on September 22, 2015 / by Downtown Dallas Inc. / in Blog Posts, Doing Business, Economic Development and Planning

Can Dallas be a “Smart City”?

What does it really mean to be a ‘smart city’? It’s more than just having free city-wide Wi-Fi. A Smart City is a city where social and technological infrastructures and solutions facilitate and accelerate sustainable economic growth, and importantly, improves the quality of life in the city for its citizens across multiple key areas.

To be considered a ‘smart city’, we must make significant strides in five of the following areas: energy, mobility, technology, citizens, buildings, healthcare, government, and infrastructure (infrastructure MUST be one of the five to be considered).

So, where does Dallas stack up to other major cities, and how can we improve? According to a report by Frost & Sullivan, Dallas has advanced work in four areas: energy (thanks to Oncor pioneering the smart microgrid), citizens (because we have a high concentration of entrepreneurs and advanced degrees), buildings (because we have 32.7% square feet of commercial green space), and government (implemented Dallas Open Data portal), but we are lacking in the areas of mobility (lacking in bike share and suffer from signal obsolescence), technology (we only have free Wi-Fi in some public spaces like libraries and schools), infrastructure (we have 7,000 AMI meters but should further expand the program), and healthcare (we stand to greatly improve public health through North Texas Accountable Healthcare Partnership Health Information Exchange).

That puts us behind cities that are smart now like Chicago, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C., and those that will be smart by 2025 like Austin, Los Angeles, and Portland.

So, how do we ensure Dallas is on track to be a smart city moving forward?

Well, it’s time we find out, which is why Downtown Dallas, Inc. has joined forces with many other organizations, corporations, and the City of Dallas under the leadership of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center to form the Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA). This week, at an event hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in conjunction with the inaugural Smart Cities Week, Dallas announced the formation of a public‑private partnership dedicated to executing a smart cities plan for Dallas. Dallas was one of only four cities that had announcements recognized by the White House and was the only city that was announcing their first foray into the Smart City community. The DIA is a coalition of stakeholders from the City of Dallas, corporations, civic and NGO organizations, academia, and private individuals who are invested in Dallas’ continued evolution as a forward‑thinking city where social and technological infrastructures and solutions facilitate and accelerate sustainable economic growth, resource efficiency, and importantly, improves the quality of life in the city for its citizens. Operating from a foundational vision that smart cities are about people – and not just technology – DIA is focused on the end user, and building a critical mass of the most highly‑engaged citizens in the country. Led by the Dallas Entrepreneur Center (The DEC), the Dallas Innovation Alliance is comprised of founding Charter Members: Mayor Mike Rawlings and the City of Dallas, AECOM, AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown Dallas, Inc., Texas Research Alliance, and The Real Estate Council (TREC). AT&T also announced their Smart Cities initiative and would be working with the DIA to implement a solution.

DIA’s work will be complemented through the City of Dallas and the Texas Research Alliance’s participation in the MetroLab Network, a national effort also announced this week at the White House, a national consortium of university‑city teams focused on sharing solutions to difficult problems in urban infrastructure. The MetroLab Network will bring together university researchers with city decision makers to research, develop, and deploy (“RD&D”) technology and analytically based solutions to the problems facing the systems and infrastructure on which our citizens, cities, and regional economies depend. The Network will focus on common challenges facing cities in order to develop shared, scalable solutions that can be deployed across the Network.

Across the city, innovative projects have been implemented in recent years, from organizations including the Dallas Arts District, the Dallas Police Department, and DART. An initial goal of DIA is to collate and aggregate all of the good work being done, and leverage results and lessons learned into a comprehensive plan focused on a single neighborhood that can be replicated throughout the city. Initial efforts will be centered in Downtown’s West End Historic District, where a confluence of multimodal transit, walkability, historic buildings, and a burgeoning innovation district will be ground zero for the city as a living lab, where a three‑pronged strategy will center on infrastructure, mobility, and connected living. DIA will leverage insights and momentum stemming from recent initiatives including the 2014 New Cities Summit, Downtown Dallas 360 plan, and results from Dallas’ IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Grant as a catalyst to execute a multi‑phased strategy reflecting Dallas’ commitment to sustainability and strengthening the urban core. For more information on the initiative and to get involved, please visit www.DallasInnovationAlliance.com.

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