Smart Growth Summit: 4 keys to building a ‘smart city’

Everybody wants their city to be a “smart city” today. It’s one of the aspirational buzzwords du jour in municipal and planning circles. But what does it really mean to be a smart city and what does a community have to do to become “smart”?

Those are among the topics of discussion this morning on the second and final day of the CPEX Smart Growth Summit at the Shaw Center for the Arts.

In a seminar entitled “Tech and Tools: Making Cities Smarter,” a panel of local and national experts discussed how having a smart city can improve quality of life in a community and enhance economic development.

There are four components to being a smart city, according to John Snow, president and CEO of Emergent Method, who moderated this morning’s panel discussion.

  1. Data: Smart cities have systems in place that push data—from information about crime incidents to traffic hot spots to neighborhoods where public works projects are under construction—out to the public so citizens can use it.
  2. Innovation and technology: Smart cities utilize cutting-edge technology to help citizens and businesses access data and understand it. Baton Rouge, for instance, was the first city in the country to implement the Open Neighborhood BR Platform, which enables citizens to enter their address and see what is going on around them.
  3. Citizen engagement: Smart cities not only have great tools and technology, but tools that are easy for citizens to interact with.
  4. Leadership that appreciates the importance of data and technology: Smart cities have leaders who understand that being a smart city directly impacts growth and indirectly impacts economic development, quality of life and quality of place.

“So what makes a city smarter is a city doing things smartly—leveraging innovation and opportunities to build and implement technology and adopt tools that make your community stronger,” Snow said.

Baton Rouge, he added, is actually considered a smart city. In late 2016, it was listed as one of the top five smartest cities among mid-sized cities in the U.S.

“It’s not just high density, high population cities that are making advancements,” he said. “Small cities have done incredible things given the resources available to them.”

A second session on “Making Cities Smarter” is underway from 10:20 a.m.-11:25 a.m. in the Manship Theater at the Shaw Center for the Arts.

Among the other highlights of today’s CPEX Summit, which concludes this afternoon, is a keynote address at noon by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, and a closing speech at 4:10 p.m. with Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

—Stephanie Riegel

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