St. Albert incubating smart city alliance

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The city is moving forward in its quest to become smarter.

The development and incubation of a smart city master plan and an associated alliance was approved as part of the 2014 municipal budget.

“I think it’s got, as a resident and an employee of the city, I think it’s got tremendous potential and value for the community,” said Travis Peter, the city employee tasked with being the project manager.

Peter is the strategic and intergovernmental initiatives manager for St. Albert and has already been at work helping to lay the groundwork for the formation of a smart city alliance.

Work on the “smart city” concept started earlier this year, though it turned out St. Albert already had some innovations that could be considered “smart.”

The smart city concept boils down to the use of technology and innovations to enhance operations throughout St. Albert. That can range from using sensors to monitor traffic to websites like the NextBus online service already in place for St. Albert Transit.

In addition to producing a master plan to present to council in 2015, an alliance is being formed between St. Albert, educational institutions and technology companies.

Peter said the University of Alberta, and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, IBM Canada and CISCO Canada have shown interest in being part of the alliance that St. Albert plans to incubate, which would ideally eventually be expanded regionally.

“We really don’t want to work on this strategy in a vacuum. Partnerships are key to our success,” Peter said. “It’s already been valuable and it’s only been a few months.”

A meeting between the potential partners is expected in early 2014. Hopefully a memorandum of understanding will follow, Peter said.

He’s even been in talks with American institutions like Harvard and MIT.

“There is a myriad of research in this field,” Peter said.

While St. Albert already has some smart city initiatives, and the plan isn’t due back until 2015, Peter said if there’s a good opportunity that comes up before then, it will be brought forward to council for consideration.

Peter said he finds the research around the “smart city” field compelling.

“It has been fascinating,” Peter said.

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