Obama backs ‘smart cities’ with $160m funding pool

US President Barack Obama has announced his administration will invest more than $160m in innovative technology across a range of American cities in an attempt to help local communities tackle key sustainability challenges.

The ‘smart cities’ program was announced in concurrence with a forum as part of Smart Cities Week and will encourage cities to stop looking for a ‘single silver bullet’ and instead cooperate with governments, NGOs and businesses to build thriving sustainable communities.

Obama said: “Every community is different, with different needs and different approaches.  But communities that are making the most progress on these issues have some things in common.  They don’t look for a single silver bullet; instead they bring together local government and nonprofits and businesses and teachers and parents around a shared goal.”

The funding will see The Department of Energy (DOE) invest around $5m to support a Systems and Modeling for Accelerated Research in Transportation (SMART) Mobility consortium, which examines fuel consumption along with transport efficiency. Three million dollars  will be invested in smart building technologies that optimise energy saving, as well as funding initiatives to develop self-commissioning buildings and to promote better access to building energy data in the new smart cities.

Collaborate to innovative

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will also play a role in the smart cities initiative, granting up to $4.5m to conduct innovative air quality pilot studies in several cities using low-cost portable air pollution sensors. The sensors, part of EPA’s Village Green Project, will be piloted in Oklahoma City, Hartford and Chicago.

Nationwide NGO Envision America is challenging cities to tackle water, waste and air quality issues by rolling out workshops in January. Winners of these workshops will have their innovative technology created with the help of experts from the industry. The idea of these workshops is to get people thinking about the environment around them, while also moving pressure away from central governments to introduce new tech ideas.

One of the recent innovations to be introduced to the smart cities is the Envision America app, a community engagement platform that uses gamification to introduce new sustainable action campaigns.

City Digital, a Chicago-based consortium will deploy a network of sensors to gather data on green infrastructure. Siemens USA will also add to the data through the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA), launched earlier this year across nine nations, which uses software to evaluate how specific building, transport, and energy technologies can help them achieve their environmental goals.

Save the world

The smart cities scheme will also cover transport, the internet of things, and creating a greater emphasis on collaboration between different sectors.

The announcement comes in the wake of the Global Commission on Climate and Economy’s research stating that climate-smart cities could save the world $22tn and avoid the equivalent in carbon pollution of India’s entire annual output of greenhouse gasses.

President Obama has continued to drive his green revolution other the past few months.  In August he unveiled a package of programmes to help America switch to cleaner energy, including $1bn in loan guarantees to boost ‘innovative’ technologies, like smart grids and solar rooftops.

Matt Mace

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