Knight Awards $1.2 Million for Municipal 'Internet of Things' Projects

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced grants totaling $1.2 million to ensure that so-called smart technology is applied in the public interest.

As part of its commitment to NetGain, a partnership of the Ford, MacArthur, Mozilla, and Open Society foundations, Knight awarded grants of $200,000 to city governments in Akron, Ohio; Boston, Massachusetts; Detroit; Miami; Philadelphia; and San Jose, California. The cities will explore how the Internet of Things (IoT) — the connection of everyday objects to the Internet — can be deployed in responsible and equitable ways. Akron, for example, will work to develop a "smart city" pilot program based on IoT technologies and apply it to the Main Street corridor in its downtown business district, while Boston will "open source" city assets by creating a process and platform for researchers, advocates, startups, and citizens to place sensing technologies around the city and use the data collected for the public good.

In addition, Knight and MacArthur will provide support for the MetroLab Network, a group of universities and city governments working on technical solutions to urban challenges. On its own, Knight is supporting a series of convenings led by the Harvard University Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society that will explore how cities approach the implementation of IoT.

"As cities increasingly use the Internet of Things to reduce costs, increase sustainability, and improve services, we need to be acutely aware of its impact — both good and bad," said John S. Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for technology innovation. "These cities will help create a model and guidelines for the thoughtful and responsible use of IoT, linking its development to the public’s benefit."

For more information on the pilot city initiatives, see the Knight Foundation website.