CC042: Jordan Davis of Smart Columbus // Looking into the future of smart cities (from CES 2020)

In All Episodes, CES-2020, Coffee Chats, Community Builder by jayclouseLeave a Comment

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Jordan Davis 0:00
We’ve invested $11 million in building a new open source data management platform that I don’t think many cities would even have the ability to do. This is kind of a one time chance. Now the, what we’re looking at is, because it’s been open source, how do we build adoption and governance around a tool like this so that more people can take it and do what they want with it.

Jay Clouse 0:24
The startup investment landscape is changing, and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to Upside.

Jay Clouse 0:52
Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Jay Clouse, and I’m accompanied by my co-host, Mr. Media Trailblazer himself, Eric Hornung.

Eric Hornung 1:02
Wow, Jay, you recognized my accomplishments.

Jay Clouse 1:05
I did. Well, you’re wearing them around your neck. You got a ribbon around your neck, just showing it off for the world.

Eric Hornung 1:09
Look at this. They don’t just give that out to anybody. You can’t just buy that a Pat Catan’s, which went bankrupt, so..

Jay Clouse 1:16
Pat Catan’s?

Eric Hornung 1:17
Pat Catan’s.

Jay Clouse 1:18
Oh, what is that?

Eric Hornung 1:18
It’s an art store in Cleveland.

Jay Clouse 1:22
It’s a deepcut.

Jay Clouse 1:23
Yeah, it’s a deepcut. Only the real OGs will get that. Yeah. So we were nominated for by, we don’t know who because they won’t tell us, a random source. And that source nominated us for the CES media Trailblazer awards, gives you a free flight, free hotel and a bunch of VIP access out here at CES.

Jay Clouse 1:47
It’s great. It’s what brought us back to CES for year two. Feels good to be recognized. It’s great to be back out here meeting more founders, more investors, and it’s really great to meet other up and coming journalists.

Jay Clouse 1:58
Yeah, I think it’s really cool to hear from them on, just like, what they do in their full time jobs and how it’s so different from what we do in this part time job.

Jay Clouse 2:08
Totally the first night that I was here. I was walking around–first night, second night? Second, as here I was walking around a showcase of something like 100 exhibitors that were hand-selected and pulled into this other room, and a lot of our trailblazing peers were really scrambling to cover the big announcements from Samsung and Panasonic and Bosh, and I’m just kind of like, what’s the weird small thing that no one’s paying attention to yet? Our friends over at Siq were in that showcase. I met John Chaney and the flash, which was great. But yeah, it’s a totally different world of expectations and what coverage looks like and I like playing around and finding the early stage stuff.

Jay Clouse 2:45
Yeah, I think I’m going to drop some quotas on you going forward, Jay.

Jay Clouse 2:50
How many episodes, how many episodes per day are we recording?

Eric Hornung 2:54
Man, it’s really cool because you do see that everybody has different styles, too. There’s this is investigative piece that some people like to do on bigger companies and bigger trends, there’s these kind of quick hitters that are the five things you got to see. And then there’s like maybe some more kind of profiling or narrative storytelling.

Jay Clouse 3:11
So back here again this year, CES 2020, looking at different trends this year than we saw last year, one of those trends being smart cities. And so, even though, we flew all the way out to Vegas, we interviewed a good friend of mine who is one of the most knowledgeable, well researched individuals in the Smart City space, Jordan Davis. Jordan is the director of Smart Cities for the Columbus partnership in Columbus, Ohio. She was an instrumental part in Columbus, Ohio, getting the US Department of Transportation Smart City challenge grant, which brought $50 million to Columbus, along with a $40 million matching grant from Vulcan, along with hundreds of millions of dollars of private sector investment. Jordan, in an effort to help build Columbus’s Smart City team, has done a ton of research all over the world, not even all over the country, at what other communities are doing to try different things out. And we had the good pleasure of sitting down with her over Korean BBQ and chat a little bit about smart cities.

Eric Hornung 4:11
There’s you know, when you interview someone for a podcast, I have to imagine, you’ve been on a few podcasts. It’s a pretty, like, mentally intense thing to do. So, I think the fact that we made her eat while doing that was probably a little mean.

Jay Clouse 4:26
Not even just eat but like, cook.

Eric Hornung 4:28
Cook. Yeah.

Jay Clouse 4:29
prepare.

