Government and Corporate Programs Seek to Stoke IoT Innovations

Through programs such as the Global City Teams Challenge and Google's search for IoT research projects, public and private organizations are looking to move the Internet of Things from concept to reality.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

The GCTC—a collaboration between US Ignite, a private-public partnership (formed by the White House's Science and Technology Policy Office and the National Science Foundation, and launched June of 2012) and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)—is a year-long program that launched this fall with a two-day workshop, held on Sept. 29-30, at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Md. Rhee is co-leading the GCTC along with Joe Kochan, a US Ignite management consultant. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together teams (called "action clusters") consisting of city planners and technologists from the private sector, as well as from academic institutions and nonprofits.

Between those in attendance at the Maryland event and others who followed along remotely, Rhee reports, 350 people participated in the workshop. Soon thereafter, individuals who participated in the workshop, as well as others who have since applied to the program, assembled into 32 teams, based on complementary skills and ideas. Now, these teams are moving their initial ideas through development and prototyping stages. On Feb. 12-13, representatives from all 32 action clusters will reconvene at the NIST campus for a tech jam, where they will be able to provide demonstrations of their projects-in-progress and seek any additional partners needed to meet the June 15, 2015, deadline for submitting prototypes of their projects.

Sokwoo Rhee
The GCTC provides guidance and helps team members find any talent or other resources they require to advance their projects, Kochan explains, but the organization does not provide direct funding. The teams need to self-fund or find other sources to finance their projects.

Rhee thinks that in the past, smart city technology pilots have suffered by relying on an initial batch of (generally government) funding and then petering out once that funding is consumed. "Smart city projects have to be built on a sustainable business model," Kochan says. "That is what we're trying to encourage through this process."

Specifically, Rhee says, that means ensuring projects are scalable and replicable across a number of cities. "That's how we're building economies of scale in IoT deployment," he states. For example, SCALE: Safe Community ALErt network—one of the GCTC projects formed during the SmartAmerica Challenge—is being developed by more than 15 organizations from the private and public sector. This team is developing a system by which remote monitoring and an automated emergency alert system can be used to support the health and safety of elderly residents within low-income communities. Funding to test the technology came from team members, which include IBM, AT&T and Massachusetts General Hospital, but the funding to run the actual program has already been secured from Maryland's Montgomery County, where the system is being developed. "Word got out, and now other cities, including Kansas City, are interested in deploying similar projects," Kochan says.

"The IoT needs a playground, a place to deploy and flourish," Rhee states. "Smart cities are great place where all these different partners can come together."

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