On August 9, 2022, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (PIN) announced that the cities of Warner Robins, Athens-Clarke County and Atlanta, along with Henry County, were winners of the 2022 Georgia Smart Communities Challenge. The four communities will receive support for projects that leverage applied research, technology and data to advance innovation in smart resilience. The Georgia Municipal Association is a supporter of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge and PIN.
The award-winning Georgia Smart Communities Challenge supports teams of applied researchers, municipalities and nonprofit groups to work together over the course of the year on locally driven priorities ranging from installing sea level sensors for hurricane resilience to building digital twins for public safety and transportation.
The 2022 theme, Smart Resilience, sought projects that address topics including disaster response, energy efficiency and public safety.
“This year, we add four communities from across Georgia, spanning three economic development districts and including multi-disciplinary researchers from Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Middle Georgia State University, Clayton State University and Augusta University,” said Stephanie Broxton, the Partnership’s community research manager.
“The selected communities submitted strong multi-disciplinary, multi-university research project proposals that aim to advance innovation by leveraging technology and data. Communities from throughout Georgia were selected to ensure impact across the state.”
Each of the projects will receive financial and technical assistance to support and continue the work of implementing applied research from university partners, as well as assistance from the Partnership for monthly meetings, community engagement and promotion of project outcomes.
Georgia Tech is a proud member of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation,” Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Tech said. “We’re truly committed to creating opportunities for all Georgians to drive innovation and to make Georgia the Tech Capital of the East Coast.
Cabrera congratulated the Georgia Smart winners and added, “This work is sure to create lasting transformative change, not just for the winning communities, but also for their neighbors and everyone who benefits from this research in the future.”
The Georgia Smart Communities Challenge has a strong track record of success. Alumni have implemented their projects and garnered additional funding and technical assistance to continue projects beyond the two-year program period, allowing them to continue serving their residents and meeting community goals.
“As an initial Georgia Smart partner and long-time supporter of the Partnership, Georgia Power is proud to support innovation across the state through this announcement of a new cohort of Georgia Smart communities,” Chris Womack, chair, president and CEO of Georgia Power said at the event. “This cohort of Georgia Smart community projects is unique because it is inclusive, it supports multi-disciplinary and multi-university projects, and it fosters collaboration, with all communities working towards smart resilience initiatives.”
The 2022 cohort communities and projects are:
The project will use innovative diagnostic techniques to perform energy audits in Atlanta’s Thomasville Heights community, with the goal of achieving significant cost savings compared to traditional building energy auditing practices. The audits are done with minimally invasive drones equipped with remote sensing instruments to analyze building exteriors. The method holds promise for overcoming homeowner hesitancy about weatherization programs and can be replicated in distressed neighborhoods throughout the city. The project is especially timely in the Thomasville Heights community, where ongoing challenges such as acute unemployment and poverty will soon be compounded by the closure of long-neglected subsidized housing. Researchers from Georgia Tech and Morehouse College, and representatives from Focused Community Strategies will work with the city of Atlanta on this project.
“We are currently supporting neighborhood stabilization in Thomasville Heights,” said Dr. Latrice Rollings, assistant professor for community health and preventive medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine. "This project will allow us to use utility rebates and bulk purchasing as solutions for poverty amelioration and will reduce the cost of energy.”
The Climate Resilience Project through Technology and Transportation Innovation will evaluate and improve community preparedness in response to the growing severity of environmental disaster and the region’s increasing population. The project will include the development and deployment of a survey to gauge existing disaster preparedness and resident interest in improving preparedness in their communities. Leaders will engage with the community to create an all-hazards mitigation plan, neighborhood disaster playbook template and strengthened neighborhood-level resource and relationship network. The goal is to minimize risk and work toward providing equitable outcomes for all members of the community in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Researchers from the University of Georgia, Augusta University and Kennesaw State University will work with Athens-Clarke County on this project.
“Athens-Clarke County is dedicated to building a culture of readiness and resiliency for all of our residents,” said Mayor Kelly Girtz. “Through this partnership, I believe we will make Athens-Clarke County a safer, strong and adaptable place to live.”
The project will develop and test a Citizen Safety Digital Twin for Community Resilience through the integration of a dynamic license plate reader solution with police department investigation practices. The project team will build on previous work to refine an interface that enables the police department to see where crimes are predicted to occur and suggest placement of license plate readers to detect them. The team will engage with the community and key stakeholders to collect and analyze feedback about the system. This project will help Warner Robins to maximize both deterrence and detection, with the aim of lowering crime rates across the city. Researchers from Georgia Tech and Middle Georgia State University will work with the city of Warner Robins on this project.
“Police departments are under-resourced and understaffed around the nation,” Warner Robins Mayor LaRhonda Patrick said. “The use of technology has been a force multiplier to reduce crime. This grant will give Chief [John] Wagner and the entire police department team the tools they need to provide public safety for our city. This is proactive crime prevention.”
The Smart Resilience Decision Support Tool (DST) will be an interactive web-based tool to assist county planners, policymakers and county officials as they assess and explore the impact and potential of new greenspace, warehousing and freight-related infrastructure projects. The tool will help county officials answer the question: How can Henry County reconcile community economic development objectives with quality of life and energy resilience concerns? Researchers from Georgia Tech and Clayton State University will work with Henry County on this project.
“We are so excited and honored that Henry County has been chosen to receive the Georgia Smart Award,” said Carlotta Harrell, chair of the Henry County Board of Commissioners. “We continue to look for ways to improve and enhance transportation for Henry County residents and this continued partnership with Georgia Smart allows us to do just that.”