Eric Hornung 4:30
Yeah, it wasn’t like you know, here’s a plate of food. It was, here’s a plate of raw meat. Cook it, don’t overcook it.

Jay Clouse 4:36
You can under cook it a little bit, if that’s what you want.

Eric Hornung 4:38
Right.

Jay Clouse 4:40
So, enjoy this interview with Jordan, you’ll hear some sizzling of the grill and the background. If you have thoughts or questions related to Smart Cities as we go through this interview, you can tweet at us @upsidefm or email us hello@upside.fm. We look forward to hearing from you. And we’ll talk to Jordan right after this. Eric, what is your favorite kind of pie?

Eric Hornung 5:01
Dude, apple pie all day. Also, I’m kind of on the fence between apple pie and apple crumble, and are they the same thing? Or are they different? Either way, they’re both delicious. Little scoop of vanilla ice cream, carmel. I bet you didn’t think you were going to get that much of an answer from me on that one.

Jay Clouse 5:17
A lot of detail. So I want you to imagine a pie chart and we’ll even make it an apple pie chart.

Eric Hornung 5:22
Mmm.

Jay Clouse 5:23
Let’s cut that apple pie in half 50% of it is technical recruiting. 25% of it is executive search and 25% of it is sales, marketing and product. That is the breakdown of the different types of searches done by our friends over at Integrity Power Search is the number one, full stack, high growth startup recruiting firm between the coasts. They partner with venture capitalists, private equity groups, and CEOs to build amazing teams for the world’s most disrupting companies. Fifty percent of their searches are technical recruiting, 25% Executive Search, and 25% sales, marketing and product. So if you are hiring, dear listener, I would get a hold of Integrity Power Search.

Eric Hornung 5:59
How would you do that, Jay?

Jay Clouse 6:00
Just go to upside.fm/integrity to learn more about what they do and how you can get involved. That’s upside.fm/integrity.

Eric Hornung 6:09
It seems to me like you lead with pie, and I don’t get any pie. Am I, am I losing on this one?

Jay Clouse 6:15
You are getting no real pie. It was simply a visualization.

Jay Clouse 6:19
Who’s cooking us lunch right now.

Jay Clouse 6:26
Alright, we’re sitting here at Gangnam.

Eric Hornung 6:29
Gangnam. Like Gangnam style, remember?

Jay Clouse 6:32
Yes. And to set the scene, we’re at a red table. Korean barbecue restaurant, so there’s a burning grill in the middle of the table.

Eric Hornung 6:42
Here, I’ll let you hear a little sizzle.

Jay Clouse 6:45
The Upside sizzle reel. And the whole left side of the table is covered in the food that we are going to eat throughout the duration of this podcast. But as we eat we’re seated here with our friend Jordan Davis.

Jordan Davis 6:57
Literally.

Jay Clouse 6:59
Literally cooking is lunch after a long day of sitting on panels, and we’re going to talk a little bit about Smart Cities, transits and all things that Jordan is experienced in her time leading the Smart City effort in Columbus, Ohio. Jordan, why don’t you talk a little bit about the panel that you were on today?

Jordan Davis 7:17
Oh, well, it’s the start of CES. And so the region of Las Vegas is kind of leveraging being the host city and bringing people from around the country that are in town for the CES to talk about trends in our cities and what we’re seeing around the country in regards to smart cities and transportation.

Eric Hornung 7:36
What are some of those trends that you’re seeing on maybe a 10,000 foot level?

Jordan Davis 7:40
Well, I think the impetus of smart cities started with just basic, digital transformation of how government works. But now with how you’re seeing disruption come to like stakeholder rich industries, like transportation or telecommunications or energy, governments and cities have to figure out how to regulate these things differently, how to change their operations, how to deliver services better with using technology. And so for where we are today, I think some of the most interesting Smart City work is in transportation in terms of like connected, autonomous transportation. But we’re also really spending a lot of time thinking about data and how does the internet of things as it comes to operate city functions in governments? Like how do you manage data? What data should be made public? How do you share it between the public and private sector? How does that all work? And then how do residents experience getting government services? And can you make those digital versus kind of more, like a DMV is a great example. We still go to a physical DMV, we still wait in line to get, you know, a plastic card. And in the world of everything on our phone, like, how do you start to make, bring convenience to people’s lives through government services.

Jay Clouse 8:57
I want to step back and do a little bit of context setting you started doing some of this work back in 2014, ’15?

