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NIST 'Global City Teams Challenge' to Create Smart Cities

The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and several partners today are kicking off the year-long Global City Teams Challenge to help communities around the world work together to address issues ranging from air quality to traffic management to emergency services coordination. NIST is inviting communities and innovators to create teams that will foster the spread of "smart cities" that take advantage of networked technologies to better manage resources and improve quality of life.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the Global City Teams Challenge today during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Business Forum, which is part of the Obama administration's efforts to increase trade and investment with Africa. The Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration (ITA) will support the challenge by assisting U.S. companies that want to export their products or services overseas for the first time or expand their international client base, and by connecting participants with government officials around the world.

This new challenge will leverage the success of the SmartAmerica Challenge, which from December 2013 through June 2014 brought together more than 100 companies, universities and other organizations to form teams that developed and applied networked technologies. That challenge demonstrated that these technologies have the potential to create jobs and business opportunities and provide socioeconomic benefits.

Smart cities rely on effective networking of computer systems and physical devices. These Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber-physical systems (CPS) currently account for more than $32 trillion in global economic activity, a number that is projected to grow as they bring improvements to health care, advanced manufacturing and a host of other industries.

"Many established cities have similar goals of improving air quality or delivering better health care—and emerging regions want to be smart from the start. But those projects often address only one city or region at a time," said Chris Greer, director of NIST's Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program Office. "The Global City Teams Challenge will help communities around the world work together on shared challenges. They will identify standards and measurements to guide technology innovators in creating solutions that can work anywhere and lay the groundwork for a future of smarter cities."

The challenge will kick off Sep. 29-30, 2014, with a two-day workshop at NIST's Gaithersburg, Md., campus that will bring together city planners and representatives from technology companies, academic institutions and nonprofits. The challenge is open to participants around the world, and international representatives will be able to participate in the kick-off meeting via webcast.

To support the challenge, NIST has teamed with US Ignite, a nonprofit focused on the creation of next-generation Internet applications that provide transformative public benefit. US Ignite will host the website where communities and technology innovators can sign up to create teams that will focus on particular smart city goals and challenges. Partners in the challenge will include the National Science Foundation; the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Health and Human Services; and, from the private sector, Intel, IBM, Juniper Networks, Extreme Networks and ARM Holdings, which work in these technology areas.

"The Global City Teams Challenge will be a good opportunity for public chief technology officers and private industry innovators to come together," Greer added. "Participating will help cities and innovators use IoT and CPS concepts in ways that improve quality of life in urban centers and also bring improvements to agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and more."

Examples of current smart city projects include the following:

  • San Jose, Calif., and Intel are developing a sensing platform to gather real-time air quality and vibration data to improve the quality of life for the city's residents.
  • Honolulu and IBM are providing transparent access to city data, encouraging better government-public dialog.
  • The Cleveland Connected Collaboration Corridor (4Cs) links four of the city's districts to support educational, residential and medical IoT projects through OneCommunity's fiber-optic network.

Register for the September 2014 workshop online. Learn more about the challenge.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. To learn more about NIST, visit

Released August 5, 2014, Updated January 24, 2023