Bringing Smart Gigabit Technology to One of the Nation’s Innovation Centers
With a major research university, a blossoming tech and startup community and hosting of one of the largest gatherings of innovators in the country, Austin’s bona fide smart city status is unquestionable.
As a hub of technology and innovation that has grown rapidly in recent years, Austin is a go-to for tech solutions and experimentation for businesses and researchers alike. The city has worked for years to incorporate advanced wireless technology into its fabric, blending in tech innovations with a self described “weird” local culture that stars delectable barbecue, creative food trucks, and live music at every turn.
Austin has long established itself as a haven for those pushing the boundaries of technology. The University of Texas at Austin, the flagship campus of the University of Texas system, consistently ranks as one of the top universities in the nation and is hailed as one of the world leaders in computer science and technological research.
The university esteem is reflected back by forward-thinking companies such as Amazon, Google (Google Fiber internet is available for Austin residents and businesses), Facebook, Apple and more that have put down roots in Austin, complementing a vibrant startup community on par with vaunted Silicon Valley. The city is home to one of the fastest-growing markets for tech jobs—with more than 53,000 already in the city—helping to fuel its overall growth.
Austin has jump-started its Smart Gigabit Community status since being added to the roster in July 2016. In 2017, Austin hosted the GigaTECHs Competition, for the area’s civic-minded app developers and entrepreneurs to compete by coming up with next-generation Gigabit internet applications that provide transformative public benefit. Some of these applications are in development and on their way to making an impact in the city—and around the world:
Path to Python aims to provide free training and instruction for coding in Python, a programming language, to students in the city and across the country. This would allow lower-income students the opportunity to learn coding—a vital skill for the tech world—at their own pace, while taking pressure off of teachers who may not feel equipped to teach the subject.
Just in Time VR aims to bring virtual reality training to the EMS personnel that work on the Ambus, a bus-size ambulance used for large scale emergencies. In the wake of an emergency like 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, the need for well-prepared emergency personnel became more apparent. Just in Time’s programming would allow emergency workers to prepare using virtual reality, rather than through sporadic trainings, in order to keep their skills sharp year-round.
Smart city technologies create opportunities for Austin’s residents, but also for the city itself to continue solving its challenges. Austin is the recipient of a Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge Grant, which offers winning smart cities a tailor-made Readiness Workshop to develop a roadmap for addressing local issues. Austin plans on using this workshop to design strategies and solutions for affordable housing for underserved populations, tackling mobility and economic development issues that have been heightened by Austin’s rapid growth, booming tech sector, and attractive quality of life. The city is concentrating its efforts on reaching people who could benefit from a government that’s more responsive to their needs, but rarely take part in traditional forms of civic engagement. “Winning the Smart Cities Council Challenge Grant puts us that much closer to creating a comprehensive and inclusive strategy to use technology in a way that benefits communities that are usually left behind,” says Austin Mayor Steve Adler.