Jordan Davis 9:04
Yeah. ’15, ’16.

Jay Clouse 9:06
And that was because you were helping with the application on the federal or US Department of Transportation Smart City challenge.

Jordan Davis 9:15
That’s right.

Jay Clouse 9:16
What was your understanding of what Smart City technology or like projects were at that time?

Jordan Davis 9:22
Great question. So at that time, it was really focused on proofs of concept. So like, are these technologies that the private sector is talking about actually practical in a city environment? Like can they actually improve people’s lives and how we function? And so like a good example is autonomous vehicles. At that time, autonomous vehicles weren’t really deployed in cities. So like, can they actually work on public roads or they just, you know, concepts for really interesting challenges? Electrification was maybe a different one, like we were really focusing on, we believe that transportation will be electrified now, especially given all the investments that the automotive companies are making. But at that time, it was more of, well, some of these cities who are very climate forward are doing it. And so what’s the transition between electrification being an economic development or actually like a cutting edge technology from a performance standpoint versus just the sustainable policy priority? And like, where does that transition happen? So I think it was both a policy, scaling issue and also just a proof of concept, like, does this stuff actually work? And today, three years later, we’re at a totally different place, I think. It’s more pilot oriented proof of concepts. People believe in it now. There’s such an adoption that the future of transportation will be a connected, autonomous, shared electric. It’s like, that’s the norm. Everyone believes that now. So now what are all the different ways that will bring it to life? And how, what are the business models for making it sustainable?

Jay Clouse 10:56
Is there anyone who’s currently winning Cities?

Jordan Davis 11:01
Well, I would argue Columbus is.

Eric Hornung 11:03
Oh, that was a softball.

Jordan Davis 11:05
Let’s be honest.

Jay Clouse 11:06
And similarly, back to 2016, or whatever when you were trying to do this, were there any cities that were, like, really forward thinking before this federal attention was being paid to it?

Jordan Davis 11:16
Yeah, I think Europe, I would say most notably, has been investing in the Smart Cities space the longest and doing the…they’ve been at this for a decade more than the United States. So they’re absolutely still leading and were at the time as well. But what you are seeing in a lot of US cities is it was only like one dimension that a city was pursuing. San Francisco was doing smart parking, and they were getting really good at parking management through an app. But they weren’t holistically thinking about how do you connect these systems and think about all of this as a system, not just one project. So I think that there were a lot of cities at the beginning Kansas City notably had a lot more going on. It was around the same time that Uber was just starting to do their r&d in Pittsburgh. So Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon’s partnerships were pretty on the forefront at that time. But lot’s changed.

Jay Clouse 12:10
Why do you think Europe kind of stepped out into the front early? Because typically, when it comes to technology, you don’t hear, yeah, there are a lot of cities in Europe that were leading the way on this. What were they experiencing, like, in their cities that was getting them to think more forward on this?

Jordan Davis 12:27
Well, I think their governments were financially a bit healthier, especially while we were going through the recession, governments weren’t really, you know, spending a lot of money on perfecting their services. That just wasn’t the appetite. But I also think that they had built these open data standards pretty early on, which facilitated a lot of collaborative innovation with government really ahead of its time. And in many regards, their sophistication and technology and data in government was just ahead of our appreciation for that type of skill set in our governments. Like they were hiring, you know, Chief cyber officers and, you know, data experts into their governments, you know, before we were. And so they just had the intellectual capital, I think, inside to make it a priority.

Eric Hornung 13:13
From like a historical context, even going back way further than three years ago, is, and this might be a dumb question, but is there–

Jay Clouse 13:22
It probably is.

Eric Hornung 13:22
Yeah, it probably is. Like, is there precedent for smart cities? Or has it always been kind of evolving by a different name? Or is this like a new revolution slash something completely new?

Jordan Davis 13:33
Well, I mean, I think anything new is old, right? We’ve done a lot before just different generations. I mean, you think just about transportation. We, hundred years ago, we transitioned from a horse and buggy to an automobile. And we went through that. And if you look at culture change during that time, you had the red flag laws that were like people would come out and raise a big flag so that pedestrians and people would know there was a car coming, you know, people were scared of this stuff. And so I think we’ve always figured out how to embrace technology in the public realm. And we’ve figured it out. I think what’s different about this era, most notably, is that, twofold, one, the change is happening way fastero, so the systems and processes of government are being pushed to a new level, and so that’s what I think is very different than maybe other generations. But then also, I think the requirement for government to innovate itself and how it works is much more a part of the conversation than just regulating innovation, right? Like changing the whole way, you might run a traffic management system. We haven’t seen that in a long time until it was really created in the modern time. But now you’re using data to recreate transportation demand models, let’s say, or how you would pick up trash, because you’re only doing it based off of when trash is needed to be picked up, not just on a routine, right? So the efficiencies in government are really being challenged through technology in a totally different way that we’ve never been able to do before.

