generation Internet application prototypes “that leverage gigabit speeds” for applications ranging from health care to public safety, the White House said.

A separate $10 million grant will fund research on the integration of computing and networking with physical systems like “smart buildings.” It would augment related Internet of Things initiatives. A separate effort at the University of Chicago would focus on developing an “Array of Things” defined as a 500-node “infrastructure for researchers to rapidly deploy sensors, embedded systems, computing and communications systems at scale in an urban environment.”

Related industry efforts include an AT&T smart cities initiative that would deploy networking technology for applications like smart metering, traffic management and public safety. The AT&T networks would be deployed in ten U.S. cities. The telecommunications giant and NIST also will sponsor a “Smart Cities Hackathon” during an AT&T developer summit in January 2016.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security also will work with NIST to leverage smart cities data, analytics and predictive modeling for first responders. That effort is part of a five-year, $50 million DHS initiative to develop emergency response technologies, the White House said.

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