- The World Economic Forum announced this week that 36 global cities will pioneer a smart technology policy roadmap as part of the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance. The announcement of this roadmap came amid the global broadcast of the Smart City Expo World Congress.
- The alliance intends to analyze and identify model policies regarding equity, inclusivity and social impact; openness and interoperability; security and resiliency; privacy and transparency; and operational and financial sustainability. The "pioneer cities" are expected to trial policies detailed in the roadmap and work with alliance partners to address gaps and improvements.
- Only two U.S. cities — San Jose, CA and Chattanooga, TN — were selected to pilot adoption of the roadmap. The mid-sized city of Chattanooga offers "much in the areas of collaboration, entrepreneurship, and innovation," its Smart City Director Kevin Comstock said in an email, but also has "much we can learn from the global perspective." Representatives from San Jose, CA did not respond to requests for comment.
A recent analysis from Frost & Sullivan found global smart cities can spur $2.46 trillion in business opportunities by 2025 — that is, if such cities have policies in place to support those opportunities. As global economies buckle under the weight of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this new policy effort serves as a blueprint for unlocking that potential of smart cities to aid recovery efforts.
Though the U.S. is relatively underrepresented in this alliance, G20's selection of San Jose and Chattanooga shines a spotlight on cities that are often overshadowed by urban powerhouses such as Los Angeles and New York City. Comstock said Chattanooga's "entrepreneurial mindset" has led to much of its success in smart city-related efforts.
Chattanooga initiated its smart city work in 2010 when it became the first U.S. city to offer fiber optic internet to every citizen, according to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's (UTC) Center for Urban Informatics & Progress. In 2013, the city deployed an advanced traffic signal system, and its smart city "office" has sat under the city's transportation department since.
The city therefore focuses much of its smart city work on transportation, with the Chattanooga Department of Transportation currently working on predictive crash modeling and LiDAR-driven safety initiatives, Comstock said. The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) has also worked on a number of smart tech programs with the U.S. Department of Energy and Vanderbilt University. Outside of transportation, Comstock pointed to the city's efforts to develop micro-grid programs, smart building energy mandates and solar field development as areas of tech-driven innovation.
"The palette is infinite for smart city activities," Comstock said.
Chattanooga also established a Smart Community Collaborative (CSCC) with three key focus areas for innovative development: health, transportation and energy. The model "does not exist in many cities across the country," Comstock said, noting leaders from the UTC and other institutions have been "recognized globally as a result."
Frost & Sullivan predicts the U.S. could be home to at least nine smart cities by 2025, but development is dependent on leadership, funding and public-private partnerships (P3s). Comstock echoed the need for "more proactive attempts" at P3s, noting such opportunities have potential to benefit national and global interests.
"America does lead in some areas. Private industry is leading in many more," Comstock said. And as the U.S. faces a likely transition of presidential power to President-elect Joe Biden, the continued support and funding of research and development programs will be crucial to continued leadership, he said.