How Federal Grants Fund IoT Projects

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List of Intelligent Transportation Systems Infrastructure Priorities

Cities building smart infrastructure into their operations have most often focused on transportation – of vehicles and people – as well as public safety and utility systems. the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Actpassed by Congress in 2021, includes $500 million over five years to Enhanced Mobility and Transportation Revolution (SMART) Grantstargeting municipal technology projects that improve transportation efficiency and safety.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime and game-changing investment,” said Ned Cabot, Senior Director of National Digital Acceleration in the Americas for Cisco.

He and other smart city experts see the benefits of federal funding extending far beyond coordinated traffic signals. Cities are evolving their use of smart technologies, applying sensors and artificial intelligence to bridge the digital divide and address other social inequalities, such as access to education and neglected neighborhoods. Even small rural areas have the ability to shift into smart gear.

A smart city infrastructure begins with its broadband backbone: a fiber optic network for high-speed Internet connection throughout an entire community. A robust 5G mobile network complements the connectivity. Many sensors and devices connect to these networks. The Internet of Things collects and transmits data to city departments that oversee public works, public safety, utilities, and most importantly, intelligent transportation systems.

ITS can “drive sustainability and better resource management,” says Mike Hernon, director of smart cities for Winbourne Consulting in Arlington, Va., and former chief information officer for the city of Boston. “Easier, more sustainable and greener movement of people – that is certainly the promise of ITS.”

Highly intelligent cameras along a highway, for example, can be used in a wide range of applications. They can be simple, like variable message signs that tell drivers when to take an alternate route to avoid getting stuck in traffic. They can be complex, such as video systems equipped with machine learning software that identifies the most important images to show to control room operators in the event of an accident.

TO EXPLORE: How to make cybersecurity a priority for smart cities?

Smart cities look at the big picture across disparate initiatives

Data alone does not make cities smart, says Nick Maynard, co-founder and CEO of US Ignite, an organization that encourages the development of smart communities and public-private partnerships to drive the implementation of sensor technology and networks. “They really have to pull together and create something that’s useful for the specific decision that’s going to be made,” he says.

Truly smart infrastructure, Hernon says, depends on government and community leaders coming together to decide how they want to use technology and for what purposes. They need to get out of their silos and see the big picture.

“You really need to feed a common data platform, so you can really get that integrated look,” Hernon says. “In a smart city, ideally, it’s a whole-of-jurisdiction, whole-of-citizen engagement approach. Thus, everything the city does and provides must be coordinated.

The new law encourages city governments to take this holistic approach by providing resources to look at the bigger picture, beyond the restrictions of individual projects.

“This infrastructure law is unprecedented for cities and counties to really make leaps and bounds in their smart cities,” Hernon says. “I am a big proponent of a coordinated approach with leadership buy-in from above, strategy development, government structure in place, multi-stakeholder involvement and review funding, because the infrastructure law might not pay for everything. ”

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