Twenty-four cities on Wednesday, March 9, were awarded IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants. The grant program will provide the municipalities with technology and services from the company’s experts in order to improve efficiency, support growth and better the delivery of services.

IBM selected the cities that made the strongest case for how they would use IBM’s recommendations to solve the city’s most challenging issues. A total of $50 million will be awarded over the next three years to more than 100 municipalities worldwide. Each Smarter Cities Challenge grant is valued at $400,000.

“The cities we picked are eager to implement programs that tangibly improve the quality of life in their areas and to create road maps for other cities to follow,” said Stanley S. Litow, IBM vice president of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, in a statement.

The 24 cities awarded IBM’s 2011 Smarter Cities Challenge grants:

  • Antofagasta, Chile
  • Boulder, Colo.
  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Chengdu, China
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Delhi, India
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands
  • Glasgow, Scotland
  • Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Helsinki
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Milwaukee
  • New Orleans
  • Newark, N.J.
  • Nice, France
  • Philadelphia
  • Providence, R.I.
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Sapporo, Japan
  • St. Louis
  • Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Townsville, Australia
  • Tshwane-Pretoria, South Africa

Each winning city will have IBM consultants analyze current challenges the city is facing and review how technology might help address those needs. The goal is to employ strategies that help make cities healthier, safer and more attractive to current and prospective residents and businesses.

For example, in Boulder, Colo., the city’s smart grid-enabled energy management project called SmartGridCity was tapped as a grant recipient. Although the project scope will be discussed with IBM over the next few weeks, city personnel are eager to begin the dialog.

“Some of the areas we might discuss with IBM would be looking at the potential of using more in-home energy management devices [that provide] real-time feedback for customers, both on a quantitative and qualitative basis, so they can understand prices,” said Liz Hanson, Boulder’s economic vitality coordinator, who was part of the interdepartmental team that put the city’s grant application together.

“We have this technology in Boulder,” she added. “Now, I think there are great opportunities to see how we can best use it.”

New Orleans, another grant winner, has several technology projects in the pipeline, including a 311 system; financial system upgrades; and information sharing between police, the courts and other law enforcement personnel.

With all the data that will be generated from those projects, the city’s CIO, Allen Square Jr., is looking forward to working with IBM to best manage all the information.

“When you look at all those technology projects, one of the things we thought we couldn’t handle was taking [the data from] those investments [and putting it] in a format that the managers in City Hall … and citizens can use,” said Square. “We’re extremely excited about this.”

The Smarter Cities Challenge is sponsored by the IBM International Philanthropic Foundation. For more information, visit www.smartercitieschallenge.org.

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1998, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.