Philly Wants to Be Smarter Through Tech

The city's new "Smart City Challenge" is a call for ideas on how improve city living through tech. | f11photo | f11photo

Philadelphia is trying to get smarter, and it’s putting its faith in tech.

The city just launched the “Smart City Challenge,” an open call for suggestions on how to improve city services and operations through technology. Think Philly needs a better surveillance system or a reliable public Wi-Fi system?  The city says it wants to hear your ideas for how technology can move things along.

“We know the people of this city – in the neighborhoods and in the private sector – are steeped in great ideas, and this is an effort to tap into that wealth of creative thinking,” said chief administrative officer Rebecca Rhynhart, in a statement. “Whatever your background, if you have an innovative idea on new uses for city assets, we want to hear from you.”

The city has offered some suggestions on the type of ideas it’s looking for including a street lighting system that can be controlled remotely, technologies that can detect changes in traffic flow or parking availability, and even detection devices that can identify a gunshot and send information to the city’s 911 center while alerting cameras in the area to focus on that location.

Philadelphia’s history with big tech innovation is not without its blemishes. In 2005 former Mayor John Street launched the now defunct, “Wireless Philadelphia,” the city’s attempt to create a citywide low-cost WiFi network. The failed program still costs the city about $1.2 million a year. The city is even open to ideas about how to address the loss it has experienced from previous efforts.

In a statement, the “Smart City Challenge” hosts say they are hoping to hear from technologists, telecommunications specialists, social entrepreneurs, engineers, architects, designers, and general city enthusiasts working locally or internationally.

The challenge consists of two phases. The first phase is a Request for Information period with submissions due by August 12th, and the second stage is a Request for Proposals based on submissions from the first round. To submit an idea, visit the Citymart page.