How a university can be a go-to resource for your smart city transformation

It's true. The number of cities embarking on smart city programs is growing throughout the world, and they're growing in variety and scale. As Ryan Citron, senior research analyst with Navigant Research, said in a news release on its latest Smart City Tracker that keeps tabs on smart city projects, "Cities are developing more innovative smart city programs and deploying proven solutions at commercial scale. Projects that integrate data  and insights across multiple operations and service sectors are also becoming more common."

The growth trend underscores the increasing need for partners that can provide the resources and expertise cities don’t typically have. Academia has stepped up in many ways: smart cities course offerings, degree programs and more recently, programs such as Council Advisor Arizona State University's new Center for Smart Cities and Regions. The story below explains the Center's mission. We thought you'd want to know about it. — Doug Peeples


It's not a huge surprise that ASU would be home to a program like the Center for Smart Cities and Regions. Its School of Sustainability opened in 2006 offering course work in smart cities and technology innovation. In late 2017 the university began working with Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to help the city ready its Smart Sustainable City Project. And it has been involved in the smart cities field in other ways.

The Center's mission is to help cities learn about and use the technologies they need to make their cities smarter, such as data analytics, IoT and other emerging technologies. How? By working closely with urban planners, policy makers, entrepreneurs, industry and citizens in their efforts to improve their city's overall social, cultural and economic health.

"We increasingly have the tools and the technologies to address local, regional and global problems. However, unless these technologies are developed and deployed in a way that is responsive and responsible, their potential benefits are unlikely to be realized," explained Diana Bowman, center co-director and associate professor in ASU's School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

Among the Center's first partnerships will be working with the Institute of Digital Progress and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. The focus of the partnership is to enable the region to efficiently use and continue to develop the technology solutions it needs to meet its smart city goals.

The Center also is involved in projects in the fields of education and healthcare. And it has partnered with cities to help them assess the risks and benefits of autonomous vehicles.

"Rapidly emerging technologies, like autonomous vehicles, present both risks and opportunities to cities," said Thad Miller, assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. The center is working with cities, planners, citizens and industry "… to help them leverage technology to meet their goals and community needs."

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.