- The Smart Cities Council has announced nine finalists for its 2018 Readiness Challenge Grants: Albuquerque, NM; Aurora, IL; Birmingham, AL; Cary, NC; Fairfax County, VA; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; Louisville-Jefferson County, KY and the state of Virginia. The grants are awarded to cities (or a state) the council views as ready to take action on their smart cities visions.
- The council expanded the standard program to award Puerto Rico with a special humanitarian grant based on its application that focused on "building back better," following Hurricane Maria last year. The council chose not to wait until the other winners are announced to award this grant due to the island's immediate need to rebuild.
- The five regular grant winners will be announced in March.
Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has a goal not just to rebuild and restore its cities to their previous conditions, but to make improvements along the way and integrate high-tech systems. "This grant is an invaluable opportunity for Puerto Rico to develop a roadmap for implementing smart technologies and solutions as we rebuild," said Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló in a statement. The Smart Cities Council will help Puerto Rico develop its smart city roadmap, starting with a workshop in March.
Although U.S. leaders have fielded criticism for not helping Puerto Rico enough after the hurricane devastated its power grid, leaving many residents in the dark even now, the island had infrastructure trouble prior to the storm. The power utility long was drowning in billions of dollars of debt and filed for a form of bankruptcy just two months before the hurricane struck. It took flak for years for not being able to keep the power on for all of its customers and even more for its inadequacies in restoring power after the storm.
Earlier this month, Puerto Rico's governor took the first steps to privatize the power authority, which could take about a year and a half to finalize. But that's not the only big change that could come to the island's power grid. Renewable energy firms had expressed interest in contributing to grid modernization and lessening Puerto Rico's reliance on oil and other fossil fuels, and part of this grant could go toward such efforts.
Besides the possibility of adding renewable energy options, the grant could go toward Internet of Things technologies on an island that already was strapped for resources and the economic ability to fund smart city programs.
Once the Smart Cities Council chooses its five winners for the original grants, it will provide a year of resources for those communities as well. Similar to the program in Puerto Rico, efforts will include an on-site planning workshop, mentoring and various products and services from partner companies to implement the smart cities plans. Last year's grant distribution helped Austin, Indianapolis, Miami, Newport News, Orlando and Philadelphia move forward with their smart cities plans.