City-based Technocrats are thrilled that Biden’s recently passed infrastructure bill will lather cities with billions of dollars for smart city projects designed to light up the Internet of Things, provide ubiquitous surveillance and wrap in outlying areas that are currently out of reach of the surveillance state. Did you think that infrastructure spending was about fixing potholes and bridges?
In recent years, smart cities have received criticism for over-promising and under-delivering—or, in many cases, failing to deliver at all.
However, due to a combination of new government funding and what experts say is a shift in perspective about how to approach these projects—from tech-first to resident-first—smart-city experts told us they’re optimistic about the prospects in 2022.
“What we’re seeing now is that you can have connectivity, electrification, and autonomy. You don’t have to just pick one,” Karen Lightman, executive director of the Metro21 Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, told Emerging Tech Brew. “We can, with some catalyst investment money from the federal government, encourage the private sector to come in and jobs can be created. I really feel like 2022 is the year.”
The year ahead
The recently passed infrastructure bill contains $500 million in grants that cities around the country can apply for to pursue their own smart-city efforts, from building out autonomous and connected vehicles infrastructure to kickstarting smart-grid projects. The bill also carves out $65 billion to expand broadband to underserved areas around the country, including less-connected urban areas.
“There has been a lot of talk about doing things, but cities are not well-funded. They don’t have a lot of money to spare. This is going to be huge,” Andres Carvallo, CEO and co-founder of smart-grids and smart-cities consulting firm CMG Consulting, told us at the time.
Lightman called the bill a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to connect people historically left out in infrastructure efforts.