The Springs has the opportunity to join a nationwide network of smart, connected cities.
What we think:
Business and community leaders should lend their time and talent to the effort.
On Tuesday night, about 80 business leaders gathered for the kickoff of local efforts to become a “Smart Gigabit Community,” a designation developed by a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called US Ignite (us-ignite.org).
The goal was to raise enthusiasm and interest in developing ultra-high-speed internet connections to develop applications that could make the city safer, more energy efficient and more attractive to business development and economic growth.
The US Ignite team painted an enthusiastic picture — other cities have developed STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career schools, and a Louisiana town worked to loop the private sector into the state’s emergency management operations system used for disasters.
The entry level is pretty low — $20,000 will get the support of the national nonprofit, connections to other “smart” cities and aid in finding federal funding for infrastructure needs. The project has the support of Mayor John Suthers, the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber and Catalyst Campus.
It’s an opportunity the city shouldn’t pass up. And business leaders should join the effort, which essentially is a public-private partnership. If it’s going to work here, it will take a lot of collaboration and months of brainstorming, as well as a financial investment from the private sector. Organizers believe there will be state and federal grants to assist, and large national companies will want to get in on the ground floor as well. The work is necessary, they say, and Colorado Springs will reap big dividends in the end.
Thanks to the Internet of Things — smart cars, smart refrigerators, smart houses — machines now do most of the talking to each other over the internet. It makes sense to get in on rapidly changing technology now so the city can develop smart applications.
Maybe we connect high-speed fiber optic cable to every home, which makes it easier to connect to educational opportunities around the globe. We could develop an application that creates a new way to train a high-tech workforce. Maybe we’ll take a page from Louisiana and create an app that will connect the private sector with emergency management operations statewide during wildfire season for more efficient use of resources. Or we could develop applications to identify places for infill development projects, or ones that can show us how to best manage transportation and infrastructure needs throughout the city.
For Lola Woloch, executive director of the women’s chamber, the decision to become a smart community is about economic development. With a smart city designation and high-tech resources, she said companies will flock to the region. The city believes it can make more efficient use of its resources with applications developed in the process and also sees the Springs attracting global attention for its fast internet connections.
Being a smart city could do all those things, if business, civic and community leaders get involved now and stay engaged during the process. It will take months to find the money, develop the right apps and leverage the applications developed in other cities.
Let’s embrace the local Ignite movement. We’ll be creating the city of the future — today.