By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
The city of Birmingham on Monday took another step toward a more livable, workable and sustainable metro area by kicking off Smart Cities Readiness workshop that drew corporate, political, education and transit leaders.
Birmingham was one of four cities along with the state of Virginia selected earlier this year for the 2018 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Grant which helps cities use technology and data to address local challenges and improve citywide connectivity.
The Readiness Workshop is being held August 27-28 at the Crossplex.
Birmingham’s selection came in collaboration with Alabama Power Company, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA), Jefferson County and the City of Hoover.
More than 150 people are expected to attend the two-day conference.
“I believe our city is in the middle of an evolution that is really changing how we do things in our city and I believe part of that evolution is fueled by this Smart Cities grant which helps us be a more inclusive and competitive government,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “I believe it gives us an opportunity to integrate our systems and raise the bar for tech and innovation as well as provide more coordinated, user services for our residents as well as our small business owners.”
Jennifer James, Global Readiness Program Director, said she was impressed with the Birmingham application and team members “because of the collaborative spirit and just how passionate the mayor, his staff, the community and the partners were about applying technology to do even more and better things in the city of Birmingham.”
Dr. Ray Watts, president of UAB, said, “We want to use the brainpower and the person power as well as the technology and research capabilities of UAB to partner with the city and with Alabama Power and others in this initiative. These are very important issues for our city, transportation, public safety, economic empowerment and community health. We believe working together with this workshop today is a beginning, we can address these issues and have a greater Birmingham and a greater state of Alabama.”
The workshop on Monday focused on technology and data to improve public safety and quality of life in Birmingham. Breakout sessions included community health, transportation and mobility, economic empowerment and public safety.
Smart street lighting, bus rapid transit and community Wi-Fi were also part of the city’s application.
On Tuesday there is an invitation-only public safety event at Alabama Power where teams will develop cross-departmental strategies and leverage smart technologies and data to develop more effective, targeted programs in the areas of crime prevention, law enforcement and reentry.
“It is truly a pleasure for Alabama Power to partner with UAB and the City of Birmingham in what we feel is such a tremendous effort to move the city forward,” said Jonathan Porter, Vice President of Birmingham Division for Alabama Power Company. “We feel that this will be transformational for the city, this Birmingham-Jefferson County community and also the state of Alabama.”
In addition to the two-day conference, Birmingham, as part of the grant, will receive mentoring and tailored products and services from the Smart Cities Council that has experts from the private, philanthropic, academic and research sectors offering advice to advance smart city initiatives.
Other recipients of the 2018 Readiness Challenge Grant include Cary, North Carolina; Las Vegas; Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky; and the Commonwealth of Virginia.