FREDERICTON– The CEO of Ignite Fredericton says New Brunswick’s capital has a good shot at taking home one of two $10 million prizes from the Smart Cities Challenge.
Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge is a national competition open to municipalities, regional governments and Indigenous communities. The Challenge encourages communities to adopt a smart cities approach to improve the lives of their residents through innovation, data and connected technology.
Communities submit a proposal by April and winners are chosen next winter. The winners receive a cash prize to implement their proposal. There are several tiers of financial prizes based on population, and Fredericton qualifies for the $10 million prize tier.
The City of Fredericton is currently collecting input and ideas from residents about what area its proposal will focus on. This is being done through its website, social media and local events.
“We’ve decided that the month of February will be the month that we collect the information from both citizens and businesses of Fredericton. Part of the process of this Smart City Challenge is really defining what your what your challenge statement is, which sort of defines the project or projects that you want to do,” says Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton.
“That challenge statement can be quite large and meaningful and impactful. It could be significant things that a city determines as its priorities that technology and smart city initiatives can help to improve.”
Once the input is gathered, Shaws says Fredericton’s Smart Cities Task Force will go through the findings and establish what’s called a “challenge statement” around that.
“It could be as simple as how do we improve bussing in the city or it could be as complex as how do we address poverty or homelessness. It’s a wide range of things that will fall under what essentially a Smart City could help to enable,” says Shaw. “When you think of a smart city, people quite often think of automated streetlights and ways to measure water usage and those technical aspects of a city and how its run. The Smart City Challenge is much broader. ”
Shaw says Smart Cities Challenge is looking for ideas that go bigger and broader than just having more efficient utilities. They are looking for projects that have a social impact and can improve the quality of life for citizens. He uses the idea of small homes as an example.
“Look at something as simple as the small home program,” he says. “What if you translate that into a strategy of dealing with homelessness? What if you brought in smart grid technology to have them the most efficiently run small houses and started to use that data in a meaningful way that made life better for folks there that maybe are challenged?”
Shaw says Fredericton has been a leader for years in embracing smart technology and innovation and the city has a solid shot at taking home one of the $10 million prizes.
“I would be fully expecting to be standing on the awards stage in 2019,” he says. “We’ve been a leader in this space for quite some time and there’s no reason that we wouldn’t go into this initiative knowing that we have a high chance of walking away with a prize.”
But if not, he says their work of putting together the proposal wouldn’t go to waste. Their plan will likely still happen, just maybe not as quickly.
“If we weren’t fortunate enough to win one of the prizes, going through this exercise is not for a lost cause because it will help frame the work that we need to do over the next number of years anyway,” says Shaw.
However, if Fredericton were to win, Shaw says implementing their proposal would spur economic development in a few different ways.
“If you’re fortunate enough to win, that’s a significant amount of seed money that you can go forward and begin to develop new services and put the infrastructure in place to provide the smart city and smart community services,” says Shaw. “Just that in itself drives business, it drives partnerships that you have to have in place. The process of deploying the services and solutions you develop from that award is in itself an economic driver.”
It’s still very early in the process, so Shaw says the focus right now is to get as much of the community engaged as possible,
“Let’s get creative. Let’s have some fun trying to figure out what some of the challenges are and how we might be able to tackle them … We don’t want this to be a top-down sort of initiative, we want this to be grassroots,” he says.
“We want the citizens to be engaged and understand and get their voice heard so the first phase of this thing will sort of open it up let’s figure out how we can be creative and make it a fun project and get engaged. “