Administration’s New “Smart Cities” Initiative Part of Overall Commitment to Meet Local Needs and Support Community-Led Solutions

Administration’s New “Smart Cities” Initiative Part of Overall Commitment to Meet Local Needs and Support Community-Led Solutions


Sep 21, 2015

Blog Information Technology Administration’s New “Smart Cities” Initiative Part of Overall Commitment to Meet Local Needs and Support Community-Led Solutions

The Obama administration announced last Monday a $160 million “Smart Cities” initiative that will fund research and leverage more than 25 new technology collaboration to help local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services.

The announcement coincided with last week’s White House Smart Cities Forum, hosted by the Smart Cities Council, which highlights new steps and brainstorms additional ways that science and technology can support municipal efforts.

The President said the new initiative is part of his administration’s overall commitment to “target federal resources to meet local needs and support community-led solutions.”

A smart city, as defined by the Smart Cities Council, “gathers data from smart devices and sensors embedded in its roadways, power grids, buildings and other assets. It shares that data via a smart communications system that is typically a combination of wired and wireless. It then uses smart software to create valuable information and digitally enhanced services.”

Initiative funding includes more than $35 million in new grants and over $10 million in proposed investments to build a research infrastructure for Smart Cities by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Standards and Technology. Another nearly $70 million will fund new spending and over $45 million in proposed investments to unlock new solutions in safety, energy, climate preparedness, transportation, health and more. A further $70 million in new spending and $45 million in proposed investments will go to other government agencies such as the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Homeland Security, with the goal of finding new solutions in their areas of expertise. The initiative also establishes the MetroLab Network, 20 collaborations between cities, local universities and industry.


Creating test beds for “Internet of Things” applications and developing new multi-sector collaborative models. Technological advancements and the diminishing cost of IT infrastructure have created the potential for an “Internet of Things,” (IoT) a ubiquitous network of connected devices, smart sensors, and big data analytics. The IoT, which could be deployed in public or private sectors, includes working with grassroots IT movements, developing inter-city collaborations, supporting federal activity, and encouraging international alliances, notes Megan Crouse.

The NSF will distribute $35 million in Smart Cities-related grants to researchers. An additional $11.5 million will be available to develop and scale next-generation Internet application prototypes at gigabit speeds.

Collaborating with the civic tech movement and forging intercity collaborations: There is a growing community of individuals, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits interested in harnessing IoT to tackle local problems and work directly with city governments. These efforts can help cities leverage their data to develop new capabilities. Collaborations across communities are likewise indispensable for replicating what works in new places.

Leveraging existing Federal activity: From research on sensor networks and cybersecurity to investments in broadband infrastructure and intelligent transportation systems, the Federal government has an existing portfolio of activities that can provide a strong foundation for a Smart Cities effort. 

Pursuing international collaboration: Fifty-four percent of the world’s population live in urban areas. Continued population growth and urbanization will add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050. The associated climate and resource challenges demand innovative approaches. Products and services associated with this market present a significant export opportunity for the U.S., since almost 90 percent of this increase will occur in Africa and Asia.


In the next year, more than 20 city-university collaborations will launch the MetroLab Network, with more than 60 Smart City projects. Supported by a newly announced grant of $1 million from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the MetroLab Network will leverage university expertise to address challenges facing cities and regions across the country. 

The Network will provide a platform upon which established and emerging city-university relationships can share successful projects, coordinate multi-city, multi-university research efforts, and compete for research and project funding.  The founding members have collectively committed to undertaking more than 60 projects over the next year, which will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of infrastructure and services in our cities and communities and increase the productivity and competitiveness of regional economies. 

Cities across the U.S. are participating in the initiative, including New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta and San Diego, Portland, South Bend, San Jose, Providence, Portland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Montgomery, Houston, Madison, Memphis, Detroit, and Cuyahoga.


IBM announced it will organize GCTC 2016 kick off events in an additional 30 cities in Asia Pacific, Latin America, North America, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. It will also provide technology experts to mentor and educate the worldwide participants in agile Internet of Things applications, design, and development throughout the GCTC 2016 challenge.

Also, AT&T announced it will support Internet of Things and Smart Cities technology adoption by supporting testbeds in cities in the U.S. and globally. AT&T will select 10 U.S. cities to deploy technology for smart metering, lighting, traffic management, parking, and public safety. The company will host a Smart Cities hackathon with NIST participation at the AT&T Developer Summit in January 2016 with participating cities.

Related BCC Research reports:

Smart Cities: Growing New Markets for Information Technology (IFT115A)

The Internet of Things (IFT118A)

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