Georgia Smart Communities Challenge Selects Four New Community Projects

Macon-Bibb is one of four communities named four new grant recipients of Georgia Tech's Smart Communities Challenge.

GPA is excited to continue our partnership with Georgia Tech on the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge:

MACON – After a successful launch in 2018, Georgia Tech’s Georgia Smart Communities Challenge named four new grant recipients at a special event at the government center in Macon June 18.

The 2019 winning proposals are Columbus Smart Uptown, Macon Smart Neighborhoods, Milton Smarter Safer Routes to School, and Woodstock Smart Master Plan and Corridor Study.

This is the second round of Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, a funding and technical assistance program for local governments in the state of Georgia. Recipients are to develop a pilot project around mobility and equity and smart resilience with assistance from a Georgia Tech researcher. The projects utilize smart technology such as intelligent infrastructures, information, and communication technologies; Internet-of-Things devices; and other computational or digital technologies such as data centers and portals, web and smartphone applications, and automated digital services.

“Georgia Tech is very proud to have played a leadership role in the Georgia Smart program, which we believe will improve the quality of life in the participating communities and also provide models for other communities throughout Georgia to consider as they strive to make life better for their citizens,” said Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson.

Here is the summary of each of the new projects:

  • Columbus Smart Uptown, Columbus-Muscogee County. The project seeks to improve safety and security, transportation systems, and connectivity to drive economic growth in the uptown district through the installation of Internet-of-Things devices, providing public wifi, and integrating data into management. Georgia Tech researchers involved include John Taylor of civil engineering and director of the Network Dynamics Lab, Neda Mohammadi of civil engineering, and Russ Clark of the College of Computing. The collaborators include Uptown Columbus and the Muscogee County Schools.
  • Macon Smart Neighborhoods, Macon-Bibb County. This project will address underserved areas of the community by installing smart kiosks that will provide internet connectivity and on-demand services. This will promote community empowerment and give an equal voice to all residents. Working with Arthi Rao of the Georgia Tech College of Design and the Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, the project’s collaborators include the Macon Transit Authority, Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority, Downtown Business Improvement District, Eisenhower Business Improvement District, Bibb County Schools, Mercer University, Middle Georgia State University, Central Georgia Technical College, and Wesleyan College.
  • Milton Smarter Safer Routes to School, City of Milton. To promote walking and biking to school, this project will create a network of programmed devices such as smart phones to connect students and parents and arrange supervised groups, designate safe primary routes, and provide wait times for students wishing to join the walking/biking groups. Kari Watkins and Angshuman Guin of the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering will provide technical assistance, and the key collaborator is Fulton County Schools.
  • Woodstock Smart Master Plan and Corridor Study, City of Woodstock. This project will conduct a smart corridor and infrastructure study to improve mobility and congestion in the city and deal with rapid growth and uneven commuting patterns. Ramachandra Sivakumar of the Georgia Tech College of Design and Center for Spatial Planning Analytics and Visualization will consult. Collaborators include the Woodstock Downtown Development Authority and Black Airplane design and development agency.

“The Smart Communities Challenge, at its core, is about helping communities thrive and grow for the future,” said Pedro Cherry, executive vice president of customer service and operations for Georgia Power. “At Georgia Power, we share in that commitment to building a bright future for our state and we know that technology plays a critical role. Working with a leading research university like Georgia Tech and investing in smart, innovative solutions with local community partners is just one way we are doing our part.”

In addition to naming the new round of recipients, Georgia Smart Communities awardees from 2018 provided updates on their projects:

  • Albany Housing Data Initiative. Led by the City of Albany, this automated housing registry system has built a coalition of collaborating departments that meet weekly to integrate the plan into the city’s operations. The data and database have been analyzed with more than 10,000-plus records included.
  • Shared Autonomous Vehicle Study. Led by the City of Chamblee, the project has prepared an autonomous vehicle operational document along a proposed one-mile route on Peachtree Road from the Chamblee MARTA station and City Hall. They are evaluating autonomous shuttle vendors and putting forth a phase two plan to extend a route to the Doraville MARTA station. The plan has been approved by the Chamblee City Council.
  • Smart Sea Level Tools for Emergency Planning and Response. Led by Chatham County, the Smart Sea Level Sensors project is a collaboration between Chatham Emergency Management officials, City of Savannah officials and Georgia Tech scientists and engineers who are working together to install a dense network of internet-enabled sea level sensors across Chatham County. So far, 30 sensors have been installed, and Jenkins High School students have been involved in assembling the sensors.
  • Connected Vehicle Technology Master Plan. Led by Gwinnett County, this project is evaluating traffic management technologies to improve vehicle mobility throughout the region. As the rollout continues, dedicated short-range communication vehicle-to-infrastructure roadside units are being planned for the area west of I-85/I-985, and request for proposals to install the equipment will go out this fall.

Tuesday’s event in Macon also highlighted student involvement in the projects. This summer marked the beginning of the Smart Community Corps. This is the first group of Georgia Tech students competitively selected to be embedded full-time into the project communities, while also receiving mentorship and leadership training.

  • Daniel Marchetto, City of Albany. Marchetto is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Public Policy at Georgia Tech and is expected to finish his degree in 2023. He received his master’s in Public Policy from Arizona State University and his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University.
  • Rey Angeles, City of Chamblee. Angeles is pursuing his master’s degree in Supply Chain Engineering and is expected to finish in December 2019. He is a Fulbright Scholar from the Philippines, where he finished his undergraduate degree, cum laude, in Communications Technology Management.
  • Akhil Chavan, Chatham County. Chavan recently graduated from Georgia Tech with a BS/MS in Mechanical Engineering. At Georgia Tech, he also served as the technical director for Engineers Without Borders – Uganda Chapter and interned at Argonne National Laboratory.
  • Kate Ferencsik, City of Savannah. Ferencsik is a third year Psychology honors student, Spanish minor, and a Stamps President’s Scholar at Georgia Tech. She is a Savannah native, and her insight about the city and past community outreach volunteering will be a valuable asset to our Chatham partners.
  • Zixiu Fu, Gwinnett County. Fu is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Computational Science and Engineering/Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech, and is expected to graduate in December. He received his bachelor’s degree in Biological and Agriculture Engineering from Texas A&M University, where he was awarded the William H. Aldred Endowed Scholarship

Students are also involved through the Civic Data Science, a group of students competitively selected from across the country to support the 2018-2019 projects by conducting the data science underpinning each project.

Work on the 2018 projects will continue as the grant ends in September 2019, which is the timing of the launch for the 2019 projects.

“We are proud of the work and accomplishments the first class of Georgia Smart has already achieved and know most will continue their research partnership in year 2. We are also looking forward to bringing a new class in and expanding the portfolio of smart applications for community and economic development.,” said Debra Lam, managing director of Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation at Georgia Tech. “Most importantly, though, we remain committed to all communities in Georgia and will continue to provide programming and opportunities for them as they develop their own smart future.”

In total, the Georgia Smart program has had 18 free events with 1,118 attendees and 110 national and local speakers. Webinars have been viewed more than 900 times, as well as monthly newsletters delivered to over 2,600 subscribers.

Collaborators in the Georgia Smart program include Georgia Tech, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Georgia Association of Regional Commissions, Association County Commissioners of Georgia, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Municipal Association, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Planning Association, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Technology Association of Georgia, and Georgia Power.

“Assistance through the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge helps local governments and the whole region address critical issues such as social justice, mobility, economic development, and many other important areas,” said Doug Hooker, ARC executive director. “Community initiatives are always more successful when they employ collaborative, people-focused approaches. Those qualities are what make this program an important effort for the region.”