Smart City Series: Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Pixabay

Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Pixabay

In the fifth (and final) of our Smart City Series, we are featuring Columbus, Ohio--winner of the first ever National Smart City Challenge. With an award of $50 million in grant funding, Columbus is reinventing city mobility through a data-powered operating system called the Smart Columbus Operating System. The goal is to diversify transit options while increasing efficiency, accessibility and sustainability. 

Here are 5 of the city’s most innovative smart city technologies to watch: 

Smart Mobility Hubs
Columbus is creating centralized transportation hubs that will increase accessibility and limit the need for personal internet access. City residents will be able to access free WiFi and a wide variety of transportation options via an interactive, digital kiosk known as “IKE” (Interactive Kiosk Experience). They’ll also have access to emergency calling, social services, maps and a trip planning and payment service. This standalone unit provides real-time travel information while giving power and access to the user. 

Self-Driving Shuttles
The Smart Columbus Initiative has partnered with DriveOhio, a division of the Ohio Department of Transportation dedicated to autonomous vehicle technology, to launch the Smart Circuit program. Smart Circuit is the first self-driving shuttle in Ohio. It circles downtown Columbus, providing free rides between some of the city’s most popular destinations. The shuttle uses sensors to help determine location, speed and any roadblocks in its way.

Connected Vehicle Environment
Columbus will soon begin their pilot program to install “on-board units” onto public and private vehicles. This smart technology enables communication between connected units, allowing for in-car alerts for collisions and blind spot detection. It also creates a general “connected vehicle environment,” helping improve overall traffic flow and mobility for emergency vehicles, as needed. 

Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure
By 2020, Columbus is anticipating they will have 755 electric vehicles (EVs), spanning the public and private sectors. In preparation, the city is building a charging infrastructure, with more than 900 charging ports. Incentives will be offered to workplaces, government offices and residential buildings that allow ports to be installed on their properties. 

Event Parking Management
Launching in March 2020, Columbus visitors will be able to use an app to view, reserve and pay in advance for parking spaces in garages and surface lots. They’ll also be able to check the availability of on-street spaces. The app will use predictive analytic technology, hopefully reducing congestion, driver frustration, and carbon emissions that come with large-scale events. 

Columbus is using their smart technologies to become a leader among Midwestern cities and to become a model for the future of smart urban transit. What “smart” technologies is your city is implementing? Leave us a note to discuss below.

Channeling a Passion

Source: Emily Hartmann

Source: Emily Hartmann


Emily Hartmann, one of our newest Communications Consultants, is no stranger to mission-focused work. With a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Emily has channeled her passion into a career. Her previous experiences include working for the Climate Action Business Association and the Department of Energy Resources in Boston, MA.

Emily’s background in environmental work has helped bring an energetic and creative approach to her new role within the public safety sphere. We are sharing Emily’s story of how she’s integrating her background and passion into the challenge of a new industry.

What inspired you to join Corner Alliance?

Emily Hartmann: I was inspired to join Corner Alliance after meeting the great community of people I would be working with. Everyone I met through the interview process was extremely welcoming, helpful, and supportive. It’s important for me to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace; it’s where you spend most of your time on any given day. I also feel it’s important for me to feel like the work I’m doing serves to benefit society in some way. I’m very happy to be a part of Corner Alliance’s mission.

What drew you to this communications consultant role in particular? 

EH: In my job search, I was specifically seeking a role that would allow me to deepen and develop my writing skills. I have a passion for campaign work, and for taking complex information and turning it into a digestible format. This communications role checked both of those boxes for me. 

How do you feel your role contributes to the overall growth of the company?

EH: I feel that my role gives me the opportunity to communicate Corner Alliance’s mission - “where your mission matters” - and work in new and compelling ways. 

In what ways does your background and passion for renewable energy and climate change have an impact on your work with our client, PSCR?

EH: While this content area seems to be a pivot from my background in environmental work, the climate crisis is continually becoming more of a public health and public safety issue facing the world. Increasing temperatures, extreme weather, frequency of wildfires, and sea level rise all pose an enormous threat to humanity - and each of these crises requires a response from public safety personnel. PSCR is specifically working to improve first responder operations to ensure more lives and property are saved. I’m happy to play some small part in their mission to improve public safety operations. I bring the same passion for environmental work to my role with our client PSCR; because increasing efficiency among first responders is an important mitigation strategy against the impacts of a changing climate.

Are there skills from these previous experiences that are particularly helpful in your role? Which ones, and why?

EH: Many of my previous positions were working in advocacy roles for environmental non-profits. My experience in taking convoluted environmental policy or climate science and creating brochures, social media posts, guides, and one-pagers that could be understood by the general public has been extremely helpful in my role working with PSCR. PSCR has a diverse set of stakeholders - and my experience in addressing many different audiences in my previous roles has been invaluable in my communications role with Corner Alliance.

What have you found to be fulfilling--and challenging--about this role?

EH: The supportive culture among the Corner Alliance team has been very fulfilling. People make sure to recognize you for a job well done, and are sure to check in with you if you have too much on your plate, or are struggling in any way. Challenges: there can be a lot of barriers to manage with federal, public sector communications, which has been a new challenge for me in this role.

What have you found sets the company apart from others you’ve worked for, or are familiar with?

EH: Corner Alliance places a great deal of emphasis on creating a welcoming and positive culture. Even though I work in Boulder, CO, and most of the company is located in Washington, DC, I still feel connected and part of the team. Corner Alliance encourages and inspires conversation, knowledge sharing, and growth across the company. 

Corner Alliance is a company where your mission matters. What does this mean for you?

EH: Corner Alliance truly focuses on the individual set of skills that each person wants to grow within themselves. I find that proactivity and advocacy are attributes that are deeply valued among my team members. If there are certain abilities I want to develop, or projects I want to work on, I feel encouraged to speak up for myself and supported in my professional development.

What insight might you offer to those considering applying to the company?

EH: I would encourage anyone applying to showcase their passion and aspirations, because that’s something that’s truly sought after and admired by Corner Alliance!