Colorado Walks the Talk When It Comes to Collaboration

At the CO Smart Cities Symposium, state, local and business leaders put the concept of collaboration into action. One of the important outcomes of the conference was the announcement of The Colorado Open Lab, an effort of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance and Arrow Electronics, Inc., which have teamed with multiple public and private partners to create a space where “the practical meet the possible”.

The Lab will showcase smart cities projects such as smart lighting, smart mobility, and other smart solutions to civic issues, some of which have yet to be defined. It will be located in Arrow’s global headquarters and is supported by a $500,000 grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

One important initiative of the Colorado Open Lab is a new IEEE global edge-computing standard called Ambient Science, a team effort between Arrow Electronics and Intel.

“Arrow is delighted that Intel chose the Colorado Open Lab as the base for the development of this breakthrough edge-computing standard,” said Matthew Bailey, who heads up smart cities IoT for Arrow. “This is a great example of how Arrow and its partners are guiding innovation forward for our customers with the very best IoT technologies and solutions.”

The Colorado Smart Cities Alliance was formed just 18 months ago with partnership at its center. Co-founders include Jake Rishavy, Vice President of Innovation for the Denver South Economic Development Partnership; John Tolva, Co-Founder of CityFi; Matthew Bailey, Global Cities Lead for Arrow Electronics; and Sumanth Channabasappa, Founding Director of The CORE.

Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko

Denver is not the only municipality to benefit from the Lab. Smaller city leaders including Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko, City of Aurora CIO Aleta Jeffress, and Lone Tree City Manager Seth Hoffman vocalized their support, citing the value of partnership.

“Colorado has a reputation for civic innovation. This is yet another example of that,” stated Piko.

“We’ve already done the hard part…we’ve all agreed we are going to do it. Now just comes the execution,” stated Hoffman.

Lone Tree is already putting smart city partnerships in place and spoke of its early work with Uber and their city transit shuttles.

Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron spoke about how leading in a time of digital and urban evolution takes vision, strategy and an ability to see it through. “You have to stay committed to the bold idea,” he said. “You have to understand your community’s aspirations and help them get there.”

Colorado Department of Transportation Chief Mobility Officer Amy Ford

But it’s not just city leaders who are vocal about the need for radical change. Executives at the state level are also on board, something that sets Colorado apart. Colorado Department of Transportation Chief Mobility Officer Amy Ford stated, “when was the last time you had the opportunity to transform an entire sector? We are creating a Digital Mobility Future. If we’re not purposeful we will miss this opportunity.”

Ford cited the work of the Alliance to bring together multiple stakeholders across industry and public sectors.

“We have learned that we can’t work in 50 year increments. We have to work in three to five year increments,” she said.

The intent and the actions of the Alliance are aligned with the pace of smart city projects, which is a very real challenge for many in the public sector. This is not to say that the will of specific civic champions isn’t there. It is just that it takes many different stakeholders across local and state jurisdictions to understand and embrace the reality of digital modernization.

When it comes to smart city efforts, it can challenging to find alignment between local and state efforts. Add to that the complexity of large cities and smaller towns, which often brings up urban versus rural issues, and it’s easy to see why so many U.S. efforts struggle to scale beyond pilot projects.  But Colorado is working hard to show a united front that signals they are ready to work with everyone who can deliver innovation. The rest of the U.S. is smart to look to Colorado, the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, and its partners — including the Colorado Technology Association — for examples of how to bridge gaps, focus fractured ecosystems, and move toward a smarter future.