- San Mateo County, CA has opened SMC Labs, which it is touting as a “smart solutions” innovation center in Silicon Valley.
- The first-of-its-kind center for the region will bring together cities, residents, universities and businesses to share resources and work together to solve problems.
- Ulysses Vinson, San Mateo County’s chief smart communities officer, told Smart Cities Dive in an email the center will bring “new and innovative internet of things (IoT) technologies to 22 cities and large unincorporated areas of our county.”
SMC Labs will initially have two innovation zones to test solutions: one on the San Mateo County Center campus in Redwood City, and another at East Palo Alto City Hall. The initiative, like a similar one in Indiana, will use IoT, machine learning, data analysis and blockchain to address regional issues. “Housing, traffic, mobility, and environmental issues don’t stop at city borders. Regional problems require a borderless approach,” San Mateo County Chief Information Officer Jon Walton said in a statement.
The new center is aggressive in partnering with businesses, including the likes of T-Mobile, machine network Helium, smart city platform Fybr, asset tracker RoamBee and engagement tool Ntropy. These partnerships build on what Walton called last year's “groundwork” of countywide fiber and public Wi-Fi, and means government officials have access to the private sector, where innovation often happens much faster. It shares these similarities with the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, a state-level collaboration between cities and businesses, while contests like the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge and the Smart Infrastructure Challenge do similar work in a competitive setting.
In a statement, Vinson spoke to the digital divide that exists in San Mateo County — between those in cities who are tech-savvy and those in smaller suburban or rural communities that have been traditionally underserved. Like San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell, who has pledged to provide publicly owned open access broadband internet before he leaves office in June, this initiative promises to do similar work in a section of the Bay Area where house prices are skyrocketing. “Despite being located in the heart of Silicon Valley, there are two very different populations in San Mateo County,” Vinson said. “[My] goal is to bring innovative solutions from SMC Labs to serve all San Mateo County residents, leaving no one behind.”