CCI Selects Alexandria, VA For “Safe + Smart Cities” Pilot Project

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

Part of the Washington, DC metropolitan region, at no cost to its taxpayers, will soon learn how to harden its resiliency and maximize its operational performance through the efficient use of technology. 

City of Alexandria seal. That part of the region is Alexandria, VA, which has been selected by the Chesapeake Crescent Initiative (CCI) for its second “Safe + Smart Cities” pilot program. (The first pilot was conducted in Newark, DE.) CCI is now finalizing its “blueprint” containing a variety of practical recommendations, such as increasing electric grid resiliency, system redundancy, and operational efficiency. CCI is also in the process of linking communities similarly situated to Newark, DE together so the lessons learned from the blueprint might have a larger impact on the region. 

CCI is a public-private collaborative founded six years ago to support technological innovation. Its Safe + Smart Cities coalition comprises a group of experts from technology industries, academia, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the law, and the financial sector. Through its pilot projects, the coalition is providing pro-bono expertise and recommendations to selected municipalities in the mid-Atlantic region of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. These recommendations are intended to provide pragmatic and feasible options to help visionary urban communities achieve or exceed their “safe and smart” objectives while also increasing global competitiveness, sustaining regional economic growth, and improving citizens’ lives.

“Responding to the threat of climate change and sea level rise is central to my vision for a new Virginia economy,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “The CCI pilot project in Alexandria will provide valuable information and unbiased recommendations that can help enhance our communities’ resilience, quality of life, and economic growth through technology and innovation.”

“Alexandria is pleased and honored to be selected as a participant in CCI’s Pilot Program,” said Alexandria Mayor William Euille. “We believe the benefits we will gain in collaboration and partnership with the consulting team will enable our city to enhance its sustainability, resilience, and smart cities commitment toward our future growth and success.” 

“It’s hard to imagine that 99% of the physical world is not connected to the Internet,” said Clifford J. Thomas, managing director of Cisco Systems, Inc. “But cities can now act as hubs for the ‘Internet of Everything,’ where people, things, data, and processes can be connected to deliver new and amazing value for citizens.”

The Alexandria pilot project will kick off with a collaborative discovery process to understand the municipality’s technological maturity, its particular risks and vulnerabilities, status of its  infrastructure, and what tools could be used to help implement the city’s “safe and smart” vision. The process culminates in a collaborative workshop between the City and the Coalition. 

Based on the workshop and additional research, the team will produce a Safe + Smart City “blueprint,” which will outline “big picture” recommendations for improving and integrating critical hard and soft infrastructure functions including buildings, public safety, energy, transportation, water/wastewater, and information and communication technologies (ICT). The initiative will merge strategies for improving both resiliency and “smart city” technologies.

Commented Herb Miller, Co-Founder and Vice Chair of CCI: “Today, more functions are connected to the Internet than ever before. Governments have the responsibility to keep communities safe, while industry wants to make both people and their communities smarter. Our initiative is based on the premise that the same technologies that make people smart also can make them safer.”

 “At CCI, our work with academia, government, and industry led us to see the critical need for a cross-sector, integrated approach to making cities both safer and smarter,” added Stephanie Carnes, managing director of CCI. “Our coalition hopes to enhance the great work that already has been accomplished by local governments in this area.”

CCI’s Safe + Smart Cities coalition includes the following participants:

  • The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – to conduct research on the pilot municipalities as well as relevant State and Federal government programs and develop policy recommendations.   
  • The law firm Holland & Knight – to provide legal analysis, ensuring the legal viability of the team’s policy recommendations.
  • Several academic institutions within the region – including Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland, and the University of Delaware – that leverage their substantial expertise in the area of resiliency and risk mitigation).
  • A number of technology firms – including Cisco, Schneider Electric, AtHoc, Verint Systems, Inc., and Priority 5 – that examine the technological maturity of each pilot city, contribute vendor-neutral insights from a business and technical perspective, and offer suggestions on how the city can optimize its efficiency.
  • National Standard Finance – to conduct research on the current funding and financing tools available to each pilot city and identifies potential funding resources to help implement the project team’s recommendations.
  • Federal and state government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security – to ensure that the coalition’s recommendations are in line with existing government policies.

The ultimate objective of this pilot project is to develop a tangible, actionable, and comprehensive Safe + Smart Cities program that can: 

  • improve the overall operations and management of local government, both day to day as well as in times of adversity;
  • expand capabilities in urban data collection, analysis, and dissemination;
  • purposefully create beneficial new linkages among community residents;
  • help democratize and expand individual citizens’ participation in government; and
  • create an effective, replicable model of public-private collaboration.