The White House has awarded four projects a total of US $350,000 to improve the quality of life and urban resilience in Oregon’s Portland, Maryland’s Montgomery Country, Washington’s Bellevue and Virginia’s Newport News. The four projects are part of the Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC), an initiative launched by National Institute of Standards and Technology and US Ignite.
These grants come just months after President Barack Obama’s speech at this year’s edition of South by South West in which he urged entrepreneurs and innovators to apply their technological talent in solving city problems and increasing civic engagement.
In Portland, low-cost sensors to monitor air quality will be installed and tested. The project will create an understanding to how these sensors can aid a city while a list of guidelines will be released to other cities to encourage the usage of similar sensors.
A similar move was deployed in London in August, 2016. The city set up 2,500 toxic air monitors that will warn and advise the public on how to respond to local air toxicity. The air monitors will issue alert when pollution levels reach “high” or “very high” – something that has happened several times this year in the British capital.
“Montgomery County, Maryland, will enhance its Safe Community Alert Network (SCALE) project, which aims to ensure a safer environment for residents by using Wi-Fi enabled sensors to alert first responders to an emergency—a job that previously was accomplished only with phone calls,” an official blog post says.
“With the help of advanced sensor technology, elderly residents would no longer need to fear a fall, and families would no longer fall victim to a smoke detector with a dead battery. The county will take the prototype platform into a new stage of development that will allow it to be replicated in other communities,” it adds.
Bellevue’s project will share real-time data among government bodies such as the police department, the fire department and civic services as well as transportation and utilities’ authorities, improving city-wide connectivity. The data will eventually be shared with the public.
As for Newport News, a computer model to predict urban floods will be developed by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and eight partner cities in the Hampton Roads region.
“The project will create its models using water-level sensors and crowd-sourced data, and it will add a predictive modeling tool to plan emergency responses,” the blog post reads. “Some partner cities, such as the City of Norfolk, are working on a broader resilience strategy, so this project will help increase situational awareness of storm events for the entire region.”