Federal leaders discuss smart city movement, network resiliency
AUSTIN, Texas–How can the federal government play an active role in driving the technology underlying smart city applications in a way that helps, rather than hinders, private sector R&D. That was among the questions discussed by panelists at the Smart Cities Innovation Summit.
Reginald Brothers, under secretary for science and technology for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, hit multiple times on the notion of imbuing mission critical smart city applications with a level of resiliency “to make our communities more…survivable.”
“It’s a very broad set of challenges we have. One of the things we’re trying to do is understand, as technology changes, how can we use that technology? One of these mission critical challenges is resiliency. The challenge that I see rightnow is how do we take our knowledge of science, our tools of technology, particularly with respect to the internet of things…to make a smart country. Isn’t that what we’re really trying to do?”
Mark Dowd, deputy assistant secretary for research and technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation, explained that, from his perspective, many government bodies are too large and siloed to effectively innovate. In response, the DoT is running the Smart City Challenge, which will award one of seven finalist cities–winnowed from an initial list of 78 applicants–with $40 million in federal funding to address transportation and mobility challenges.
“When we came up with the idea of the Smart City Challenge…we were unable to get our resources to the place where we were trying to innovate. We were hitting it on an issue by issue basis. We were doing it without the understanding that there’s an interplay or an interconnection.” That prompted department leaders to create a way to allow cities “to come up with innovative ways to use technology to solve what’s coming down the pike.”
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, also the former mayor of Baltimore, discussed how innovation at the government level is tough because the political reality is that failure has consequences, particularly for elected officials.
“If you’re the first to try something and it fails, in government that can be a death sentence. We all want to be the best at doing something second.” He said the smart city future will be realized “through more effective governance and collaboration. Earth is a system. In this system, the future of humanity, the future of cities and the future of this planet are all very much connected. This evolution is reaching a hyper-consciousness.”