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Birmingham wins 2018 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Grant

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Mark Kelly
Alabama NewsCenter

The City of Birmingham has been selected as one of five winners in the 2018 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Grant competition. Announcement of the grant award came Thursday.

In awarding the grant, the Smart Cities Council called Birmingham “an inspiring example of how a mid-size city can lead the way toward livability, workability and sustainability,” and said that the city “works diligently to ensure that its initiatives benefit multiple departments and multiple populations.”

The council also noted that Birmingham will use the grant to provide a collaborative framework for projects underway including an open data portal, smart street lighting, community Wi-Fi, bus rapid transit and the city’s recently announced crime reduction initiative Operation Step Up.

“It’s important to acknowledge the good work that’s already being done as it relates to having an inclusive economy and government that infuses technology and innovation to provide better and more effective and efficient services to our citizens and small business owners throughout the city,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “This grant shows that we are a city not only on the move, but making the right investments.”

The Readiness Challenge Grant is intended to help cities use technology and data to tackle local challenges, and improve services and connectivity. Winners will receive on-site Readiness Workshops provided by the Smart Cities Council. In addition, to help accelerate the initiatives funded by the grant, Birmingham and the other winners will receive mentoring, and tailored products and services from the council’s technology partners. The Council will also bring to each winning city some of the world’s experts from the private, philanthropic, academic and research sectors to offer advice to advance smart city initiatives.

Birmingham’s winning application emphasized the city’s plans for accelerating ongoing progress in advancing innovation, particularly in the areas of public safety, energy and transportation. Alabama Power, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, Jefferson County and the City of Hoover all provided input and support for the strategies outlined in the successful submission.

“Awarding this grant to Birmingham demonstrates the growing national awareness of the progress our city is making,” said John O. Hudson III, senior vice president for marketing and business development for Alabama Power. “And that progress is gaining momentum every day. We look forward to continuing to work with the collaborators for this successful grant application and others to make Birmingham a national leader in creating the jobs and opportunities of the future. The Readiness Challenge Grant will boost those efforts.”

In addition to Birmingham, 2018 Readiness Challenge Grants were awarded to Cary, North CarolinaLas VegasLouisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky; and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Birmingham also was a finalist in last year’s inaugural competition, in which grants were awarded to Austin, TexasIndianapolis, IndianaMiamiOrlando; and Philadelphia.

The Smart Cities Council is an industry coalition formed to accelerate the move to smart, sustainable cities. The council seeks to lower the barriers to adoption of technology and data as tools for enhancing livability, workability and the expansion of economic opportunity. Comprising more than 120 partners and advisers around the world, the council has contributed money and resources to more than 11,000 projects that incorporate smart cities principles.

“The five winners had three important things in common, including a focus on uncovering synergies and cost-efficiencies between departments,” Smart Cities Council Chairman Jesse Berst said of the 2018 winners in a news release. “They also fostered coordinated collaboration between internal departments, external stakeholders and nearby regions. Finally, they exhibited a determination to include underserved and vulnerable populations.”