The White House is committing more than $160 million to smart city development, including an effort to create a "smart city app store."

Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video

September 15, 2015

4 Min Read
White House Funding Seeds Smart Cities

The smart city era is just beginning. After years of communities experimenting individually with new smart city technologies, the White House has declared it will invest more than $160 million in an effort to turn those experiments -- and new ones -- into joint initiatives and projects with the potential to benefit the entire country.

In an announcement at the White House Smart Cities Forum, held in conjunction with Smart Cities Week, the Obama Administration outlined how it plans to allocate funds for smart city research. The dollars break down into two categories, with more than $45 million in grants and investments going towards building a research infrastructure for smart city development and about $115 million in proposed spending and investments dedicated to creating specific new solutions in the areas of "safety, energy, climate preparedness, transportation, healthcare and more."

While the largest chunk of money in the White House effort will come from individual federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy for topical research and development, more than $35 million will come in grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support smart city programs and, in many cases, collaborative efforts to weave those programs together.

Gigabit Cities will play a large role in the newly funded smart-city research. The NSF is committing $11.5 million to US Ignite and the Mozilla Foundation to create "Living Labs" in several gigabit communities that are using high-speed broadband to develop and scale smart city application prototypes. The goal is ultimately to create a "smart city app store" with interoperable gigabit applications contributed by multiple communities and offering smart city solutions.

The rollout of gigabit broadband access networks is spreading. Find out what's happening where in our dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel here on Light Reading.

The idea of connecting individual community efforts is important for several reasons. First, changes in political leadership can disrupt smart city projects. But if the scale of an initiative extends beyond a single community, than it's more likely to survive and flourish. (See Smart Cities Need Long-Term Goals to Thrive.)

Second, different cities have a lot that they can learn from each other -- from fundamentals like how to pool assets to support gigabit network expansion to specific application use cases, like how to integrate a gigabit network with power distribution and management. (See Chattanooga Charts Killer Gigabit Apps

Connecting Gigabit Cities together also creates new opportunities to implement New IP strategies like the use of software-defined networking to deliver network resources where they're needed most. Building on work that's already been done by Internet 2, along with state and regional networks, communities will be able to experiment with prioritizing network resources for throughput, latency and more in the long-haul pipes connecting individual cities, depending on what an application needs.

"Building a critical mass of communities with next-generation Internet capabilities will have ripple effects: if networks are fast, reliable and widely available, companies produce more capable applications to run on those networks, which in turn brings new users online and increases use among those who already subscribe to broadband services," said US Ignite Principal Investigator Glenn Ricart in a statement.

He added that “many smart city applications are enabled by the kinds of advanced technology and civic partnerships that [the grant from NSF] will build in US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities.”

Communities participating in the new Living Labs initiative include many familiar Gigabit Cities. They are: Burlington, Vt.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Cleveland, Ohio; Flint, Mich.; Kansas City, Kan. & Mo.; Madison, Wis.; the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN); Richardson, Texas; Utah Wasatch Front cities, including Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah; Lafayette, La.; Urbana-Champaign, Ill.; and Austin, Texas.

US Ignite membership includes more than 40 communities around the country, so that list could grow in the future. The NSF has also said it is planning new investments in smart cities in 2016.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Mari Silbey

Senior Editor, Cable/Video

Mari Silbey is a senior editor covering broadband infrastructure, video delivery, smart cities and all things cable. Previously, she worked independently for nearly a decade, contributing to trade publications, authoring custom research reports and consulting for a variety of corporate and association clients. Among her storied (and sometimes dubious) achievements, Mari launched the corporate blog for Motorola's Home division way back in 2007, ran a content development program for Limelight Networks and did her best to entertain the video nerd masses as a long-time columnist for the media blog Zatz Not Funny. She is based in Washington, D.C.

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