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Colorado Smart Cities Alliance Launches C² Challenge

The Colorado Smart Cities Alliance announced the start of the Connected Colorado Challenge June 30, calling for innovative technology solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing cities in the state.

Smart city concept.
Colorado cities are calling for urban tech vendors to address some of the key issues facing their communities.

The Colorado Smart Cities Alliance has announced the start of the the Connected Colorado Challenge (C² Challenge), seeking technology solutions in four areas: housing, community resilience, safe streets and civic engagement.

The submissions will be evaluated by a development board made up of city technology officials from cities of various sizes and locations such as Colorado City, Denver and Centennial.

Centennial developed teams of two to four staff members representing the four problem-statement areas of focus, said Allison Wittern, communications director for Centennial.

“The teams are designed to be interdepartmental in order to consider the proposals from multiple angles, such as technical merit, public perception, and interoperability with current systems,” Wittern explained. “Some of these problem statements, such as housing stability, are topics the city is considering through more in-depth public engagement this year.”

A guiding theme for the C² Challenge is the idea of growing collaborations. It’s why the panels to review proposals are made of representatives from multiple departments. And it’s also why winners of the challenge will collaborate with municipalities to work through the appropriate use case, location and other details, said Meghan White, senior programs manager at the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance.

“Third, the Challenge seeks solutions that are replicable and scalable, so solutions that work in one community can be more easily implemented by other communities that can learn and replicate its success,” she added. “The Challenge model makes it more likely solutions can be deployed regionally to solve the scale of the problem.”

The challenge will prioritize “low-cost solutions,” and should not cost any more than $25,000. Submissions are due by Aug. 5; winners will be announced in October.

Officials in Centennial stress they are open to a number of solution ideas from the more technical and innovative reach of the spectrum, to more “traditional land use, code-based solutions.”

“Other problem statements, such as safe streets, are topics Centennial has been working on for quite some time,” said Wittern, pointing to an intelligent traffic signal management system installed on a major thruway in Centennial. The city also turned to community engagement to develop a Neighborhood Traffic Management Program.

“Some of the same staff who worked on those deployments will be reviewing the C2 Challenge applications,” said Wittern. “We know that the problems identified are regional challenges that do not end at Centennial’s borders.”

“One of the benefits of participating through the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance process is the ability to talk with our neighboring communities about how we might be able to work together to address these pressing issues,” she added.

The C² Challenge is not the first sort of smart city technology competition organized by the Alliance. In August 2021, the Alliance announced the winner of its Revive! Challenge, a similar call for civic tech to focus on no- and low-cost solutions.

“The C² Challenge is a model for civic innovation that manages the risk of smart cities investment through collaborative partnerships,” said Tyler Svitak, executive director of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, in a statement. “It offers a distinct opportunity for governments, business and academia to learn from one another by testing new ideas through practical application.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.