Montgomery wins 2019 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge

Montgomery wins 2019 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge
Montgomery IT Manager Savio Dias holds the city's 2019 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Award. Montgomery was one of five winners in North America. (contributed)

For the second year in a row, an Alabama city has been awarded a prestigious grant to propel smart city efforts forward. Last Friday, the Smart Cities Council named Montgomery one of its 2019 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge winners.

“This is a special moment for our community signifying our success in capitalizing on the opportunities for growth and economic development that come through the advancement of technology across our city,” said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange. “We are grateful to our partners who raised their hands to join us in this venture.”

Montgomery is among winning communities Baltimore; Edmonton, Canada; Racine, Wisconsin; and Cleantech San Diego. This was the third year for the annual competition in North America, which drew more than 100 applications. Birmingham was among the winning cities in 2018.

As part of the grant, representatives from the City of Montgomery will participate in a year-long Readiness Program to help develop a tailored smart cities roadmap, including coaching and mentoring from the Smart Cities Council and access to a project activator tool. The grant also will expose the city of Montgomery to tech-based entrepreneurs and thought leaders during a Readiness Workshop to be scheduled later this year.

Mayor Todd Strange and Montgomery’s Smart City Team celebrate the city’s victory in the 2019 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge. (contributed)

The grant application was a collaborative process among the City of Montgomery, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Montgomery Public Schools, Alabama Power and the Montgomery County Commission.

“Our 2019 Readiness Challenge was our best ever by several measures,” said Kevin Ebi, Director of the Smart Cities Council’s Readiness Program in North America. “Not only did we see record participation from communities, but the level of maturity demonstrated by them was nothing short of phenomenal.”

To be eligible for consideration, an applicant had to provide a vision for at least three smart cities projects that would make a difference in the lives of residents. Some applicants provided as many as 15.

Montgomery’s application included the recent creation of the Montgomery Smart City Community Alliance, a public-private partnership focused on advancing smart city initiatives.

In January, the Alliance announced the Smart City Living Lab, a nine-block corridor in downtown Montgomery that features fiber-optic infrastructure, expansion of the city’s Open Data Portal, free public Wi-Fi in downtown areas, conversion of street lights to LED, a public safety initiative and deployment of smart parking solutions.

“It is exciting and affirming to have the Smart Cities Council recognize our efforts,” said Leslie Sanders, Alabama Power’s Vice President of the Southern Division. “The City of Montgomery has shown great leadership by forming the Smart Community Alliance, and Alabama Power is proud to be a part of this process that will benefit those who live in and visit Montgomery. ”

Highlights of the winning applications are listed below:

  • Baltimore has embraced a collaborative spirit to advance its vision by establishing a smart cities committee that includes a wide range of city staff but also has broad participation from the community and the tech ecosystem. Its data-driven, collaborative efforts have already yielded results to improve the quality of life for city residents, and now it plans to continue that approach to better protect residents from flooding, address the opioid crisis and eliminate the digital divide.
  • Montgomery was one of the standouts in a group of highly sophisticated entries for the 2019 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge. This illustration honors the five winners and five other finalists. (contributed)

    Edmonton has already delivered substantial value for its residents through the design of programs like You Can Benefit, which helps them find government services, and multi-stakeholder projects like the Open Data Initiative. A world-class team is helping Canada’s fifth-largest city scale up its existing Smart City ecosystem, joining with neighboring jurisdictions, universities and community groups to deliver a bigger regional impact by leveraging technology and innovation.

  • Montgomery is advancing its smart cities vision through strategic partnerships, building relationships with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama Power Company and others. It’s using A.I. technology to proactively assess road conditions, replacing a time-consuming, labor-intensive process, and partnering with schools, community centers and others to extend Wi-Fi access to all students.
  • Racine, Wisconsin, is a post-industrial city poised for an economic comeback. In the midst of substantial redevelopment initiatives, it plans to turn its community into a smart cities laboratory that will serve as a showcase for other cities in similar situations. Among its numerous partners is Foxconn Technology Group, a company that plans to invest billions in the region, including an Innovation Center and related facilities in the city’s downtown.
  • Cleantech San Diego is convening multiple cities, the port, airport and regional planning experts from across San Diego County to approach smart cities efforts on a regional scale. Through sharing data and best practices and collaborative planning, entities will work together to develop a regional smart cities action plan that, among other things, will coordinate and deploy smart traffic signals and support the implementation of climate action plans.

Ten Readiness Challenge finalists were honored at Smart Cities Week San Diego. In addition to the five winners, the finalists were Dallas; Jersey City, New Jersey; Palm Coast, Florida; North Florida Smart Region Coalition; and the U.S./Mexico Smart Towns Consortium.

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