When Scott Fadness assumed his role as the first mayor of Fishers, Ind., three years ago, he wanted to make sure that the city's government and residents wouldn't be left behind by technology growth and adoption.
Investing time and effort into investigating and implementing emerging technologies is quickly becoming a key to pushing economic growth for regions. So, Fadness started on a path to conceptualize and launch an Internet of Things laboratory in the city — the first in the state of Indiana — that would put Fishers on the map as a hub for innovation and enable the city's departments and agencies to evaluate new connected tech use cases as well.
"Over the last few years, we've set our sights on becoming a city that values organic entrepreneurial growth," says Fadness, adding that this means encouraging startups and a healthy technology ecosystem throughout the city. Fishers started with a tech-focused coworking space that acted as a hub for Software as a Service and other tech vendors, but city officials gradually realized that they needed to deepen their interest in emerging tech to spur economic growth.
"Over the years, we've realized that this Internet-of-Things economy is really going to transform a lot of the traditional industries we see so prevalently here in Indiana: manufacturing, agriculture and distribution," says Fadness. City leaders formed an economic development strategy that greatly depends on enabling smaller companies and startups to "dip a toe" into the technologies, like IoT, that will modernize and automate these traditional industries.
"We wanted to make sure we could create an environment where we could build a bridge between tomorrow's companies and yesterday's companies," says Fadness.
Indiana IoT Lab-Fishers is scheduled to open on March 21. City leaders hope that local talent can help companies develop and implement technologies and techniques core to the IoT movement, including edge-device development, cloud computing and Big Data analytics.
"We wanted to find those next-generation companies locally in central Indiana, have them locate in this lab, and then have them go out and connect with the industries that we find all around us," says Fadness.
Indiana's IoT Lab Sets the Stage for Smart City Initiatives
Although the lab is officially set to open in spring, the city's local government agencies are already using the talent and tools found there to develop and test connected technologies that can streamline government operations and services.
"Having that talent in the IoT lab is very intriguing for us from a city perspective," says Fadness.
Fishers' police department officials are talking with vendors about putting up cameras and sensors throughout the city to help monitor crime.
"Our law enforcement agency and police department are not well-suited necessarily, to chew through much of those concepts, so they've reached out to the experts at the IoT lab to help them understand and better make those decisions about these products," says Fadness.
On top of that, the city's police chief is speaking to members of the IoT lab about how the department can inject IoT and Big Data into its forensics work in order to better catch credit card scams and other related crimes.
And the city isn't resting on its laurels when it comes to developing IoT concepts and talent. In April, Fishers is hosting an IoT Hackathon that focuses on public safety. The hackathon's 300 participants will be presented with various public safety challenges and will have 24 hours to come up with an IoT-focused solution.
"The IoT Lab really will have two purposes in our town going forward," says Fadness. "While the first is about economic development, the second is about helping our city government have a deeper understanding and knowledge of smart city and IoT initiatives."