Georgia Smart Communities Challenge Announces Partner Cities

The Georgia cities participating include Columbus, Milton, Woodstock and Macon, which have all been selected for the year-long mentoring and funding smart cities program, spearheaded by Georgia Tech.

by / June 19, 2019
Macon, Ga. Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

Four cities in Georgia are participating in the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge program, which encourages those involved to improve transportation, safety, equity and other facets of daily life.

Columbus, Milton, Woodstock and Macon were selected for the year-long mentoring and funding smart cities program, which is spearheaded by Georgia Tech. Each city will assemble an innovation team made up of city officials and others to take on projects like the Woodstock Smart Masterplan and Corridor Study, for example, which will develop a smart corridor and infrastructure study to improve mobility and congestion in the city of 24,000 residents north of Atlanta.

“I’ve been asked many times before, what is a typical smart city project?” said Debra Lam, managing director of smart cities and inclusive innovation at Georgia Tech, in her remarks Tuesday in Macon announcing this year’s four participating cities.

“And I don’t necessarily have a direct answer for that. Because the idea is that each community has their own path, and that technology is not the end state, but merely a tool to support that community and empower them to improve the quality of life,” she added.

The project will start in September and run for an entire year. Each city will receive $50,000 in grant funding, in addition to a required match of $25,000. A Georgia Tech faculty member or expert will advise each team on their work, giving them tips on areas such as how to best conduct research needed to achieve the goals they have outlined.

“One of the things we want to do through this program is help connect the expertise and technologies that exist at Georgia Tech with communities all across the state,” said G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president of Georgia Tech, in his remarks.

The program is in its second year. Last year’s four inaugural projects in Albany, Chamblee, Chatham County and Gwinnett County addressed transportation, housing and flooding issues. Those pilot projects remain in progress and are ongoing. They have generated nearly $15 million in additional grants.

Georgia Tech has also been partnering with Atlanta since 2015 to develop smart city projects. The university has since expanded those efforts across the state to use its expertise to bring innovation to rural areas.

“Rural Georgia will benefit from each of the communities that are receiving this grant, because of what they bring to the table,” said Amy Carter, deputy commissioner for Rural Prosperity at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. 

“This could be the big game-changer,” she added. “And I’m thankful to you for being a part of this process and having the interest to make it happen.”

This year’s proposals came in the areas of “smart mobility” and “smart resilience.” The projects include the following:

Milton Smarter Safer Routes to School, a project to work with local schools to use technology to develop Safe Routes to School programs by creating a network of programmed devices — including smartphones — that connect parents and students to arrange supervised groups and establish safe primary routes, ideal for walking and biking.

Columbus Smart Uptown will use Internet of Things technologies, public Wi-Fi and data management and analysis to drive economic growth in the city's downtown. The project will partner with Muscogee County schools.

The Woodstock Smart Masterplan and Corridor Study will collaborate with the Woodstock Downtown Development Authority and Black Airplane, a website and app developer based in downtown Woodstock, to create a smart corridor and infrastructure study to improve mobility and congestion.

The Macon Smart Neighborhoods initiative will use “smart kiosks” to address underserved areas by providing connectivity and on-demand services to promote community empowerment. The project is a collaboration with the city, the Macon Transit Authority, the Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority, the Downtown Business Improvement District, the Eisenhower Business Improvement District and local universities.

“These partnerships that we have, Georgia Tech partnering with rural communities and the different organizations within those communities, the state agencies across the state, I think we’re able to do some things that are really unique,” said Peterson.

Skip Descant Staff Writer

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 Sacramento.

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