Can Austin be Smarter?
From June 26-28th, Austin will be home to the Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo. As one of the top 10 smart cities to watch, and home to an LEED Gold Certified convention center, Austin is a perfect place to host leaders from over 200 cities and countries.
What is a smart city?
There isn’t really one clear definition of what a smart city is or should be, and many cities have defined it on their own. Essentially, a smart city uses data, applications, and a wide range of technology to improve transportation and various city issues.
Much of the smart city movement has revolved around collaboration and innovation to solve transportation issues. As Austinites we know this is a dire need. Spending an hour in traffic to get somewhere that should only take 20 minutes gets old. Fast. Our infrastructure wasn’t designed for the growth we’ve experienced recently and, let’s be honest, very few cities could keep up with Austin’s growth rate of 100+ people a day since 2010.
Last year the Smart City Connect Conference and Expo, then called the Smart City Innovation and Summit, held the “Smart City Challenge”. The winner of the challenge won $40 million from the US Department of Transportation to implement their plans. Austin didn’t win – the prize went to Columbus, Ohio – but Mayor Adler hopes to find local funding to complete all the projects submitted in Austin’s plan, which you can see here.
This year’s event will house an expo featuring tech and service companies in industries from mobile applications, emergency services, energy, and many more. It will also feature speakers on topics like networks & data, energy & buildings, citizen life & government, mobility and more with competitions sprinkled throughout the whole event.
Along with a name change this year’s competitions are a bit different. There are 3 different ways to participate:
- Submit an Abstract
- “Submit your technical research, innovative solutions, science studies, and best practices for consideration for poster presentation during the conference and expo”
- Compete in the Innovation Challenge
- “Submit your technology, company, or project for review by investment, city and industry leadership.”
- The Startup Challenge
- The startup challenge will provide “the opportunity for Smart Cities-focused startups to pitch and interact with an esteemed panel of judges representing venture capitalists, city officials, business executives and thought leaders.
While the idea of a “smart city” may have started with a focus on transportation (as you can see from the conference topics) it has evolved into so much more. It has become a way to use new and innovative technologies to make cities more efficient and productive, while being conscious of our carbon footprint.
And I know many Austinites would agree, any way to improve the issues we face every day in terms of infrastructure and efficiency, is a topic we would all be interested in.