Midwest leaders create a brain trust for smart, regional growth


Originally posted by: Avery Griffin on Venture Smarter's blog.

A collaboration that sprouted throughout Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana is beginning to gain attention. The Regional Smart Cities Initiative is adding cohesiveness to smart city conversations and helping to develop an agile planning architecture to encourage smart, regional growth in collaboration with stakeholders worldwide. Leaders of the initiative are working with international bodies to create the first sets of municipal smart city standards, and are hoping to support the mission of democratizing smart planning.

As Regional Smart Cities efforts pick up steam, a local cohort calling themselves Smart Cincy is wasting no time getting to work in supporting the initiative. Local leaders of the effort include The City of Newport, The City of Hamilton, University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University, Venture Smarter, Nexigen, smartLINK, Cincinnati Bell, GE, CONFLUENCE, Cintrifuse, Northern Kentucky Innovation Network and dozens of other public and private stakeholders focused on creating workable, livable cities to build a smart region with a foundation in connectivity, mobility, security, and sustainability. The City of Cincinnati has taken an important first step in developing an open data portal and exchange.

Soapbox Media’s Vickie Ashwill gave an early glimpse into why Greater Cincinnati is in the running to be one of the first true Smart Regions. Ashwill examines the decision of the City of Newport and Northern Kentucky University (NKU) to install smartLINK kiosks (or nodes) along the city's main thoroughfares.

smartLINK nodes provide free, fast internet for anyone nearby with a connected device, but they will also offer wayfinding visuals and collect data on passers-by or environmental surroundings. The University of Cincinnati's Transportation and Civil Engineering labs are working to take advantage of Newport and Hamilton's 'City as a Lab' approach by A/B testing solutions and working with federal agencies to put grant money to good use. Ashwill describes the anticipation from Kevin Kirby, the dean of NKU’s College of Informatics, regarding putting nodes on campus:

    "As the College of Informatics, it gives us the ability to experiment with how we mine data. They'll serve a laboratory of sorts to see how the campus responds — including feedback on whether users think it's a little too ‘big brother.’”

Nodes and similar deployments will be important in measuring and analyzing how people will respond to using smart technology. Ashwill describes the importance of driving Smart City innovations. She writes:

“For Zack Huhn, Director of the Regional Smart Cities Initiative, that means establishing Cincinnati as the central point for decision making and ensuring, along with others involved in smart cities initiatives, that communication works from place to place, city to city, state to state.”

The Regional Smart Cities Initiative is indeed aiming to move the Smart Cities conversation forward, improving communications between stakeholders in both public and private sectors. It's through relationships with organizations including Nexigen, Cincinnati Bell, and the City of Newport that Regional Smart Cities Initiatives will thrive.

Venture Smarter launched The Regional Smart Cities Initiative to focus smart city efforts around connectivity, mobility, security, and sustainability. By focusing on these four pillars, we hope to compress the time to realization for smart, regional growth.


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