Feb 18 2020

Phoenix Regional Group Takes a New Approach to Smart Cities

A new consortium aims to develop a regional approach to smart city technology deployment.

Why merely build a smart city? Why not create a smart region — and do it in a thoughtful way?

That’s what a newly formed group in the Phoenix region aims to do. In November, the Partnership for Economic Innovation, together with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Maricopa Association of Governments, Arizona State University and the Institute for Digital Progress, launched Greater Phoenix’s Smart Region Consortium, otherwise known as “The Connective.” 

The Connective’s approach aims to help cities adopt smart city technology in a “reverse-engineered” way, Chris Camacho, president and CEO of GPEC, tells Smart Cities Dive.

Instead of purchasing smart city networking and hardware products up front from vendors and then deploying them in the hopes they’ll solve problems for residents, The Connective aims to gather input from residents in the Phoenix region to discover how technology can be used to meet their needs. 

The group’s five core goals are to improve residents’ quality of life, drive equity, enhance revenue, promote sustainability and resilience, and support economic competitiveness, according to the group’s website.

An Informed Smart City Approach Near Phoenix

The Connective says its community members and industry partners “will collaborate to take on the large-scale regional and sub-regional opportunities affecting Greater Phoenix citizens,” according to a press release

The goal of that collaboration is to develop “implementable, interconnected, affordable, and interoperable services that enhance the quality of life for the citizens and businesses in Greater Phoenix,” according to the group. 

The Arizona cities and towns of Apache Junction, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Chandler, El Mirage, Fountain Hills, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Queen Creek, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe, Tolleson and Youngtown have committed to participate in The Connective. The municipalities will pay a group membership fee. 

According to Smart Cities Dive, The Connective will audit and analyze residents’ input to find solutions that can work across those municipalities. The hope is that developing solutions will be effective, scalable and cost-efficient. 

“Once patterns are pinpointed, The Connective will put out calls for innovation, allowing private sector companies to partner with the group and assess how needs can be met with technology,” Smart Cities Dive reports

The group argues that this approach is different than that of many other city groups. “The Connective is to be driven by the priorities and needs of the cities, towns and the county — and not the research agenda of a university or the commercial interests of any one technology company,” Diana Bowman, co-director for the Center for Smart Cities Regions at Arizona State University, tells Smart Cities Dive. “That makes The Connective incredibly unique and also powerful.”

The Connective will be funded through a mix of public and private funding sources, according to the group’s website. “Funding will directly support research, training, testing, data management activities and Greater Phoenix branding,” the group says on its website. 

Industry partners that want to work with the group will be required to make a minimum three-year commitment.

Stephane Frijia, senior vice president of strategy at GPEC, tells Smart Cities Dive the group’s first-year budget should be roughly $1 million, with most of that going toward basic research needs. “They will also invest in additional platforms to facilitate stakeholder communication and keep track of projects,” Smart Cities Dive reports. 

The Connective is also seeking additional capital from industry partners, according to Frijia.

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