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Envisioning smart cities

Criteria includes goals, existing cross-sector collaborations, and a commitment to innovative approaches that are foundational to smart cities

Jackson, Mississippi, is one of 10 cities that is taking part in Envision America 2017
Jackson, Mississippi, is one of 10 cities that is taking part in Envision America 2017

Envision America seeks to make a city's urban core a living lab to foster innovation

Last year's cohort discovered smart city success requires cross-sector collaboration

Envision America 2017, the initiative that challenges the country’s cities to become smarter by accelerating deployment of innovative technologies that tackle energy, water, waste, and air challenges, has named the 10 participating cities. They are: Jackson, San Antonio, Wichita, Providence, Burlington, Detroit, Chula Vista, Greensboro, Kansas City and Long Beach.


Cities were selected for participation in the programme on the basis of several criteria, including goals, existing cross-sector collaborations, and a commitment to developing innovative approaches foundational to a smart city. They will attend a three-day workshop in the city of Charlotte where representatives will collaborate with industry, academic experts and entrepreneurs to develop innovative strategies to help implement "smart" projects in their city.


Other cities, universities and non-profits are invited to attend and gain valuable insights around smart city projects and solutions.


The initiative sets out to connect the know-how and resources of the country’s private sector with the innovative spirit of urban communities to help create America’s new smarter future. It is co-hosted by Envision Charlotte and the Data Science Initiative (DSI) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


The former is a public-private collaboration created in 2010 through a collaboration between Duke Energy, Cisco, and Charlotte Center City Partners, to make commercial buildings in Charlotte’s urban core more energy efficient. With the Envision America programme, it aims to foster innovation and first-of-their kind programmes that improve sustainability, resilience, economic competitiveness and quality of life, all of which can be measured, scaled and replicated in communities outside of the urban core.


DSI is an industry-university-state partnership, led by the College of Computing and Informatics, the Belk College of Business, the College of Health and Human Services, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Executive Education, and includes collaborative partners across the university and the region.


As cities strive to be smarter with their resources and manage them more efficiently, sustainable data is rapidly becoming the cornerstone of these efforts. As a result, partnering with the local university and having the students engage with the participating cities is a unique and valuable resource.


Launched in 2016, Envision America is building on the success of its inaugural workshop. Last January, the first cohort of cities learned what drives the success of smart initiatives from city leaders, utility partners and private sector allies. Representatives from Charlotte, Cambridge, Greenville, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland (Oregon), San Diego, and Spokane discovered that success also requires cross-sector collaboration.


Envision America said it is excited to sustain the momentum that began with last year’s workshop, when participants returned home with a renewed sense of leadership and a drive to innovate.


“Envision was a great opportunity for the City of Pittsburgh to develop some strategic thinking around our approach to smart cities,” Pittsburgh’s chief resiliency officer Grant Ervin said of last year’s workshop. "Providing the space to meet with leading cities and cutting edge companies was a great network building and learning opportunity."


Envision America is supported by AT&T, Bank of America, IBM, Itron, Microsoft, Philips Lighting, PTC SAS, Siemens and Wells Fargo.


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