- A group of seven regional smart cities consortiums have teamed up to form the National Smart Coalitions Partnership, representing one of the largest smart cities networks in the U.S.
- The national coalition includes the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance; the North Texas Innovation Alliance; The Connective, a greater Phoenix-area consortium; the Illinois Smart City & Region Association; Kansas City, Missouri's, KC Digital Drive; the Southern Arizona Smart Region, led by the Regional Partnering Center; and Smart North Florida.
- The group intends to leverage the potential federal investment in the country’s infrastructure currently being debated in Congress, while sharing best practices across the group’s network of more than 100 local governments, companies and universities to help local leaders implement, replicate and scale solutions.
The smart cities market is facing many challenges, according to Tyler Svitak, executive director of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance. Among those challenges include "a barrier of capacity within government to execute," he said. A good smart cities program should include dedicated funding, staff and a governance structure that’s interdepartmental, Svitak said.
He said other key challenges include public perceptions around privacy and the "constant debate" over what a smart city is and is not.
The national coalition aims to address many of those hurdles via collaborations across regions. "The mission of the National Smart Coalitions Partnership is to broaden partnerships, resources and initiatives that are currently helping individual communities in their respective areas to deploy smart city technologies," the official announcement writes.
The group will provide member education, convene and participate in events, conferences and workshops, and aim to set up multi-region projects and joint research opportunities.
It plans to meet at least monthly and discuss five key topics: connectivity, cybersecurity, transportation, sustainability and resilience. Svitak said it will also convene their national stakeholders — including private sector partners and universities — twice a year to discuss specific challenges and solutions that cities experience as they undertake initiatives.
A "minimal" amount of the group's funding comes from its collective organizations, according to Svitak. And although the group doesn't currently have any significant private sector partners or foundation investors, he said they do hope to secure some outside funding.
The partnership also comes at a time when many local leaders may feel jaded about the lack of impact that new tech or "bright shiny objects" have had, compared to what they were originally promised to deliver, according to Svitak. But while some of those solutions may have proven to be complex to implement, he also said that cites have in fact become smarter at entering partnerships and deploying smart initiatives.
The potential influx of new federal investments should also help restore interest in the smart city conversation, Svitak said. To help prepare for that possible wave of federal dollars, groups like Sidewalk Labs, Replica and the Smart Cities Council recently formed a lobbying group to prioritize city interests.
Federal investments in urban policy and innovation are fragmented across a host of cabinet agencies and departments, urbanist and University of Toronto professor Richard Florida said in an earlier email interview about the newly formed Coalition for Urban Innovation. Better coordination surrounding those efforts could make those investments more efficient and impactful, he said.