LED street lights (Mikbiz/Shutterstock.com)

How states can nurture smart cities

Many cities that want to take advantage of smart technology find they cannot afford to make the necessary investments to research, evaluate and purchase the technology.  To fill that gap, some "smart states" are taking the lead make it easier for communities to modernize their infrastructure.

Illinois recently awarded the first statewide master contract for smart street lighting, which will allow municipalities to choose from three vendors -- Johnson Controls, Globetrotters Engineering and TEN Connected Solutions -- that have already been thoroughly vetted by the state.

Under the terms of the contract, local governments that are qualified under the Illinois joint purchasing program can upgrade their street lights to light emitting diode light fixtures. It will give communities the resources to "improve efficiencies and enhance connectivity through the internet of things," state officials said.

“Once you start to implement smart lighting, you can add adaptive controls and create a communications network and infrastructure with cameras and sensors for public safety and smart meters for parking,” Lori Sorenson, chief of network operations at the Illinois Department of Innovation Technology, told GCN.

These smart street lighting agreements give communities a “foundational way” to determine what can work for their energy consumption and public safety needs, she added.

Illinois has been working since 2016 on becoming the first smart state by using its information and communications technology to enhance livability, workability and sustainability in its cities, towns, rural areas and state agencies.

Virginia also is developing a plan for supporting smart communities. An initial report in October 2017 from the Virginia Smart Communities (VASC) Working Group outlined six superclusters, or multicity, multisector collaborations organized around common objectives. The focus areas are:  city platforms and dashboards and data governance; energy, water and waste management; healthcare;  public safety; public wireless and broadband; and transportation.

VASC’s plan was designed to align with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Global City Teams Challenge superclusters that bring together state, local and federal expertise with company and university research and development.   It aims to find ways that Virginia can align, engage and invest with smart communities across the state by prioritizing replicability and cybersecurity, engaging university researchers, fostering economic growth and digital access and re-evaluating innovation policy.

The final version of the VASC report is expected to be released March 1 after Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration has a chance to weigh into the final product.

Both the Illinois and Virginia efforts are designed to help local communities take advantage of state government resources.

“These projects allow us to collaborate with our existing partners to help identify needs and use the competitive buying power of the state to get the most competitive prices,” Illinois DoIT Acting Secretary Kirk Lonbom, told GCN.  “We want to enable cities that may not have been able to pursue these technologies on their own to enhance their citizen services while reducing costs.”

Both states are already sharing their experiences.  In December, tech leaders from federal and state agencies met to discuss how they can build upon each other’s work to integrate smart community initiatives.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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