Columbus completes the Smart City Challenge and looks to the future as a collaborative innovation lab


Building on the recent successful conclusion of the Smart City Challenge (SCC), the City of Columbus has announced that it is looking forward to Clever columbus will become a collaborative innovation laboratory while pursuing the development of new innovations for the benefit of its residents.

The SCC was created by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to assess a holistic approach to using new technologies to improve transportation performance, and how this approach could be integrated with other areas of smart city, including utilities, health, safety and energy. Columbus was named the winner of the SCC in 2016.

“They were really looking for this mid-sized city to accelerate data-driven technology deployment in transportation mobility,” said Mandy Bishop, Smart Columbus program manager. “We really took a look at some of the challenges we faced as a community and developed an app around that. “

Over the course of the five-year program, using the $ 50 million SCC scholarships from USDOT and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, along with $ 19 million in cost-sharing between cities, states, and counties, Columbus has deployed a comprehensive portfolio of mobility technologies that has shown how safer, more equitable transportation options create opportunities for residents now and in the future.

“If you think about the future of transportation, you can break it down into Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric — CASE,” Bishop said. “We had to ensure the sustainability of our transport economy. The portfolio reflected this.

Bishop said that before the pandemic, about 85% of Columbus residents drove their personal vehicles where they needed to be, so some projects were related to vehicle technology, designed to give people more information when they drive. They also looked at shared mobility and deployed Pivot, a trip planning app for people using the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) system that has helped connect people with first / last mile options like scooters. , carpooling and carpooling options. Pivot is also available at kiosks at smart mobility centers around the city.

Smart Columbus also launched autonomous and autonomous shuttles in February 2020, but the COVID outbreak changed plans as people suddenly no longer needed to be moved.

“We have seen pantry use skyrocket nationwide, and it has also skyrocketed in our community,” Bishop said. “We redeployed the shuttles to bring boxes and bags of food to our largest social housing development in central Ohio, Roseland.”

Even with the challenges of a global pandemic, Columbus completed CSC in May 2021, and the results speak for themselves.

“We’ve created around 2,300 direct and indirect jobs, we’ve been able to represent over $ 700 million in aligned investments and it’s really had a tangible economic impact,” Bishop said. “Plus, it made Columbus more visible. It is “America’s smart city” and companies come here to do more business. Our Department of Transportation has stated that we are currently the leading autonomous vehicle testing center in the country. Thus, we are able to help our residents, do more cutting edge things and we are a leader in the field of transportation, creating more jobs and opportunities.

So what now? The City of Columbus and the Columbus Partnership announced that “Smart Columbus will be continued as an agile and collaborative innovation lab that benefits the Columbus region by anticipating and advancing what’s new and next at the intersection of technology and the good of the community.

In a statement, Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said, “When we deploy technology in partnership with the community, we can address some of our most pressing challenges. Smart Columbus will continue to explore how innovation in mobility, climate technologies, digitization and other emerging technologies can help us solve complex societal problems, respond to disruption and generate economic opportunity. “

“I hope that the techniques that we have learned and the impacts that we have seen will translate into other areas, especially as it relates to our broadband and our digitization, and as it relates to our climate action plan and continue to improve air quality, ”said Bishop. “Technology has its place in many different areas, and I know Columbus will continue to leverage the tools and platforms we have created to do more for our community. “

Jordan Davis, executive director of Smart Columbus, said the future will always be rooted in transportation, “but going beyond to take a broader, more holistic view of what a future city looks like and the technologies that bring us to life. will help achieve this.Ensure we address fairness and sustainability.

“The pandemic has greatly disrupted so many normal lifestyles and the functioning of businesses. But it also got us back to basics, which are what are the essential things we need in the community, ”she continued. “And the quantitative data quickly showed where there were gaps in equality, internet access, not internet access. The digital divide problem is real, we knew that. We looked at it.

Smart Columbus is partnering with the city and the Columbus Foundation in a methodology they adopt in their innovation practice called Human Centered Design, which engages residents for feedback on issues the community needs solutions to. “Equity and inclusion are a big part of what human-centered design is, like ensuring that lived experience experts are at the table, shaping that, providing feedback, s ‘tackle fundamental issues and weigh in, so it’s not just technology for the sake of technology and blind to all sensibilities. I think it allows us to move forward with the community, not just to do it above the community, ”said Davis.

Other projects include an Open Opportunity Port that will digitize the criminal record sealing process, making it easier for those with expired records to remove them so they can better qualify for the workforce. work and jobs.

Looking at the workforce and the community, it’s a fact that as automation and technology take over aspects of people’s lives, sometimes jobs are lost. Davis said Smart Columbus can help the community plan for this.

“In every evolution of the industry, new jobs have been created that you didn’t even know existed in the previous chapter, and I think we’re going to continue to see that with the rise of automation / AI, ”she said. “I think our challenge is how to help people improve and develop continuously throughout their lives. How do you ensure that people are equipped to compete in the workforce of tomorrow? This is where we think there are many different tools that we can introduce and connect across the ecosystem. I think it’s important that we’re part of that ecosystem, and we’re helping move this thought leadership discussion forward about how things are going to change and how we can work together to skate where the puck is going to go, so we know and can go in that direction.

Across CSC and beyond, Smart Columbus and its partners have placed community participation at the forefront of the development and implementation of new technologies, making it an example for cities across the country and around the world. The city is one of the 50 champion cities selected by Bloomberg Philanthropies for the Global Mayors Challenge 2021.

“I believe that the continued investment of the public and private sectors to build this muscle is where we will continue to prove what is possible, and I hope that the proof of what is possible is what we can continue to. export to other cities, ”Davis said. “Obviously we want to keep learning from other cities as well, but I think what’s really special about what’s possible here is how we can bring players from all parts of the ecosystem together at one table. to think about the future and our way of doing things. that together. I think this alignment will allow us to be successful on what to do and what innovative solutions we can seek together. I think that’s part of the spirit of it.

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