Fortnightly Smartest Communities 2019


Award Winners

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2019

We at Dentons wish to congratulate the very deserving award winners of Fortnightly Smartest Communities 2019: Austin, Columbus, San Antonio, Spokane, and suburban Birmingham.

Our firm has been increasingly interested in this subject and created a global Smart Cities & Communities Think Tank with more than two hundred and fifty thought leaders from around the world. The more we have learned about smart cities through the Think Tank and through our work with clients, the more we realize just what a fast-breaking field this is, with developments occurring on a daily basis.

When we began our study of smart cities, we discovered that there is no universal definition of just what constitutes a "smart" city or community. It means one thing to a tech company, while meaning something quite different to city leaders, to citizens, and to various segments of business and industry. We set out to craft a working definition that would capture the essence of a smart city or community that would not only satisfy all of the various stakeholders but would also tie together in a coherent manner all of their disparate interests in modernizing the essential infrastructure of twenty-first century life. 

Here is what we came up with: A smart city modernizes digital, physical and social infrastructure and integrates all essential services for the benefit of its citizens by harnessing advances in sustainable technology to make delivery of these services more efficient, innovative, secure, equitable, and exciting.

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This definition has been well received, but it continues to evolve as we move deeper into our work. There are so many disciplines at play here. For purposes of approaching smart cities in a systematic manner, we have divided the concept into fourteen key "pillars," or areas of concentration, while recognizing that each overlaps in some way with all of the others.

Government leadership and public policy. Regulation. Technology and innovation. Energy. Telecommunication cyber and physical security and privacy. Consumer engagement and community social infrastructure. Finance. Investment and economic development. Transportation and mobility. Water, wastewater and waste. Buildings and city planning. Environment, health and safety. NGOs and universities. Global best practices. 

We believe that in order to take a city or community to scale quickly, the initial infrastructure platform should focus heavily on grid modernization combined with advanced telecommunications. A smart city is an electrified city. A secure, resilient, reliable, multi-directional electrical and telecommunications system is the essential foundation upon which other smart technologies can be layered, enhancing all essential services. 

There are many initial pilot programs and other initiatives that can be implemented on a fast-start basis. But piecemeal initiatives without upfront integration of digital, physical and social infrastructure will not get a city to scale as quickly, and may risk aggravating, at least temporarily, some of the inefficiencies and access problems that a smart city program is intended to address.

We cannot over-emphasize that a critical component of a smart city or community - sometimes overlooked - is modernization of social infrastructure. Clients of ours have urged us to emphasize equity, security, data protection and privacy, access and interconnectedness of all citizens. Cities are about the people who inhabit them: their needs, their lives, their stories. Cities that understand this and incorporate social infrastructure into their smart city master plans, like those recognized here by PUF, will be the cities that thrive as we move into the future.


Fortnightly Smartest Communities conversations:


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San Antonio


Suburban Birmingham

  • Jim Leverette, Senior Research Engineer, Southern Company
  • Todd Rath, Director of Marketing Services, Alabama Power
  • Shon Richey, Marketing Support Manager, Alabama Power
  • Joe Gammie, Business Development Engineer, PowerSecure