As a years-long population boom continues in the Denver metro area and across the Front Range, 18 cities are keeping up a push to make the region “smarter,” brainstorming tech-heavy solutions on issues like transportation, public safety and more.
It's a marriage of government resources and private innovation, and its co-founder calls it a “first-of-its-kind” partnership in the nation.
“This new breed of public-private partnerships holds the potential to materially improve quality of life, even as we experience the pressure of the remarkable growth we are experiencing here in Colorado,” said Jake Rishavy, co-founder of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance.
With strong ties in the south metro area, the alliance — now a year old — says it will draw economic development to that area and Colorado as a whole. Here's a few things to know about the project.
Laundry list of partners
The cities — Arvada, Aspen, Aurora, Boulder, Centennial, Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, Golden, Grand Junction, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Littleton, Lone Tree, Longmont, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster — plan to share best practices with each other through the alliance. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), University of Colorado, Xcel Energy and Arrow Electronics — an engineering and technology company — are among the private and public entities also in the partnership, Rishavy said.
Plan coming together
A lab featuring a “full experimental technology stack” will soon open with the help of the alliance and Arrow Electronics to develop “Smart Cities” technologies, Rishavy said.
The Colorado Open Lab will be located on the ground floor of Arrow Electronics' global headquarters at 9201 E. Dry Creek Road in Centennial and is expected to open in the second quarter of 2019. Sensors, software tools for data gathering and analysis, and a workspace for project design will be among the assets for experimentation, Rishavy said.
“Arrow has one of the broadest global technology networks of any company in the world, many of whom will be coming to work alongside alliance partners in the Colorado Open Lab,” Rishavy said.
Tech professionals, public-sector leaders and academics came together for the inaugural CO Smart Cities Symposium on Sept. 18 to exchange ideas in the downtown Denver area. Put on by the alliance and Arrow Electronics, it came almost a year exactly after the Sept. 25, 2017, ceremony for the alliance at the University of Colorado Denver.
Like with last year, Mayor Stephanie Piko was among the local officials at this year's event, too. For Piko, smart city initiatives offer a way to address development and growth in the city.
“By embracing smart city solutions in the areas of transportation, infrastructure management and the environment, we are taking advantage of data and information that is in 'real time' to better embrace the opportunity to have a positive impact our residents' quality of life,” Piko said in a statement the following week.
Getting enough fiber
Centennial was innovating even before the partnership, though, and its fiber backbone — an underground infrastructure of fiber-optic cable — is on schedule for completion around the end of the year.
That completed backbone will allow Centennial to enhance its system of traffic cameras and — eventually — traffic sensors, enabling the city to time its traffic lights more accurately to traffic flows.
Centennial is in early stages of researching initiatives with the alliance that could support what it calls “aging in community” — the city is also looking at short-term steps to educate residents about low-cost renovations to make homes more suitable for people of all ages, according to Allison Wittern, city spokeswoman. The city's Mobility Ambassador Program, which educates about transportation options, aims to allow older residents to continue independent lifestyles without feeling tied to cars, Wittern said.
The alliance in general will convene its partners throughout the next year to work on projects, Rishavy said.
It aims to “co-develop and test emerging technologies that have the potential to positively impact issues ranging from transportation and mobility to public health, public safety and sustainability,” Rishavy said.
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