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Five Cities Take Honors in the 2019 Smart Readiness Challenge

The winning communities, ranging from San Diego and Edmonton, Alberta, to Racine, Wis., were chosen from a pool of 200 projects and received top marks for impact, collaboration, inclusiveness and sustainability.

In a move to reward collaboration, sustainability and other smart city goals, five communities in North America were awarded in the Smart Cities Readiness Challenge.

The Smart Cities Council announced the five winners last week during Smart Cities Week San Diego. The five winners were winnowed from 10 finalists. All told, judges reviewed more than 200 projects.

Readiness Challenge winners include: Racine, Wis.; Baltimore; Cleantech San Diego; Montgomery, Ala.; and Edmonton, Alberta. Winners will receive a year of mentoring by the Smart Cities Council, access to financing, access to other cities to share best practices and collaboration, and access to Smart Cities Activator, an online tool to aid in the planning, management and financing of smart city projects.

Kevin Ebi, director of the Smart Cities Council Readiness Program, called this year’s challenge, “our best ever, by several measures. Not only did we see record participation from communities, but the level of maturity demonstrated by them was nothing short of phenomenal,” he said in a statement.

The winners were judged on the following criteria: impact, collaboration, inclusiveness and sustainability.

"The five that were ultimately selected had the highest point totals overall," explained Ebi, in a follow-up email with Government Technology. "One of the common threads among the five winners was strong collaboration," he added.

"While Cleantech San Diego is focused on sustainability, it’s doing so by advancing truly regional smart cities planning," said Ebi. "Montgomery is preparing to enter into a three-year partnership agreement with the Air Force, part of an effort to bring technical resources throughout the region together."

This year’s challenge delivered a few firsts as well. Racine, a small city of fewer than 80,000 residents, was the smallest winner in three years the Challenge has been in place. Edmonton was the first Canadian city to win and Cleantech San Diego was the first entry with a regional focus.

“Cleantech San Diego was the named winner, but the award really recognizes a multi-city, multi-agency collaboration we are putting in place for smart cities planning on a regional scale across San Diego County,” said Shannon Bresnahan, vice president of Cleantech San Diego. “We have assembled a team comprised of smart city leaders from six major cities and agencies across the San Diego region who are committed to sharing their strategic plans and lessons learned with other cities in an effort to help bring other cities along on San Diego’s journey to becoming a cohesive smart region.”

Cleantech San Diego serves as a smart city projects coordinator for more than a dozen cities and public agencies in the San Diego metro region.

Part of the approach has been to bring private-sector companies to the table to speak with cities about the world as it relates to smart cities, according to Jason Anderson, president and CEO of Cleantech San Diego.

Cleantech has been coordinating these efforts with surrounding cities, including Carlsbad, Chula Vista, San Diego and others, as well as the Port of San Diego and San Diego International Airport. There are some 18 cities in the San Diego metro region.

Leaders in the Montgomery region are also forming partnerships among the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Alabama Power Company and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base. The chamber is leading an initiative known as TechMGM, which is working with smart city projects, as well as leading efforts in local schools to prepare students for futures in tech and growing the availability of high-speed Internet service.

“This is another special moment — a watershed day — for our community,” said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, in a statement. “Because it signifies our success in positioning Montgomery to capitalize on the ample opportunities for growth and economic development that come through the advancement of technology across our city.”

The Alabama capital city recently formed the Montgomery Smart Community Alliance, a partnership among the city, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Alabama Power and other university and county partners to form a Living Lab in downtown to explore Internet of Things and other technologies.

Racine, an old manufacturing city, is moving into the future with the Wisconn Valley Innovation Center in downtown, a partnership with Foxconn, the Taiwanese multinational technology firm that plans to invest billions of dollars in the local area.


Smart Cities
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.