Partnership for Inclusive Innovation Smart Cities Projects Receive International Recognitions

Warner Robins, Woodstock, and Columbus, Georgia, recognized with smart community awards

Within hours in early March, projects from three Georgia communities that are part of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation’s (Partnership) Community Research Grant program were honored with international smart cities awards.

Winners of the Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21 Community Awards at the 2024 Taipei Smart City Summit and Expo

Warner Robins’ Citizen Safety Digital Twin for Community Resilience and Woodstock’s Smart Master Plan and Smart Corridor Study were recognized at the 2024 Taipei Smart City Summit and Expo with the Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21 Community Award.

At the same time, Columbus was named a Smart 20 award winner by Smart Cities Connect for the Digital Twin River Safety Project. That award will be presented in May.

“These accolades are a testament to the Partnership’s pivotal role in developing, nurturing, steering, and funding these projects from conception to triumphant completion,” said Debra Lam, the Partnership’s director.

The Warner Robins project to develop and test a Citizen Safety Digital Twin for Community Resilience integrated a dynamic license plate reader solution with police department investigation practices to help lower crime rates in the community. Working with researchers from Georgia Tech and Middle Georgia State University, the Warner Robins Police Department used historical crime data to determine the optimal location and direction to place license plate reader cameras. During the six-month pilot phase of the project, the data helped recover 27 stolen vehicles and solve three major crimes — a shooting and two homicides.

“It’s one of the best investments I think we can make as a city because it brings the peace of mind of safe streets, safe communities, safe shopping experience. The fact that we have our flock cameras in different areas in our city with the smart technology to expand the footprint of our police department helps us solve crime and also helps deter crime, which is even more beneficial.” Warner Robins Mayor LaRhonda Patrick said.

The Woodstock project dates back to 2020, when the city worked with the Partnership on a master plan and smart corridor study to help alleviate the traffic and lack of parking in the city, following a doubling of the population since 2010.

In that first part of the project, the city collected data from GridSmart installations, which document minute-by-minute traffic and turning movements. In the second phase, interns from the Partnership examined the data to find ways to integrate it with previously collected traffic volume flows to show historical patterns. The goal is to determine the best way to amalgamate the data for use in making smart decisions about new transportation projects.

“Woodstock is honored to be among this diverse list of communities, and we are proud to represent the state of Georgia with fellow honoree Warner Robins,” said Mayor Michael Caldwell. “The city of Woodstock is committed to improving its citizens’ quality of life through smart technology programs. From transportation systems to innovative infrastructure technology, the city has been boldly pursuing the initiatives of its Smart Master Plan since 2020.”

The Columbus project’s goal is to make the world’s longest manmade urban whitewater course safer for swimmers and boaters. Scheduled and unscheduled dam releases have caused flooding, limited time for evacuations, and drownings. A digital twin created for the river allowed Georgia Tech and Columbus State University researchers to collaborate and develop technology that can predict changing water levels, detect humans in the water, and alert authorities.

“I think to win the award is awesome, but the impetus was to promote river safety and provide real-time SMART solutions that save lives,” said Dr. James Forrest Toelle, information technology director for Columbus consolidated government, and the project manager for the digital twin project. “None of it would have been possible without the tremendous partnership with Georgia Tech, the Partnership, and our local fire department.”

“It was an incredibly valuable opportunity for us to develop public safety Digital Twins together with collaborators in Columbus and Warner Robins,” said John Taylor, Frederick Law Olmsted Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, “and it is particularly rewarding to see the research being implemented to help save lives and reduce crimes in real communities. These smart community awards are important recognition of the forward thinking vision and dedication to public safety of these communities.”

These three international wins follow the selection of Valdosta as a finalist in the 2021 World Smart Cities Awards in the Mobility Category for its Traffic Monitoring and Communication System to Improved Safety, Connectivity, and Efficiency project that has reduced the time it takes for first responders to travel the city.

“These projects exemplify the transformative power of technology and community engagement in creating safer, more enjoyable, and more resilient communities,” Lam said. “This remarkable success rate is a clear indicator of our role in nurturing a vibrant ecosystem for innovations—placing Georgia firmly on the map for smart cities.”