Partnership for Inclusive Innovation Announces 2021 Cohort of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

Complementing federal and state efforts, incoming cohort class will focus on community connectivity.

 

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (PIN) announced the four communities selected for its 2021 Georgia Smart Communities Challenge (GA Smart), which allows localities across the state to apply for research assistance that empowers them to envision, explore, and plan for a “smart” future.

 

The 2021 cohort includes the cities of Woodbury and Concord, and Pike and Spalding counties. As GA Smart communities, the cohort will work with researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology to expand and enhance connectivity and explore additional applications that will improve their services, efficiencies, and cost savings. The community connectivity focus for this cohort aims to link them with the resources they need to pilot relevant smart solutions within the two-year GA Smart program.

 

  • The City of Woodbury: Woodbury has employed an innovative Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) network as a publicly owned utility, serving 50 community members. Georgia Tech researchers will assist in the enhancement and expansion of the WISP network by exploring measurement-driven dashboards for evaluating the end-user experience. They will also explore connectivity needs for the proposed Meriwether County AgTech Center for Innovation (MACI).
  • The City of Concord: With a network similar to Woodbury’s, city representatives and Georgia Tech researchers will work together to advance connectivity in the city through further testing, evaluation, and community engagement. They will look to address challenges to wireless networks such as geographic terrain, natural foliage, and adoption rates. Tech researchers will also help Concord explore connectivity applications such as having water sensors available in public facilities for operational efficiency and potential cost savings.
  • Pike County: As infrastructure investments are often driven by an intersection of cost and functionality, Tech will help Pike administrators analyze technologies to improve connectivity countywide, including exploring different broadband options to identify solutions that are both cost effective and reliable for consumers.
  • Spalding County: Believing that access to the internet is a driver of economic development, officials want to identify methods to increase broadband access in the area.  Many internet service providers are unable or unwilling to provide access to households or businesses that are separated from other connections by acres or miles. Tech researchers will provide Spalding leaders with perspective on technology hardware and software options that will meet the county’s needs, as well as evaluate the current status of connectivity and how to improve it.

“Communities experiencing gaps in connectivity across the state of Georgia have sought creative solutions to bridge them, and still more communities are seeking answers about how to get connected,” said Debra Lam, executive director of PIN. “This cohort has taken steps toward being innovative in a collaborative way. By providing research services to these neighboring communities with established relationships and an interest in coordinating connectivity efforts across city and county borders, GA Smart can make a regional impact and follow the natural expansion of these services across the area. This placemaking opportunity allows communities to plan together, avoid redundancies, and accomplish more collectively.”

 

The cohort will be working with researchers from Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, including professor Ellen Zegura, the Stephen Fleming Chair in Telecommunications, and associate professor Ada Gavrilovska.

 

“The pandemic has made it clear that dependable access to high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” said Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Tech. “At Georgia Tech, we believe in the power of technology to improve lives and communities, especially in our state, and we look forward to working with the winners of this year’s Georgia Smart Communities Challenge to achieve just that.”

 

Meet the Communities 
As the first city to be declared “Broadband Ready” by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) in 2020, the City of Woodbury has pioneered a way forward for communities unserved by traditional broadband.

 

“Meeting the needs of our ever-changing world requires diversity in thought and a willingness to move boldly into the future,” said City of Woodbury Mayor Steve Ledbetter. “Our goal is to push beyond the possible and be a part of leading our community and our state into the future.”

 

“The pandemic underscores just how critical connectivity can be for a community’s economic well-being,” said City of Concord Mayor John Strickland. “Covid-19 made it clear that the internet is necessary for education, healthcare, and business, as well as access to important real-time information. We are fortunate to be geographically close to Woodbury, which introduced us to their service provider. Working together, small cities and counties can provide solutions that will serve more people at a lower cost.

 

Brandon Rogers, Pike County manager, echoed those sentiments. “We want to serve the citizens of the community by ensuring options for broadband access in all areas of the county, so that no communities are left behind in the digital divide. We’re excited to be working with Georgia Tech as we seek out reliable sources for connectivity that can reach unserved areas of the county at an affordable price range for all of our residents and all of our municipalities.”

