Smart Cities Initiative Spurs “Gigabit Apps” for Next-Gen Internet

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address local problems or improve city services. Such applications include apps to help public officials estimate coastal storm surge in North Carolina, monitor urban air quality in Chicago, and optimize public transit in San Francisco. Successful projects are made available at no cost to all 25 participating cities in a “smart cities app store” managed by U.S. Ignite.

U.S. Ignite describes the five-month competition that is just beginning as a “reverse pitch hackathon” because local community leaders (instead of software developers) set the agenda for the kind of gigabit applications that are needed.  Eight smart gigabit communities are participating in the hackathon, and the needs vary in each region. In San Diego, teams are being asked to develop gigabit applications in four areas: public safety; wireless healthcare; climate action (i.e. energy efficiency and sustainability); and city permitting and registration.

“Our focus as it relates to the smart cities conversation is around energy use and energy conservation,” said Jason Anderson of Cleantech San Diego, a membership trade organization focused on local cleantech industries and technologies. “It’s really been about whether we can work together to advance the goals of San Diego’s climate action plan.”

“This is one of the few federal programs I’ve seen that is truly driving innovation,” said Darin Andersen, the founder and chairman of CyberTech, a membership group providing networking, resources, and programs focused on cybersecurity, Internet of Things, and related technologies. “What struck me about this opportunity with the NSF is that the government is getting involved at the grassroots level, and local government is key.

“No one raises a magic wand, and says, ‘OK, you’re a smart city,’ ” Andersen added. “If you ask, ‘How do you build a smart city?’ Well, you start with smart projects.”

Following the hackathon kickoff on Feb. 15, teams are expected to gather for weekly hackathon meetups to develop their applications as well as business plans. Entries will be judged at a “pitch night” on March 15, with judging based on the use of gigabit technology, marketing focus, presentation, and funding strategies. The winning team will be awarded a $10,000 top prize, and an expenses-paid trip to U.S. Ignite’s annual National Smart Cities Conference & Expo in Kansas City, MO, at the end of March.

The San Diego series will continue through June 15, coinciding with the close of San Diego Startup Week, with the opportunity to win additional prizes and an expenses-paid trip to the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in mid-November.

To support the program, CyberTech’s Andersen said Cox Communications, the nation’s third-largest cable TV and Internet service provider, has agreed to provide about $250,000 over three years. Andersen estimates in-kind contributions and other types of corporate assistance could amount to as much as $250,000 in equivalent support.

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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