Jay Clouse 14:57
So you get pulled into this world and circa 2016 because Columbus is applying for this grant competition. What are some of the other cities that applied for this?

Jordan Davis 15:05
So there were 78 cities that applied. Columbus was one of those. And then they had seven finalists cities that went, you know, about three more months in the process. Those seven cities were San Francisco, Portland, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and us.

Jay Clouse 15:23
Really impressed you remember that whole list.

Jordan Davis 15:24
Yeah, me too.

Jay Clouse 15:27
And then Columbus walks away actually winning that. Did you think through the process that we are going to win that grant?

Jordan Davis 15:34
So I remember when we were a finalist, I did like this like handicapped matrix of like the other cities, the pros and cons and what they had, you know, that we didn’t. And I think it came down to why the government was doing the challenge in the first place is why we won, because they wanted to invest in a city that was replicable and relatable to the most amount of cities so that they could take this one investment and habits, learn, learnings be as valuable as possible. And so investing in like Portland, let’s say, right is a little unrelatable some cities believe, right? Portland’s Portland or San Francisco’s San Francisco. But Columbus is something that people can say, Oh, well, most midsize cities could do that if Columbus could do it. That was probably our biggest benefit. We were not the most qualified at that time to receive it. Like, San Francisco was further ahead than us. Kansas City was further ahead than us. Our ideas, I think, were better, like the portfolio of projects were much more cutting edge and more comprehensive. And then the focus on people and our public sector and the community really set us apart, too. But San Francisco actually raised more money. They were like 120 million, we were only 90 million. But they were from only two private investors. We had 22 private investors, so they were like little nuances. I felt pretty confident though. We put our best foot forward.

Jay Clouse 16:58
So day one, after getting the grant, do you guys start building? Or what does, what does it look like to start working on a smart city plan for a community?

Jordan Davis 17:08
While I might have felt a little confident, I think we didn’t collectively as a community really understand what we won. The amount of attention that came to Columbus was insane. In the first month, Columbus had a billion impressions in association with smart cities around the world. And so every vendor known to man was reaching out and wanting to tell us about this awesome, great technology that they had that they wanted us to buy with this new money that we just have, and,

Jay Clouse 17:34
Which was $50 million.

Jordan Davis 17:35
Fifty million dollars. Yep. And I think for us, we had a lot of learning to do because you know, what it takes to write an application and then what it takes to actually start to implement a program are very different skill sets and require different people. So we had to get the right people on the bus who could really look at the landscape, understand our conditions, be able to manage the requirements of the actual grant with pretty high intense granters. Like, USDoT is not your average grantor, right? Like there’s a lot of process and documentation required and regulation to follow. So you need experts that know how to navigate all of that, that you have to put in the right places. So a lot of it was team building and distraction and focus, and like how do we create the opportunities with this moment, because you don’t want to like miss a big opportunity for a big partnership. But at the same time, you don’t want to go chasing the shiny thing and getting distracted from what our main focus was. And we did a little of that for sure. But it was probably a solid six months just to get organized before we really started to be moving in the right direction.

Jay Clouse 17:36
Yeah, I remember a lot of, a lot of buzz, you know, just being a resident of Columbus, seeing a lot about it. And then things kind of went quiet for a while. And when I started working with the team in a very small capacity, I learned that there was a lot of fact finding and just like visiting of other cities before you guys really kind of put pen to paper, so to speak. So can you talk about some of that research process of looking at other cities and what you were thinking about before, you know, really committing some of these resources, both people and time and the money to building out.

