The city of Colorado Springs is joining with the Southern Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce, Catalyst Campus and a Washington, D.C.-based group, to become part of a network of more than 20 "Smart Gigabit Communities" and develop new ways to use ultra-fast internet connections for business, education and health.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers announced the effort Tuesday during a meeting at Catalyst Campus with more than 80 business, government and nonprofit leaders to join the network within the next few months. Other members include Albuquerque, N.M., Austin, Texas, San Diego and Washington, D.C.
The program is led by US Ignite,a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that operates the Smart Gigabit Communities program, which helps cities get wider availability of 1-gigabit-per-second internet access, and to develop software and devices for new ways of using that access.
"We see it as a way to improve delivery of public services through devices like body-worn cameras for police, smart traffic signals and electric vehicle charging stations. We want to use it for internal operations but the network also will attract private-sector companies to the area," said Ryan Trujillo, the city's sustainability and support services manager, who is leading the Smart Gigabit Communities effort. "It is a multi-decade, long-term journey to become a smart community. It won't happen overnight, though we expect to be part of the program by year's end."
The local effort has been pushed by Susan Spradley, a Colorado Springs consultant and former technology executive who is chair of US Ignite. The goal is to make the group's technical assistance, industry partnerships and national visibility available to the city and to help make it a leader in developing and using internet-connected devices. The Smart Gigabit Communities program was started two years ago through a three-year, $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation and requires each of the cities to develop two applications a year to use the gigabit access.
"This will enable the community to have the network and applications needed to give citizens more access to data, to allow the city to better monitor and control water, power and other services and open new ways of learning in public education," Spradley said. "I can't think of a better community in which to do this with the connections that already exist between the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy, the mayor, women's chamber, entrepreneurs and the Catalyst Campus. It takes two years for the average community to pull that together."
Austin, Cleveland, Kansas City and others in the Smart Gigabit Communities program have installed sensors and developed software to connect those devices either through fiber-optic or wireless networks to existing computer networks to enable new uses in advanced manufacturing, education, energy, health, public safety and transportation.
"A number of cities have decided to see how they could provide more and better services to their communities. These smart cities will be more livable and likable and operate with greater accuracy and efficiency," said Glenn Ricart, an internet pioneer who started US Ignite to "build the foundation for smart communities."
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