Birmingham hosts Smart Cities Readiness Workshop

Birmingham's economic growth is contributing to the city's largest budget, according to Mayor William Bell. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Strategic plans for how Birmingham will become a smart city are being laid out over the next two days during the Smart Cities Readiness Workshop. The workshop is part of the Smart Cities grant awarded to the city of Birmingham earlier this year.

“I believe our city is in the middle of an evolution that is really changing what and how we are doing things in our city,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in his opening remarks. “This is fueled by the Smart Cities grant, which helps us become a more inclusive and competitive government. This gives us the opportunity to integrate our systems and raise the bar for tech and innovation, as well as provide more coordinated, user-centered services for our residents and small business owners.”

The workshop aims to use technology and data to improve public safety and quality of life in Birmingham. Projects underway include smart street lighting, bus rapid transit and community Wi-Fi. Strategy sessions will address community health, transportation and mobility and economic empowerment.

Birmingham hosts Smart Cities Readiness Workshop to address key issues from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Woodfin stressed the importance of the partnership that collaborated to win the grant, saying it took a coalition to obtain the grants, and it will take a coalition to do the work.

Alabama Power and the University of Alabama at Birmingham partnered with the city of Birmingham with additional support from the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, the Jefferson County Commission and the city of Hoover,” Woodfin said. “These coordinated strategies helped secure Birmingham’s winning application. We’re here because of all your hard work. And on behalf of the residents of Birmingham, we thank you.”

To speak on the importance of this partnership, Alabama Power’s Vice President of Birmingham Division Jonathan Porter and the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s President Dr. Ray Watts were on hand to give remarks.

“Mayor Woodfin and I are both natives of Birmingham and we are serious about serving our people,” Watts said. “We’re going to do that with the great resources of UAB. Partnering with the city and Alabama Power, really there is no limit to what we can do.”

“The ongoing dialogue and discussion that will take place over the next few days during the workshop – and the strong collaboration to follow – will set the stage for Birmingham to become a better place to live and work while improving social equity and economic competitiveness,” Porter said. “These efforts will ultimately incorporate digital technology to help improve public safety, community health, economic empowerment, transportation, energy and more.”

Attendees for the workshop include people from both Birmingham’s public and private sectors to provide insight into what they can offer and their thoughts on how Birmingham can use technology and data to tackle local challenges.

The first half of the day included presentations from grant partners on smart city initiatives already underway, like smart street lighting.

Dr Mashariki addresses Birmingham Smart Cities Readiness workshop from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki shared best practices on how New York City used data to become a smarter city. Mashariki was involved in numerous smart city initiatives as the chief analytics officer and head of Urban Analytics for New York City.

“Our job was to be responsive to problems that cropped up on a daily basis that operational agencies needed help with,” Mashariki said. “Data analytics helps drive efficiency toward a city’s operations.”

The day concluded with breakout sessions to develop strategic plans. The areas of focus were transportation, economic empowerment and community health.

You can check out the entire opening program below.

Republished with the permission of the Alabama Newscenter.