Jordan Davis 19:13
For sure. I mean, we had to learn so much. We had taken on a portfolio that was very broad in nature. And so there were experts out there doing great things in the these different things, and they were all over the world. Like, Oslo is the best in the world at electric vehicle adoption, and they’ve built an entire portfolio thinking about everything from renewable energy to where charging goes to how do you incentivize it to where, how do you get the product and their market. And so we went there to go learn from the best in that. Then you think about, well, who’s the best in data, right? So then you have to go learn from a whole totally different set of cities because, while they have a relationship long term, at this stage, they were all very siloed innovations and not fully coming together. And so for us, we had to learn about each of those siloed innovations and then create a vision for how they would start to come together. And that was learning from a lot of people. Everyone had a great open door, which was cool. And I loved learning. So that was fun.

Eric Hornung 20:13
How do you weigh the pros and cons of going with one vendor versus going with forty? So you could have an open call for charging stations around Columbus, or you could have one vendor that you’re, they’re the only one who are allowed to have charging stations around Columbus. So how do you guys think about those kinds of decisions?

Jordan Davis 20:34
So charging is actually a really great example of that. So there’s an example like Austin, so Austin has a city municipal utility. And what they did is they created a partnership with Chargepoint. And so they were able to scale quickly a full network of chargers, they could use a common payment card for all chargers there. And t was really an envy because they were able to do it in a really quick manner, very comprehensive as a whole system. And so having that exclusive partner had benefits. But then there’s a whole other approach, which if you don’t have a very large municipal utility and you want to do it at a regional level, you have to have more partners in play. So the city only has so much control of the ecosystem. You have to think about a AEPs role in Columbus, which is our are regulated, publicly regulated utility. And so for us, we wanted to take an approach that was very open, and that the site would own the asset. So rather than being utility driven, the sites would kind of step up and help make that investment.

Jay Clouse 21:38
What does that mean? Can you give me like a concrete example of that?

Jordan Davis 21:41
One way to do it is you have one system owner like a public entity or a utility that just says these are good locations for chargers. I’m going to go talk to this site owner, but I’m going to make the investment and manage the asset. The other is to have a strategy and influence the site owner to say, Oh, I should have charging on my site like a local school or a company, I should have charging for my employees, and getting incentivizing them to put in the charging infrastructure, and then they’re the responsible steward of that asset. Now that’s very decentralized, right? So it’s just kind of stimulating investment at large. And that’s what the state decided to do with a $9 million project. But they like pre-qualified a certain set of vendors that fit the data sharing conditions that they put, but they didn’t say all of them have to be one or the other. And then it gave a kind of a market approach, like just see how the market wants this to look, versus trying to like force fit something either way. And there’s pros and cons to both, but they’re very different options. Another scenario where we did this is if you think about trip planning, so for transit, there’s this dimension of the private sector becoming a lot more robust in changing the way that people are moving in a community, whether it’s through scooters or TMCs or micro transit. And so because of that, how do we start to create a seamless experience where people can get around more without a car. And so, you want to create a trip planning where you could actually do it where you could have a scooter a bus and walk or have a TNC, all part of one trip. One option would be to just put a call out and put the public data out there and integrate with other apps. And that’s what you’re seeing in cities like Denver, and what Vegas just announced today, where partnerships with Uber and transit app where they’re giving their payment, so you can actually pay for your bus fare in the app of Uber. And so ther, that’s the power of open data, right, and in software integration. But what the USDoT project was we propose is we wanted to build an open source solution that did this, that kept the city or the Transit Authority really in the center of it, and brought the data back to the public sector. And so in this instance, we had to procure a builder build to spec, right? So you wanted to be the system owner really, is what that approach was. So that was a less distributed model, but very different approaches. But we’ll see what wins out.

Jay Clouse 24:13
And so what you’re kind of describing here is this open data platform, which, is this still called the Smart Columbus operating system?

Jordan Davis 24:20
It is, for now. Yeah.

Jay Clouse 24:21
Are there other cities that have taken that approach before or since?

Jordan Davis 24:24
Not the same way just because of resource limitations. I mean, we’ve invested $11 million in building a new open source data management platform that I don’t think many cities would even have the ability to do. This is kind of a one time chance. Now the, what we’re looking at is, because it’s been open source, how do we build adoption and governance around a tool like this so that more people can take it and do what they want with it, which will be, I hope, the promise of it was to stimulate more innovation, economic growth, startup activity, kind of this like data liquidation from cities and rom de-siloing it. So there’s a lot of promise to what I can do. But it comes down to, you know, policy, culture shift. adoption, all that.

Eric Hornung 25:08
How do you think about adoption as, like, what is successful adoption?

