ALBANY — Four Georgia communities — the cities of Albany and Chamblee and Chatham and Gwinnett counties — will launch seek “smart” solutions to their problems through a Georgia Tech-led program that will implement smart design solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the state.

Georgia Tech officials, along with representatives from program sponsor Georgia Power, met with members of the Albany and Dougherty County governments and educational leaders in Albany Tuesday to announce the projects, which tackle housing, traffic congestion, sea level rise and shared autonomous vehicles. The program is supported through the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge.

This new initiative brings together industry and public agencies to help local governments implement smart development. The strategies developed by the selected communities will serve as models that could be implemented elsewhere across Georgia.

The program provides seed funding and access to technical assistance, expert advice and a network of peers. A Georgia Tech researcher will advise and conduct research in support of each group’s goals.

“Georgia Tech is excited at the opportunity to collaborate with four of Georgia’s dynamic communities in this inaugural Georgia Smart Communities Challenge,” Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson said. “The enthusiasm for this new program has been gratifying, and we look forward to seeing how Georgia Tech’s research expertise and the communities’ vision of smart development mesh together to improve the lives of their citizens. These groundbreaking projects have the potential to become models for other communities around our state.”

The winning proposals were:

— Albany Housing Data Initiative: Led by the city of Albany, the project will evaluate an automated housing registry. The system will allow for improved neighborhood infrastructure and revitalization and encourage a safe and sustainable housing inventory for the city. Assigned Georgia Tech researcher: Omar Isaac Asensio, assistant professor in the School of Public Policy.

— Shared Autonomous Vehicle Study: Led by the city of Chamblee, the project will study improvements in mobility through the use of autonomous vehicles that travel from MARTA stations into the community. This will reduce road congestion and increase pedestrian and traveler safety. Assigned Georgia Tech researcher: Ellen Dunham-Jones, professor in the School of Architecture.

— Smart Sea Level Tools for Emergency Planning and Response: Led by Chatham County, this project will develop and test a pilot sensor network for measuring sea level flood risk during natural disasters and storms. The network will improve flood warnings, emergency response action plans and predictions for future flood events. Assigned Georgia Tech researcher: Kim Cobb, Georgia Power Chair and professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

— Connected Vehicle Technology Master Plan: Led by Gwinnett County, this project will evaluate traffic management technologies for improved vehicle mobility throughout the region. The technology will improve safety and connectivity. Assigned Georgia Tech researcher: Angshuman Guin, senior research engineer in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The teams will each receive $50,000 in grants and $25,000 from Georgia Tech in research support. The selected communities each raised an additional $50,000. Georgia Power is the lead sponsor of the program, with additional financial support from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

“At Georgia Power, we’re committed to investments in smart technologies and collaborative partnerships that improve service to our customers, as well as the quality of life in local communities,” said Latanza Adjel, vice president for sales at Georgia Power, who leads the company’s efforts in energy efficiency and other areas. “We’re proud to have worked with some of the most innovative public leaders in the state as part of this project and congratulate the winners of the Smart Communities Challenge for exploring and embracing new technologies that can benefit thousands of our Georgia neighbors.”

Georgia Smart supports communities of all sizes, including smaller towns that may not have been as prominent in smart development because of a lack of resources. Seventeen communities applied for the program.

While each selected team is led by a local government, the work will be a collaboration between different government agencies and nonprofits.

Work on the projects is set to begin in September and continue through September 2019.

“The four selected communities show cities of all sizes can work on smart development and that these projects are strongest when done through collaboration,” Debra Lam, managing director of Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation at Georgia Tech, said. “Other cities will not be excluded from the broad Georgia Smart community as we remain committed to supporting smart development across the state and beyond.”

Writer with The Albany Herald.

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