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Microsoft, GE Among Big Brands Backing New White House ‘Smart Cities’ Initiative

Microsoft, GE and Bank of America are among the ten companies supporting a White House challenge to U.S. cities to become smarter by accelerating deployment of innovative technologies that tackle energy, water, waste and air challenges.

Organized by the nonprofit, Envision America, the new effort will invite leaders from 10 winning communities to participate in a workshop in January in Charlotte, NC, where they will work with leading experts from industry and academia to diagnose needs, workshop solutions and develop new smart initiatives for their community.

In addition, they will receive technical assistance throughout the year to support the implementation of their plans. Winners will be selected for participation in the Envision America program on the basis of several criteria, including goals, collaborations among local institutions and other stakeholders, and commitment to developing innovative approaches foundational to a smart city.

Corporate partners will play a key role in advancing the initiative’s aims of promoting smarter cities nationwide. GE is sponsoring an Envision America “appathon” to engage the civic tech community in a collaborative effort to solve city challenges.

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Microsoft is providing each winning city with one year of access to the Microsoft Azure Government cloud platform, with ongoing assistance to develop smart city solutions.

Accelerated Innovations will equip winning cities with the Envision America app, a community engagement platform built to facilitate, measure and gamify large-scale sustainability action campaigns.

Other corporate supporters include Autodesk, Cisco, Duke Energy, Itron, Landis+Gyr and Qualcomm Technologies.

The smart city challenge comes as part of a new “smart cities” initiative announced by the White House on Monday, which will invest over $160 million in federal research and leverage more than 25 new technology collaborations to help local communities tackle key challenges, such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services.

The initiative will begin with a focus on four key strategies: Creating test beds for “Internet of Things” applications and developing new multi-sector collaborative models; Collaborating with the civic tech movement and forging intercity collaborations; Leveraging existing Federal activity; and pursuing international collaboration.

As cities around the world adopt smart city technology to meet sustainability goals, boost local economies and improve services, smart city technology revenue will grow from $8.8 billion annually worldwide in 2014 to $27.5 billion in 2023, according to a 2014 report by Navigant Research. Developments in areas such as wireless communications, sensor networks, geospatial analysis, mobile computing, data analytics and cloud computing are helping in the development of smart city technologies to address issues such as energy management, water management, urban mobility, street lighting and public safety.


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