Smart city solutions are designed to solve a host of issues common in urban areas across the U.S. From intelligent streetlights that monitor traffic from pedestrians, bicycles, cars and more to sensors that monitor air quality, smart city front runners are using IT to make their communities more efficient and improve quality of life for residents.

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Out Front

The following cities got a boost on their path to becoming future-ready when they were named finalists in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities Challenge. Of 78 applicants representing 85 cities in 36 states, the following seven cities received $100,000 as well as public- and private-sector consulting help to further develop their pitches. The ultimate victor (and recipient of $100 million in implementation money) was Columbus, Ohio, though all participants found value in refining their plans by participating in the challenge.

Austin, Texas, proposed a Mobility Marketplace to help connect underserved communities, like those without traditional bank accounts, the disabled and the elderly, to economic opportunity through improved mobility.

Columbus, Ohio, set out to enhance equal access to health-care services and cut infant mortality rates, especially in communities of color, with a centralized traffic signal and transportation data system that offers multimodal trip planning and a single payment system, and integrates with doctor visit scheduling.

Denver sought to mitigate negative impacts of freight movement, especially on underserved communities, by establishing a connected corridor for freight with connected parking and traffic information systems, which reduced pollution, congestion and engine noise in adjacent communities.

Kansas City, Mo., wanted help to quantify and analyze data related to urban travel and quality of life, including traffic movements, accident data, air pollution and resident health.

Pittsburgh aimed to take on high air pollution levels through a series of emission-cutting efforts, like converting the city’s vehicle fleet to electric, adding charging stations, converting streetlights to LED and using sensors to monitor air quality.

Portland, Ore., planned an aggressive outreach campaign to engage underserved communities in the development of new, smart transportation options that serve all residents’ needs.

San Francisco, acknowledging that housing costs are lengthening commutes into the city, wanted to invest in tools to support carpooling like dedicated lanes and curb space, and an app to connect carpoolers needing rides.

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Who's Who in Smart Cities

According to Navigant Research, here are the top 10 suppliers of smart city technologies:

Cisco Siemens Microsoft IBM Hitachi Huawei SAP Panasonic Ericsson GE [slideshow-break]

Public Safety

Smart cities are safe cities that use connected tech like camera networks and shot detection tools to fight crime and contribute to the overall quality of life. Among Schenectady, N.Y.’s smart city projects are a Wi-Fi data network that lets police download dashcam video from cars to the central network as they go about their patrols. 

Connectivity

Universal connectivity is also at the heart of most smart city blueprints, like that of Louisville, Ky., which plans a 115-mile fiber deployment, boosted by its selection as a Smart Cities Readiness Challenge grant winner. 

Transportation/Transit

As host to the annual Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas is considered a hotbed of tech innovation, especially when it comes to transportation. The Las Vegas Innovation District is now home to a data-gathering connected corridor and an autonomous shuttle to service nearby casinos. New Orleans envisions on-demand minibuses for low cost connections to underserved communities, while Boston proposes “radically programmable” streets that can transform from loading zones to through streets to street hockey lots according to demand.  

Data

Intelligent streetlights are propagating across U.S. communities large and small, offering energy savings as well as data-gathering opportunities. In San Diego, $30 million will pay for 3,200 sensor-laden streetlights that will feed data into the city’s open data network. 

Digital Equity

Running through seemingly all smart city plans is a desire to ensure all citizens can participate fully in the benefits of their connected community. While providing Internet access to the wider community, cities are also working to ensure that Internet infrastructure can withstand disasters. Organizations like New York City’s Digital Equity Laboratory — spurred by the extensive communications damage from Hurricane Sandy — are helping to develop stronger networks. Wi-Fi projects in six parts of the city are strengthening networks that support residents and first responders during crises.  

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For GovTech's more smart cities news, check out the interactive map plotting our ongoing coverage across the country.

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