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US lags behind Europe, Asia in Smart City Index, but Ohio’s capital hopes to give it a fighting chance

With innovative technology on road sides and inside cars, Columbus has become a living lab for smart transport initiatives and has made life easier for residents.

US lags behind Europe, Asia in Smart City Index, but Ohio’s capital hopes to give it a fighting chance

Aerial view of a traffic junction in Ohio, USA.

COLUMBUS, Ohio: Seventy per cent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050, according to the United Nations. This means the need for efficient and environmentally-friendly smart cities is more critical than ever.

However, the United States – the world’s biggest economy – is lagging behind Europe and Asia. There are no American cities in the top 10 of the most recent Smart City Index.

Columbus, the state capital of Ohio, was once billed as America’s pioneering smart city.

In 2016, it beat 77 other small and midsize US cities to win a US$50 million grant to turn itself into the country’s smartest city.

“We're embracing new technologies in a way that we were not having conversations about five years ago,” said Ms Jordan Davis, executive director of Smart Columbus, the city’s smart city initiative.

“We have a fluency about electric vehicles and have done systems planning around charging autonomous vehicles, all because of this grant. And so our community is way smarter than we were when we started,” she added.

But according to the global Smart City Index, Columbus has not done enough to get on its top list.

EUROPEAN, ASIAN CITIES TOP SMART CITY INDEX

The Index is topped by Singapore, followed by Zurich and Oslo.

Experts said Asia’s population growth has forced its cities to make better use of technology, leading to the acceleration of smart cities in the region. Taipei is ranked fourth on the Index, while Seoul is number 13.

“Asia has exploded in population growth far faster than European or American markets. They've had to figure out how to house all those people in small places,” said Mr Adie Tomer, a senior fellow from think tank Brookings Institution.

“You see this when you spend time in Tokyo or in Singapore that they're just making better use of advanced technology because it's not just digital tech, it's any kind of tech that can get more people in close places.”

COLUMBUS’ SMART TRANSPORT BOOST

However, Columbus hopes to be giving the US a fighting chance with its smart transport boost.

With innovative technology on road sides and inside cars, the city has become a living lab for smart transport initiatives and has made life easier for residents.

One such resident in the suburb of Marysville, northwest of Columbus, fitted his car with a sensor which will interact with the roadside sensors in his hometown.

“It's amazing that a town of Marysville’s size even got involved. I think it is really cool and I'm just glad to be involved,” said Marysville resident John Wall.

Further along what is known as the "smart mobility corridor" in the suburb of Dublin, users can gather data in higher traffic areas, such as at traffic signals and a multi-lane roundabout, from street sensors and cameras.

Those driving the project said that the possibilities are endless, and are striving to become the smartest community in the country.

“Dublin aspires to be the most connected community in the United States. We mean that on many different levels,” said Ms Jeannie Willis, the director of transportation and mobility in Dublin city.

“We mean that in terms of transportation. We mean that in terms of smart mobility. We also mean that in terms of innovative technologies that connect people. And where it goes is really limited to the human imagination.”

The state’s university said its centre for automotive research is focused on helping the country and the world switch to clean and efficient propulsion systems.

“The technology is sort of accepted now, and we're in the mass rollout,” said Mr David Cooke, senior associate director at Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research.

“There's a tremendous amount of work, as we go from concepts that we knew could work to really getting those out in masses, seeing the problems in the field and helping to continue to innovate the technologies,” he added. 

Source: CNA/dn

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