Smart cities have long been a concept, but now more financial muscle is being added to bring them closer to reality.
Cities across the country are hoping to use Internet of Things technology to find greater efficiencies in operating their transportation, water, sewer, traffic, parking and street lighting operations. Some cities are also building apps to generate revenues through wired and wireless networks, sometimes supported by online advertising.
On Monday, US Ignite, a nonprofit group devoted to fostering Internet apps with public benefits announced it had won a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to build testbeds for smart gigabit applications in 15 U.S. cities.
The grant will help U.S. communities participate in a "smart city app store" for interoperable and interconnected gigabit apps that address national priorities, US Ignite said. US Ignite has already assisted local communities in building more than 100 apps over the past three years.
Each US Ignite community receives access to a fast, low-latency network with local cloud and storage capabilities to support interactive experiences not possible with the commercial Internet, according to US Ignite. In return, cities must fund and building two next-generation apps that will be shared with the nationwide ecosystem of gigabit-connected cites. The latest award winners were picked for their strong support from local government, colleges and universities, nonprofit groups and Internet services providers, among others.
Among the 15 cities receiving the latest US Ignite awards were Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., both of which were picked by Google to be the first Gigabit Fiber cities in the nation three years ago.
The US Ignite award is "another opportunity for Kansas City to expand on the momentum of the gigabit infrastructure that's been constructed in our community," said Rick Usher, assistant city manager for Kansas City, Mo., in an interview.
It isn't yet clear what apps might be built in the US Ignite program, Kansas City, Mo., officials said. In Kansas City, a variety of apps are possible that could share data gathered by users of kiosks at coming streetcar stations. In addition, the city expects to see savings from smart streetlights that can be dimmed automatically based on lighting conditions.
The KC Streetcar Authority said that is possible advertising via various wireless-enabled apps will be used to support the coming free streetcar service in Kansas City.
Other cities involved in the US Ignite announcement are Burlington, Vermont; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Cleveland; Flint, Mich.; Madison, Wisc.; the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN); Austin and Richardson, Texas; Utah Wasatch Front cities including Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah; Lafayette, La.; and Urbana-Champaign, Ill.