The city intends to use its smart city initiative to target the underserved communities in the area that do not traditionally take advantage of government services and initiatives, according to Ted Lehr, IT data architect for Business Application Services and Communications and Technology Management for the City of Austin.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Lehr explained that the city originally thought about putting smart city programs in its airport and prominent shopping district, but decided that there were areas of the city more in need of such programs.

“We targeted it instead to the underrepresented, the under served, the disadvantaged in those communities,” said Lehr.

The Austin mayor’s press office explained that the city’s application to the Smart Cities Readiness Challenge stemmed from relationships between the government and private sector that formed during the Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities Challenge.

“It’s great to see private companies working with city departments to create opportunity and address social challenges. This kind of public-private collaboration is where I expect to see real disruption and innovation come from,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

The Austin CityUP consortium, which supported the bid for the DOT challenge, brings together private organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies to accomplish Smart City goals.

“The vision is to create a comprehensive, integrated, inclusive, sustainable, and evolving smart cities infrastructure,” Austin CityUP President and Creator Jay Boisseau said. “I think that there’s a lot to be learned from the private sector.”

According to Boisseau, Austin is currently working on programs that will provide real-time housing data, smart kiosks, and a learning center to inject data-educated people into the workforce. There is also the potential to integrate artificial intelligence with the kiosk projects, and to use the research power of local universities in developing projects.

Boisseau explained that Smart City initiatives need to be both citywide and encompass a variety of domains, such as housing, transportation, and health care, to be successful.

“I think more will come out of the Smart Cities Readiness workshop” in April, said Boisseau.

“We’re expecting to be surprised,” said Lehr, adding that he thinks smart initiatives offer the opportunity to reinforce the community in unexpected ways. “This will evolve, people are going to get interested, and we’ll get positive and negative responses to that.”

– Jessie Bur

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