Smart Tech (Phil Goldstein) - In cities across the United States, this year has been chaotic. The coronavirus pandemic, protests and civil unrest, economic disruption and more have buffeted the country’s urban areas for much of 2020.

And yet, the tumult of it all — and, especially, the pandemic — have focused city leaders’ minds on investing in the technology solutions that best meet their residents’ most pressing needs, from public health and safety to expanded internet access. For years, mayors and smart city leaders have been moving the smart city conversation away from vendor-driven technology solutions — “toys” in the words of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson — toward more citizen-centric solutions that actually address residents’ priorities and needs.

Mayors from across the country say they are now more interested than before the pandemic in accelerating the adoption of digital city services. The vast majority of mayors also want to invest in technologies such as 5G wireless networks and universal Wi-Fi to meet residents’ need to be connected for remote work and learning.

Against this backdrop, StateTech is introducing a new crop of smart cities to watch, following up on our 2018 report that highlighted eight promising smart cities. This new batch of rising smart city stars have focused their efforts on providing the right smart city applications at the right time for their residents.

hose use cases broadly fall into six buckets: use of data analytics; expanding broadband; electric vehicles; public safety; smart streetlights; and smart mobility, meaning transportation.

The cities themselves — Aurora, Ill.; Coral Gables, Fla.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Houston; Jacksonville, Fla.; Reno, Nev.; Philadelphia; and Syracuse, N.Y. — are a geographically and demographically diverse group of urban areas, ranging from the Mountain West to the Northeast, from small cities to the nation’s fourth largest.

However, what they all have in common are leaders with vision and a driving purpose to use technology to help meet this moment, and the needs of their citizens. Here’s how.

Click each city (listed alphabetically below) to explore its smart city efforts.

Jacksonville

Main use cases: Data analytics, smart mobility
Population: 911,507 (2019 estimate)
Key players: Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nat Ford; North Florida Transportation Planning Organization Executive Director Jeff Sheffield; Mayor Lenny Curry

What are the city’s main smart city priorities?

The city’s major smart city initiative continues to be the Bay Street Innovation Corridor, “a three-mile business, residential and entertainment segment of Bay Street in the heart of downtown,” as a website for the project describes it.

As the Jacksonville Business Journal reports, the corridor is a project that has many partners and is part of a larger regional smart city vision. It is supported by the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, Jacksonville Transportation Authority, local utility JEA and Jax Chamber. The Business Journal notes:

The Bay Street corridor would feature 15 autonomous shuttles, a swath of TPO sensors, JEA’s dark fiber for telecommunications and potentially solar panel-lined sidewalks or roadways. It would also serve as a designated lane for businesses to field test and audition their technologies.

In late May, the JTA signed an agreement with the Federal Transit Administration to move ahead on the project, which will integrate “smart corridor technologies, advanced communications and safety features such as connected intersections, smart pedestrian signals and flood sensors,” Mass Transit magazine reports. The project includes autonomous vehicle control systems and 12 to 15 federally compliant autonomous vehicles.

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