State Cash Helps Shape the Tech Vision for Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

The grant money will go toward developing plans for a smarter and more connected region, officials say.

by Sarah Peters, The Palm Beach Post / October 18, 2018
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(TNS) — PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — A cash infusion from the state has empowered northern Palm Beach County business leaders to cast a vision for how emerging technology could transform the region’s workforce, education, housing and health care.

Palm Beach Gardens scored a $48,000 grant on behalf of the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce last month. The money comes from the state Department of Economic Opportunity and will enable the chamber to shape a “smart and connected region,” President & CEO Beth Kigel said.

It’s too soon to say exactly what that will look like, but Kigel offered examples that use technology, artificial intelligence and autonomous and connected vehicles:

— The day before a doctor’s appointment, a smart device reminds you that the appointment’s on the calendar. The next day, a car will be waiting outside your home to drive you to the appointment. The smart device knows you prefer to travel alone, so you’ll have the car to herself. It will be paid for in advance.

— You want to spend a night at the Miami bayfront, thanks to a prompt from your smart device. A car picks you up and drops you at the Brightline station in West Palm Beach. When you get to the train station, the device directs you to the correct platform. When you arrive in Miami, it gives you walking directions to the bayfront.

Those examples touch only on mobility, Kigel said. They don’t tap into the potential for education and business created by artificial intelligence and other advancements in technology.

“How do you leverage that to provide greater access to businesses and residents to things such as health care, education?” Kigel said. “You have to start with understanding needs and understanding opportunities.”

The grant money will pay for a consultant from Cambridge Systematics, who will guide the chamber’s 10 municipalities, public partners and private businesses as they create a vision and a plan to see it through.

The plan will capitalize on the current technology base in northern Palm Beach County; apply technology, data and connectivity to mobility, education, health care, workforce development and emergency service needs; integrate efforts of individual partners; and link to similar efforts in other areas of Florida.

Palm Beach Gardens has a head start, Kigel said. The city is conducting a mobility study and designing for a future Tri-Rail station on PGA Boulevard. Lake Park also has plans to create a network of smart homes and a downtown business hub.

To cast a long-term vision, the city and its partners will host two daylong workshops. In the first workshop, representatives from municipalities, businesses, economic development organizations, community organizations and schools will identify “pressing and impactful problems” and potential solutions.

Private sector technology providers and other key stakeholders will be invited to a second workshop to define solutions. That workshop also will build consensus around action steps, according to the city’s grant application.

Palm Beach Gardens was one of 30 communities and four regional planning councils to get a technical planning grant from the state. Mayor Maria Marino leads the chamber’s “Smart and Connected Region” Task Force, which includes representatives from Florida Atlantic University, the Florida Department of Transportation, Palm Beach State College, Palm Beach County School District, Discover the Palm Beaches and other public and private sector representatives.

All the chamber’s member municipalities signed a letter in support of the grant proposal, as did Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency Executive Director Nick Uhren and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council Executive Director Michael Busha.

“We had such a great collaboration already formed with buy-in,” Kigel said. “I truly believe that was something the state thought was very attractive and unique.”

©2018 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.