After Columbus’ win, Cincinnati plans to be the smart city leader

After Columbus won the Smart City Challenge last year, cross-state rivals in Greater Cincinnati are banking on being the Buckeye State’s smart city leaders.

Committed to research and working quickly to make it happen, experts from Cincinnati Bell, government agencies, universities, and companies such as Nexigen are working together to speed along tech, while studying the resulting data and how it affects users.

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Nexigen’s co-founder and creater of the smartLINK network, Jon Salisbury, believes that these developments are happening more rapidly than he could have expected. He has been coordinating with several regional groups to be more innovative in a variety of subjects ranging from cyber-security issues, to technology and communication platforms.

SmartLINK nodes will soon be found in the main thoroughfare of the City of Newport, and Cincinnati Bell has already installed subsequent fiber optics.  Bell is also providing free Wi-Fi hotspots at many retail locations and has introduced a mobile app called Connect Cincinnati, according to a company spokesperson. Users are provided with special offers from over 200 participating businesses.

The dean of NKU’s College of Informatics, Kevin Kirby, says that Cincinnati is ahead of the curve, because of the technology provided by Nexigen, along with Cincinnati Bell’s efforts to improve infrastructure.

With this large increase in free Wi-Fi availability, smart city technology can use data gathered to learn more about residents and make even more improvements accordingly.  Smart technology can interpret important information from satellite signals, Bluetooth, TV, cellular and wireless data, and other devices that utilize radio waves.

“It would change the landscape of the city,” says Kirby, explaining that it could help people get to work more easily, via smart buses, smart cars, etc. “It would be a workable, livable space. It can reduce the carbon footprint.”

Although the use of this technology is almost limitless, caution is still necessary, according to Kirby. “Advertisers will want to reach citizens as consumers,” he states. “If every device is a tool for marketing to you, then we’ll want to reflect on that. Consumer analytics are good for use, good for the companies, but there are still limits, right?”

NKU will be studying the results

MyLo kiosks will be available to students on campus at NKU, as soon as the units are available from Nexigen. The university plans to study the resulting effect of the technology on the campus community.

“As the College of Informatics, it gives us the ability to experiment with how we mine data,” says Kirby. “They’ll serve a laboratory of sorts to see how the campus responds — including feedback on whether users think it’s a little too ‘big brother.’”

With so much work being put into smart city technology, Cincinnati has a new initiative to standardize it. Zack Huhn, the director of the Regional Smart Cities Initiative, believes it is important to establish Cincinnati as the central point for decision making and to ensure, along with others involved in smart cities initiatives, that communication works across the board.

Salisbury says standards and communication is a national issue, which is why Nexigen is working on a system to help city officials choose from a wish list of available technology for their cities. As soon as city officials choose their top priorities, projects can go out to RFP and vendors can bid on the jobs.

According to Huhn, the overall goal is to provide a global model for regional and national smart growth. He further notes that some things, such as regional transportation plans, are outdated in regard to smart cities. “We need to be more agile and better able to adapt,” he says.

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