With the ever-inflating Smart City Challenge approaching a close, one more gigantic tech company has stepped up to promise services to the competition’s winner: telecommunications provider AT&T.
Speaking at an event on June 9 where mayors from the seven finalist cities in the contest presented their respective pitches, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that AT&T plans to give up to $1 million worth of products and services to the winning city. That would likely, according to an email from a department representative, include the kind of connectivity services that make up the core of AT&T’s business — cellular connections, perhaps, or Wi-Fi. But there are other options on the table as well, since AT&T is venturing into the Internet of Things realm, as well as big data and analytics.
AT&T’s contribution would be on top of an already enormous pile of prizes slated for the challenge’s winner: $40 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, $10 million from the investment firm Vulcan earmarked for electric vehicle projects, data-gathering kiosks and a traffic analytics platform from the Alphabet company Sidewalk Labs, a pedestrian and bicycle detection system for buses from Mobileye, cloud services from Amazon, and more.
And that’s not to mention all the money matching offers coming in from private industry in and around the competing finalist cities. Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew Ginther announced in May that a business coalition in the region was prepared to kick in another $90 million if Columbus won the challenge. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told Foxx on June 9 that private industry could provide as much as $150 million to his city should the DOT pick its proposal.
Connectivity would be an important piece of the strategy for the winning city regardless of who it is. At the final pitches on June 9, all seven cities described plans to use wireless technology that would require some sort of signal connection — smart traffic lights connecting to vehicles, for example, or sensors collecting data on things like traffic flow and air pollution. AT&T — along with its rival Verizon — has already started working to develop a component of its business devoted to providing connectivity services for public-sector clients looking to deploy such sensors, both for transportation and other concepts.
The DOT is aiming to pick the winning city by the end of June.