 

Regional cooperation is a key differentiator, said Jessica Simmons, deputy chief information officer at the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA).

 

“Pooling strategies and resource capabilities for connectivity to benefit the broader region complements the state’s initiative to promote broadband deployment in unserved parts of Georgia,” she said. “This regional effort builds exactly the kind of momentum we want to see in rural areas that lack high-speed internet access.”

 

Since 2018, GA Smart has served 12 communities across the state of Georgia in a variety of projects, ranging from installing sea-level and traffic sensors to planning for connected vehicle technology. Alumni from the GA Smart program have successfully implemented their projects and garnered additional funding and technical assistance to continue their projects beyond the program period, continuing to service their residents and meet their community’s goals.

 

The GA Smart program has facilitated community engagement across the state by hosting more than 40 community meetings, provided in excess of 140 technologies deployed in its funded projects, and provided research support that led to successful grant proposals, academic presentations, and publications.

 

About the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation
The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (PIN) is a public-private partnership that launched in 2020 to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the Technology Capital of the East Coast. Dedicated to advancing innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success across the state, the organization’s focus on community research, student engagement, and pilot programs — through its Innovate for ALL, Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, and Smart Community Corps — is a powerful combination that establishes Georgia as a living lab for inclusive innovation. Under the guidance of board Chairman G.P. Bud Peterson and Executive Director Debra Lam, the Partnership seeks to help foster access, growth, entrepreneurship, and innovation throughout the state. Visit pingeorgia.org.

 

About Georgia Tech
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

Georgia Institute of Technology launches the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) and its partners announce the launch of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge (Georgia Smart). The effort is the first statewide program to support local governments across Georgia with seed funding, technical assistance, and more as they plan and activate smart development.

 

Georgia Smart seeks proposals in the areas of smart mobility and smart resilience. Each of the four winning teams will receive direct grant funding of up to $50,000, as well as additional funds for research and technical assistance with a required local match.

 

The grants are made possible through funding from the Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Power Co. Also supporting this effort are the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Centers for Innovation, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the Technology Association of Georgia.

 

Two of the winning teams will be from rural communities and the other two from more urban Georgia cities.

 

“We’ve spent the past year in workshops and dialogue with local governments across Georgia to better understand their challenges and priorities. From these communications, we developed a program that is sensitive to the local context while fast-tracking smart communities,” said Debra Lam, managing director of Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation at Georgia Tech. “We aim to create more models for smart development that can be shared and applied across the state and beyond.”

 

The first program of its kind in the United States, Georgia Smart brings together an unprecedented coalition of university, industry, and public sector partners to support local governments’ adoption of cutting-edge technologies in their communities. The program is also unique in that it extends beyond large cities to smaller communities whose voices have not been as prominent in smart community development and who may not have access to technology resources.

 

The Georgia Smart initiative is open to all communities in Georgia. Local Georgia governments of any size — cities, counties, or consolidated city-county governments — will lead selected teams. Georgia Smart will provide seed funding and access to technical assistance, expert advice, and a network of peers. A Georgia Tech researcher will assist and advise each team and conduct research in support of the community’s needs and goals.

 

CEDR will provide strategic planning and facilitation assistance to the recipients of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge grants, and help those communities activate their smart community plans. For more information on the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, please contact Leigh Hopkins, senior project manager with Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) at 404.894.0933 or email ude.hcetag.etavonninull@snikpoh.hgiel.

 

Comprised of a dozen programs, including CEDR, EI2 is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development.

 

“This is a chance for communities — both urban and rural — to look at ways of moving their economies forward by focusing on ideas centered on innovation, transportation, and broadband infrastructure among other economic development opportunities,” Hopkins said. “We’re looking forward to working with the winning teams and help them develop their ideas.”

 

Georgia Tech and its partners will work with the winning teams throughout the year on implementing their proposals, creating four testbeds of smart community development. For more information on applying for the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, visit: http://smartcities.gatech.edu/georgia-smart.