A new kind of public/private partnership model is emerging in the race to bring municipalities into the smart city age.
As announced by US Ignite today, tech companies including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) are signing up to help municipal governments apply for federal funding to sustain smart city projects. The venture is called the Smart City Corporate Partners Program, and while it may not sound like much of a telecom story, the fact is that telecom industry partners stand to benefit from the projects their adoptive cities implement.
Likewise, if local governments can't find the money they need, those same companies will have a harder time proving their new network and Internet-of-Things platform technologies can operate at scale and under real-world conditions.
US Ignite's role in the partnership program is much the same as it's been throughout the development of its Smart Gigabit Communities venture: The non-profit organization connects the dots between local governments and private companies.
In the case of this new program, US Ignite matches municipalities with private partners who are willing to shoulder the burden of grant applications and funding management. Both the city and its partners collaborate on project design, but the city doesn't have to find the administrative resources needed to apply for federal dollars. The corporate partners, meanwhile, not only get a live testing lab for their smart city tech when funding is secured, but also access to front-line research on software-defined systems through US Ignite's connections with academic institutions, as well as access to relevant agencies at the federal and local government levels.
Priorities for the partner program include pursuing development of applications for disaster recovery, emergency response, healthcare, energy efficiency and transportation.
US Ignite has developed an interesting niche for itself. Not only did it start the Smart Gigabit Communities program in 2015, but it also helped launch the Advanced Wireless Consortium last August, which is tasked with helping to create four "city-scale wireless research platforms" that will be used to test network backhaul strategies, software-defined radios and more. Big-name telecom industry companies have joined the latter effort including all of the major US wireless carriers, top telecom vendors and multiple industry associations. (See US Ignite Sets Stage for Smart Cities and White House Funding Seeds Smart Cities.)
Between US Ignite's connections to the telecom industry, research institutions and government institutions, the non-profit is rapidly establishing itself as a key facilitator in the smart city space.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading