Ever wonder what the city of the future may look like?  Do you think it looks something like Los Angeles in the movie Blade Runner, with 10,000 foot buildings and cars and vehicles flying through the air?  Perhaps, but many urban planners and the Obama administration, have a more innovative view of what America’s urban landscapes may look like, and they have proposed investing millions of dollars in making this work – it is called the Smart shutterstock_85858207Cities Initiative.

In a September 2015 press release the Obama administration announced “a new ‘Smart Cities’ Initiative that will invest over $160 million in federal research and leverage more than 25 new technology collaborations to help local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services.”

The heart of the initiative lies in the key strategies that the administration would like to focus on in the coming years.  These include:

Creating test beds for “Internet of Things” applications and developing new multi-sector collaborative models: Technological advancements and the diminishing cost of IT infrastructure have created the potential for an “Internet of Things,” a ubiquitous network of connected devices, smart sensors, and big data analytics. The United States has the opportunity to be a global leader in this field, and cities represent strong potential test beds for development and deployment of Internet of Things applications. Successfully deploying these and other new approaches often depend on new regional collaborations among a diverse array of public and private actors, including industry, academia, and various public entities.

Collaborating with the civic tech movement and forging intercity collaborations: There is a growing community of individuals, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits interested in harnessing IT to tackle local problems and work directly with city governments. These efforts can help cities leverage their data to develop new capabilities. Collaborations across communities are likewise indispensable for replicating what works in new places.

Leveraging existing Federal activity: From research on sensor networks and cybersecurity to investments in broadband infrastructure and intelligent transportation systems, the Federal government has an existing portfolio of activities that can provide a strong foundation for a Smart Cities effort.

Pursuing international collaboration: Fifty-four percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Continued population growth and urbanization will add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050. The associated climate and resource challenges demand innovative approaches. Products and services associated with this market present a significant export opportunity for the U.S., since almost 90 percent of this increase will occur in Africa and Asia.

Complementing this effort, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is examining how a variety of technologies can enhance the future of cities and the quality of life for urban residents. The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program is also announcing the release of a new framework to help coordinate Federal agency investments and outside collaborations that will guide foundational research and accelerate the transition into scalable and replicable Smart City approaches.

While Ballston, Clarendon, Falls Church, Tysons, Reston and Dulles Corridor are not classified as a “city,” this corridor represents more office space and density than all but a handful of “cities” in the United States.  Should this corridor be eligible as a consolidated activity corridor for inclusion in these programs, or will this initiative simply focus on the historic “urban” areas?  Other “surburban” cities – most of which represent high technology corridors and bio-tech concentrations that would lend themselves to moving this initiative forward quickly – are probably asking similar questions.

@livemore is interested in your opinions on the Smart Cities initiative and how Northern Virginia may fit into the larger scheme of this program.  Contact us at: editor@livemore.us.