Montgomery plans for the future at Smart Cities Readiness Workshop

Montgomery plans for the future at Smart Cities Readiness Workshop
Public safety improvements through technology are part of Montgomery's Smart Cities efforts, as reflected in a presentation during the city's recent Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Workshop. (contributed)

Tech-based entrepreneurs and thought leaders joined community leaders integral to Montgomery’s smart cities efforts earlier this month to discuss and strategically plan the next round of initiatives at the Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Workshop.

The workshop is part of the Smart Cities grant awarded to the city of Montgomery this year from the Smart Cities Council. The grant includes a yearlong readiness program to develop a tailored smart cities roadmap, with coaching and mentoring from the Smart Cities Council. In basic terms, a Smart City is one that incorporates technology to better serve its residents.

“We consider the Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Workshop a success,” said Lou Ialacci, chief information officer for the city of Montgomery. “Our partners provided an excellent technical charter for our local participants, the Smart Cities Council and subject-matter experts. They gave us the luxury of something to look at and provided input to either build upon, add new programs or change them to better meet the community’s needs.”

The activities kicked off with presentations from community leaders on the three focus areas identified for Montgomery’s challenge:

  • Digital City Services: Leveraging Technology to Enhance Quality of Life.
  • Economic Development: Advancing Smart Infrastructure to Impact Development.
  • Education and Workforce Development: Expansion of Extracurricular STEM Programs.
Montgomery officials and other interested parties attend a Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Workshop to talk about ways to leverage technology to improve the quality of life in the Montgomery area. (contributed)

The second part of the day included breakout sessions to develop strategic plans for the three challenge areas, facilitated by representatives from the Smart Cities Council. Discussions included short-term and long-term plans.

Participants explored ways to enhance digital city and county services to improve overall quality of life, leverage data to spur economic development and expand extracurricular STEM offerings for Montgomery students.

Throughout the workshop, ideas and new solutions were fleshed out for future implementation in the Smart Cities Council Project Activator Tool, an online platform that lowers risks associated with new technology investments by offering guidelines, reviews and best practices on similar projects.

The goal of the workshop was to identify steps for putting into action the vision of the Smart City Community Alliance, a public-private partnership focused on advancing smart city initiatives.

“The Smart Cities Readiness Workshop provided an opportunity for us to map out the next phases of our smart city work, with great input from the Smart Cities Council to help guide our path,” said Leslie Sanders, Alabama Power’s vice president of the Southern Division.

The city of Montgomery is looking at a wide range of Smart Cities technology initiatives. (iStock)

Sanders said smart cities efforts are important for growth and economic development in Montgomery.

“Our mission is to use technology to help enhance the community for its citizens, visitors and businesses, while also looking to future businesses that may call Montgomery home,” Sanders said.

The Alliance was formed in January to advance smart city initiatives by incorporating innovative, data-driven approaches into projects.

It is made up of the city of Montgomery, Montgomery County, Montgomery Public Schools, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Alabama Power and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base. Representatives from each organization attended the daylong conference.

As part of the January announcement, the Alliance unveiled 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, conversion of street lights to LED, a public safety initiative and deployment of smart parking solutions.

“Alabama Power was one of the leaders in this endeavor, providing infrastructure and expertise to help make the next big step to make the Montgomery region smarter,” Ialacci said.

The Smart Cities Readiness Challenge marks another technological achievement for the community. Montgomery was among four winning communities selected from more than 100 applications.

The city of Montgomery earned two Smart 50 Awards from Smart Cities Connect in January and the Digital Cities Survey Award by the Center for Digital Government in November 2018.

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