Rob Phocas of Charlotte at Smart Cities Forum in Philadelphia, September 2018

Charlotte sends 12 to smart cities conference in Philadelphia

A dozen Charlotte community planners and digital strategists participated this week in a smart cities conference in Philadelphia, learning about new initiatives in artificial intelligence and self-driving vehicles, among other things — and about how these developments will impact Charlotte.

Discussion and presentations at the Knight Smart Cities Forum focused on placing people at the center of smart-based solutions.

“Put aside the tech gadgets and recognize the value of Smart Cities to enhance government’s ability to be of service to the people,” wrote Charles Thomas, Charlotte director for the Knight Foundation, in a tweet from the conference. “It’s critical for cities to be intentional about centering residents, trust, equity, and building social connectivity.”

In one panel, Rob Phocas of the City of Charlotte described smart city collaboration with members of the community in the North End Smart District. The panel included Antwi Akom, chief executive officer of Streetwyze and a professor at the Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab in San Francisco.

The Knight Foundation, which organized the forum, announced a $5.25 million initiative that will engage residents of five cities around impacts, needs and requirements created by self-driving vehicles. The cities are Detroit, Long Beach, Miami, Pittsburgh, and San Jose. Lilian Coral, director of national strategy for the Knight Foundation, led the forum.

The Charlotte contingent included J’Tanya Adams of Historic West End Partners; Jill Bjers of Open Charlotte; Bruce Clark of Digital Charlotte; Amalia Deloney of the Media Democracy Fund; Seth Ervin of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library; Darryl Gaston and Melissa Gaston of the North End Community Coalition; Francis Koster of The Optimistic Futurist; Rob Phocas of the City of Charlotte; Douglas Shoemaker of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Lindsey Sipe of Project LIFT; and Charles Thomas of the Knight Foundation.

Photograph above: Rob Phocas (center) on a panel at the conference. Photo by Shelly Prichard of the Wichita Community Federation.