University centre looks at global focus: Conference explores smart development; Dave Hall, The Windsor Star
November 18, 2011

Ronnie Melrose of IBM UK speaks at the Intelligent Community Initiatives Conference that was held at Caesars Windsor on Nov. 16, 2011

Building on the momentum achieved earlier this year when the WindsorEssex region was named one of the top seven intelligent communities in the world is the impetus for establishing an Intelligent Community Institute at the University of Windsor.

The institute would have a threepronged focus - economic recovery in a post-manufacturing economy, cross-border economic relationships and later-life retraining for displaced workers, said Kristina Verner, research and development officer for the university's Centre for Smart Community Innovation.

"It would be an expansion of our current centre and turn it into a global centre of excellence for smart community development and growth," Verner said Wednesday. "The ground work has been done and we expect to make our presentation to university administration in mid-December.

"The key now is to not lose the momentum generated by our finalist status earlier this year," she said. "It was a tremendous achievement and establishing this centre will mean we'll be fully prepared for any future applications."

It now appears that the region will hold off until 2014 before making a followup application to the Intelligent Community Forum.

The Windsor area's involvement in the ICF process is one of the reasons it is hosting an national conference of municipal politicians, corporate contributors and researchers at Caesars Windsor designed to encourage smart city development across Canada.

More than 120 delegates from 21 communities from St. John's, N.L., to Coquitlam, B.C., are attending the conference designed to encourage the use of broadband technology to enhance smart city development in the areas of traffic, health care, crime fighting, government services and sustainable development.

"It's not just about the growth of this technology, it's about what we do with this technology to make our cities and communities more livable," said Bill Hutchison, chairman of iCanada, a group of progressive communities across the country.

In addition to individual smart city development, communities are also encouraged to participate in a Smart City Challenge. It was initiated and sponsored by IBM, which has committed $50 million over three years to 100 communities across the globe to accelerate the journey to smart city status.

Glasgow was one of the winners of the challenge last year for its public/private partnership designed to reduce carbon emissions across the Scottish city by 20 per cent in the next 20 years.

"The city of Glasgow today is not the city I grew up in 30 or more years ago," said Ronnie Melrose, of IBM U.K. "It's moved from a shipbuilding and manufacturing centre toward a social media, information technology and fine arts community. Our goal is to continue that movement and further transform the city."

The conference continues today.

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