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How teamwork will make Indianapolis smarter

Submitted by doug.peeples on February 9, 2017

Smart cities are all about livability, workability, sustainability and resilience. But it takes monumental effort for a city to provide such a high quality of life for its citizens. Many cities can take on smaller projects on their own, but most don't have the expertise, staff and budget to dive into massive citywide transformations on their own. The story below outlines the major projects Smart Cities Challenge Grant winner Indianapolis is planning, why those specific project areas were selected and its strategies to ensure success.

The key takeaway? One of the most important elements in the Indianapolis strategy was to bring on partners early – including area universities, state and other local governments and the business sector. If your city is planning a major upgrade in one or more areas, take a tip from Indianapolis and recruit knowledgeable partners who have a stake in what you're trying to accomplish. — Doug Peeples

Indianapolis is concentrating its smart city efforts in three very 'big' areas: energy, water and transportation. While the city is known popularly as the home of the Indianapolis 500, one of the country's top auto racing venues, it is much more than that. The metro area's population is growing faster than most and its tech industry is growing too.

As Mayor Joe Hogsett put it, now is the right time for the city to take on major projects. "Indianapolis' culture of innovation and rapidly expanding tech industry provide strategic advantages to our smart city planning, particularly in the areas of water, energy and transportation."

Erik Hromadka, CEO of Indianapolis partner Global Water Technologies, agreed. "We have a unique opportunity to show national leadership in deployment of smart solutions for water, energy and transportation. This recognition (the Challenge Grant award) reflects years of hard work and investment in Indianapolis to create a world-class city." Global Water Technologies is an Indianapolis-based company and an affiliate of the Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation.

The city already is preparing to build the country's first electric bus rapid transit system and is developing 16 Tech, a new hub for smart cities activities that will pioneer new citywide digital infrastructure.

What's making it all happen?
Ask Lauren Riga, the city's assistant administrator of redevelopment, who arrived in Indianapolis in 2015. "We have a wonderful group of stakeholders who are actively engaged – from the state level to the university level and different government departments." In addition to Indiana University, that group includes the local county government (which is combined with the city's government), Purdue University and others.

Riga plays an important role. "One of my tasks has been to help formulate a team around what 'smart cities' is and what it means for Indianapolis . In order to set up cities of the future, we need to know what that looks like. We've been working at the intersection of economic development, emerging technology and next-generation infrastructure.

"I think the tools and technical assistance that the Smart Cities Council  will provide will enhance our capacity and lay some foundation to catalyze our efforts going forward."

Mark your calendars for Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley...
Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley will bring together city leaders and technology innovators to explore trends and disruptive technologies for smart cities. The conference kicks off on Monday, May 8 with in-depth pre-conference workshops on crucial topics such as resilience and readiness. Click to learn more and register.

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