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Tech Hub: Columbus' Smart Overhaul

Forget about Silicon Valley, New York or Boston — Columbus has emerged as one of the most promising smart cities in the nation and is setting a precedent with its transportation-focused plan.

As IoT and 5G connectivity becomes more powerful, Ohio’s capital is a hopeful testing grounds thanks to their award-winning Smart City Initiative, a long-term plan to connect and modernize the city’s transportation, data usage and infrastructure. 

In 2016, Columbus beat out 77 other U.S. cities in the Smart City Challenge, winning $40 million from the Department of Transportation and $10 million from Vulcan Inc. City offi  cials have also collected more than $500 million in community commitments from local businesses and organizations like Ohio State University, according to Brandi Braun, deputy innovation officer for the city of Columbus. 

Columbus’ “smart rush” comes at a good time — CTA predicts there will be at least 88 smart cities worldwide by 2025, while 66 percent of the world’s population will live in a smart city 25 years later. And by 2020, the global smart cities market will be a $34.35 billion sector, according to CTA research.

The initiative hopes to modernize a wide range of parts about the city, including a complete revamp of transportation in the city with ridesharing, electric cars and a smart roads system to allow instant info on data and parking. With better transportation, the city hopes citizens can access better jobs both in and outside Columbus.

Other advances in connectivity, such as 5G and big data, will be used to aid in the transportation upgrades, but also to help promote businesses, tourism and sustainability. Columbus is in its early planning phases, as they gather more partnerships, funding and research, Braun says, and don’t expect to complete the full vision until 2040. Until then, they hope the changes will include benefi ts like reducing car accidents and air pollution, increasing carpooling and repairing aging infrastructure.

Dawn Dickson, CEO of Solutions Vending International in Columbus, sees the initiative as a possible bump for Columbus’ economy, and other tech businesses as well. Their product, a software solution that makes vending machines, micro-markets and other self-service machines smarter, fits perfectly into the mobile-based, AI-focused world of smart cities.

Overall, she called the local tech community’s reaction to the initiative “stellar.” She expects the changes to bring more clients and hopes it brings more partnerships and connections for SVI. “With more than $500 million in community commitments for smart city solutions, Columbus has the opportunity to become a smart city hub which will improve the way the city serves its citizens, and also create jobs and economic opportunities,” Dickson says. 

Smart City Ecosystem at CES 

CES 2018 is the place to experience the entire connected ecosystem, which is bringing together technologies, solutions, players and audiences in the smart city sector. This year, CES launches a comprehensive destination dedicated to smart city technology. 

Presented by CTA and Deloitte, the program features thought leaders from Bosch, Ford, Nissan, Qualcomm and others to discuss how smart cities will revolutionize areas such as transportation, energy and public safety, health care and data analytics. Keep an eye out for other panels, keynotes and conferences highlighting 5G technologies, artificial intelligence, and more emerging technologies that will improve American cities. Then, visit CES’ roughly 20 Smart City exhibitors, such as Cognata, GenZe, Fybr and Tapplock. 

CTA continues to support and study the future of smart cities, through reports, surveys and studies. CTA recently added a focus on Europe with the release of The Rise & Growth of Smart Cities in Europe, a study that can be applied to other cities across the globe.

Jeremy Snow