Why the Readiness Challenge Matters

This information provided by Smart Cities Council Global.
Wed, 2020-01-15 14:35 -- Philip Bane

The 2020 Global Readiness Challenge is the result of many years of hard work including analysis of city needs, challenge design, outreach campaigns and over 45 workshops in North America alone. In this process we learned that face to face interactions at workshops and conferences, while essential in the learning process, failed to accelerate actual project planning

We have produced five continent wide challenges and have bit by bit, seen cities come to the realization that they can improve outcomes if they work with all stakeholders and reach out to other cities for alignment and scaling of smart technologies. Most importantly, we realized that the two biggest hurdles were capacity development and financing ...and we now resolve to address both.  So this is what we have done -

  • Offer an online free collaboration platform for cities to work internally and with other cities
  • Develped a set of actionable project roadmaps that provide a city a step- by - step process to deliver a result. 
  • Knowledge resources that provide cities with information from expert sources to use while they plan
  • Directories of what other cities are doing so cities can reach out to those that have the same goals

This is about 'cities helping cities.'

Now we are launching globally Smart Cities Activator to accelerate city project planning by integrating online and physical interactions a benefit that no other similar program offers. Open an account on Smart Cities Activator.

Read our short history of the Readiness Challenge and see how we are NOT doing it the same in 2020 as we did in 2017. In fact, we have learned from our experiences. There is hope for all of us if we learn and iterate -


The Smart Cities Council 2017 Readiness Challenge was open to American cities with a population of at least 100,000, but neighboring cities could pool together to meet the threshold. Winners received customized Readiness Workshops from the Council, plus an assortment of supporting technologies and services from many of our partners.

More than 150 cities participated. After submitting a comprehensive online application, ten finalists underwent an extensive phone interview. Several stakeholders from each city participated and explored their three key areas of focus for smart initiatives. The top leadership of many of our finalist cities was heavily involved in the process, a strong criterion for success in any smart cities initiative.

Finalists – Winners in Bold

Austin, TX  / Birmingham, AL / Chula Vista, CA / Indianaliolis, IN / Jersey City, NJ / Miami, FL / Newport News, VA / Orlando, FL / Philadelphia, PA / Providence, RI

Feedback -

“Winning the Smart Cities Council Challenge Grant puts us that much closer to creating a comprehensive and inclusive strategy to use technology in a way that benefits communities that are usually left behind.”

~ Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin

“A year ago, the city of Indianapolis was in a learning phase. ... Now, the city is in a planning phase, synthesizing available technologies with community needs to determine the most impactful steps forward.”

~ Katie Robinson, Director, Indianapolis Office of Sustainability

“Some of the folks I met with didn’t even realize the potential for what ‘Smart

cities’ means for their work. ... There is now a unifying vision.”

~ Ellen Hwang, Program Manager, Innovation Management, City of Philadelphia

Members of the Council also provided in-kind services to each of the winning cities including Ameresco, AT&T, Ch2M, Comptia, Qualcomm, DOW, IDC, Sensus, Telit, TM Forum, and Transdev.


The 2018 Readiness Challenge follows a successful 2017 competition. Eligibility was opened up to cities, counties, states, provinces and regional authorities in North America including Canada and Mexico. In 2018, the Challenge strove to provide communities even more help. Applicants were invited to participate in a workshop during Smart Cities Week in Washington, DC and to have solution experts provide advice and coaching to improve their applications.

The Council delivered customized, visual action plans to guide cities through their smart city journeys by bringing together world-class experts to each city for an on-sight Readiness Workshop to strategize each community’s needs and priorities including their elected officials, city staffers, civic leaders and community activists.

Finalists - Winners in Bold

Albuquerque, New Mexico / Aurora, Illinois / Birmingham, AL / Cary, NC / Fairfax County, Virginia / Las Vegas, NV / Los Angeles, California / Louisville/Jefferson County, KY / Commonwealth of Virginia

Puerto Rico - In 2018, the Challenge included a very special Readiness Challenge Award to help accelerate hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Their application was ‘smart from the start’. It included an integrated smart planning effort with internal and external stakeholders aligning goals and interests to ensure that replacement infrastructure would be smart.

Feedback -

“This grant is an invaluable opportunity for Puerto Rico to develop a roadmap for implementing smart technologies and solutions as we rebuild.”

~ Governor Ricardo Rosselló, Governor of Puerto Rico

“At Amazon Web Services, everything starts with the customer and we work backwards from there. The Smart Cities Readiness Challenge provides the opportunity to hear from city officials directly. Learning about their challenges at the earliest stages in planning allows us to work together to deliver citizen services that improve communities and help build a long-term roadmap for success.”

~ Hardik Bhatt, Leader for AWS Digital Government for the US State & Local Governments, Amazon Web Services

“Supporting and being part of the Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge process has been extremely valuable to Battelle. Beginning with evaluation of City proposals, through to working with the winners and runners up, we have gained tremendous insight into where cities are in their planning and visioning processes, and in their specific targeted areas for deployment. This information is crucial to our Smart Cities strategy and program and has allowed us to ensure our offerings to the market and cities are in line with where those city leaders and industry partners are focused. We have also been able to showcase our thought leadership, by working with cities directly on their technology roadmaps.”

~ Domnine Garcia, Smart Cities Program Lead, Battelle

Winning Cites also received coaching, products and services worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, all supplied free of charge by members of the Council: Sensus, Qualcomm, Comptia, Itron, EEI, Leidos, AT&T, AWS, Battelle, Bechtel, IBI Group, IES, Pennoni, Synexxus.


Our North American Readiness Challenge was opened to all levels of government in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, regardless of size. This spans the range from cities, counties, states and provinces to port authorities and regional associations. Utility-city and university-city collaborations were also eligible. Even innovation districts and smart developments had the opportunity to apply.

The Council developed a new application process in 2019 with its’ new online collaborative tool, Smart Cities Activator. This new application emphasized a more digital approach to collecting data from applicants and allowed each city to work collaboratively within their own departments. The tool enabled cities to build relationships and strategies across various departments to organize their priorities.

Using Activator cities began entering more than 200 project plans and ultimately 36 cities submitted Readiness Challenge Applications.

As in previous years, winners received a year of personalized coaching, an outcome- oriented Smart Cities Readiness Workshop and resulting Readiness Roadmap, project funding and financing connections, and the prestige of being among an elite group of Challenge Winners.

Another benefit to the winners in 2019 included free access to the Smart Cities Activator for one year, to help align stakeholders, refine plans and ultimately resulting in making projects in a better future position to be funded or financed.

Finalist – Winners in Bold

Baltimore, MD / Cleantech San Diego, CA / Dallas, TX /Edmonton, Alberta / Jersey City, NJ / Montgomery, Al / North Florida Smart Region, FL / Palm Coast, FL / Racine, WI / US-Mexico Smart Towns - regional

"The 2019 Readiness Challenge provided the City of Montgomery an opportunity for greater collaboration among our city stakeholders and partners. The Workshop provided a vehicle to share innovative ideas in 3 main focus areas including Digital City Services, Economic Development and Education and Workplace Development and we will continue to work toward moving our projects forward."

~ Savio Dias, IT Manager/Systems, City of Montgomery