Jordan Davis 25:13
Well, that’s a loaded question. Tell me more.

Eric Hornung 25:15
I asked the question.

Jordan Davis 25:18
What do you mean by it?

Eric Hornung 25:19
I mean, you’re putting $11 million into something, there should be some sort of ROI. How do you measure what that ROI is? What is success in terms of adoption?

Jordan Davis 25:28
From a project basis? So in a grant funded world, right, adoption to them means, to our grantor, right, means it’s, it works, and the people that use it, like, it worked. That’s pretty much what they’re measuring. I think from a community perspective, how do you justify putting your own money into it? I think you have to start to think about outcomes. So if we actually want to change the trajectory of this issue, or we want to make a dent to achieve this goal, to what degree is being influenced by this project? And how does that then measure up with the investment that you make? So what we cannot do today is answer those questions because data is de-, is siloed. So if I want to say, which we’re trying to accomplish in our program, if we want to solve for infant mortality, and we know that transportation is one of those barriers that prevents mothers from going to healthcare appointments, which contributes to a mother not getting to a healthy birth, well, if you want to solve for that, then you need to have real data to understand, right, infant mortality rates, and you also need a bunch of other social determinants of health to be factored in to know, does transportation actually make a difference or not? And those are totally different measurements than things that we have in place right now. And I think then, that’s one thing. And then the other would be for like a connected vehicle environment. So you want to, in order to test out this connected vehicle environment, you want a saturation of participation. So for that, you want both technical feasibility, are the signal is actually working, is it reliable? You know, are people changing their habits? Are we decreasing crashes in these intersections? But that’s just a simple participation. Like, did we get 1200 people to install sensors on to their car? Like, if we don’t want them, we missed our target, right? So I think adoption is kind of a means to an end. But it might not be the best way to evaluate if it works or not.

Jay Clouse 27:30
A lot of what’s happening in Smart Cities feels like it’s iterative, in a good way. And it’s all happening in an iterative fashion. Is there anything that’s happening that’s like a structural change? So not just a better bus that measures better, but a new way to transport or anything like that?

Jordan Davis 27:50
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think you’re looking at transit authorities get in the on demand space, which is a pretty systemic change. So public transit authorities usually work on six routes, right on regular, reliable times. And then the introduction of Uber and Lyft kind of changed people’s point of view that, oh, maybe people want to be picked up differently, like at your front door, and in the next three minutes. Now you’re seeing public transit authorities figure out how to change their service model to accommodate this more on demand type of service expectation that people now have. I think there’s also a lot of change going on in procurement. So how does government work with business? So in this iterative world that you’re mentioning, the reason why Smart Cities are iterative is because we need to figure out what works, right? We’re not, we don’t have a sure bet right now that this can just go at scale and this will work flawlessly. Like these things are still being figured out. And so you want to start in small pilots and then scale from there and to different geographies and test them on different use cases. And so for the government, it’s a lot safer to start at smaller, take smaller chunks out rather than fail at a huge investment because failure is not not really celebrated in the public sector, right? We don’t get excited to elect a mayor if he failed on a big project, right? So you have to balance the political expectations in the political environment with risk tolerance, of innovation. And so that’s where the iterative relationship has tension with cities. And because there’s an inevitable failure when we’re talking about that, to some degree, right. So how do you frame it?

Jay Clouse 29:23
What are some of the–you’ve traveled around the world seeing smart cities, you’ve gone to conferences, you’re at one right now. What are some of the most aggressive proposals you’ve seen or wildest proposals you’ve seen?

Jordan Davis 29:36
I think the urban Air Mobility is pretty disruptive, thinking about…

Jay Clouse 29:41
Urban Air Mobility is kind of intuitive. Are we talking about literally like taxis that are flying?

Jordan Davis 29:47
Yeah, like drones that you get in and take you from building to building and the top of parking garages are now helipads.

Jay Clouse 29:53
How big are these vehicles?

Jordan Davis 29:56
Well, I think form factor is still to be debated. I mean, there’s pictures of really cool drones with like six, you know, things going on. And then there’s traditional helicopters of where they start to get to that point. So, just the concept though of using airspace for short term trips is pretty radical in terms of how we traditionally think about transportation of people in a city perspective. Hyperloop is a really big idea. Columbus is a finalist city with Virgin Hyperloop One. And so that would be a corridor between Pittsburgh, Columbus to Chicago. And I think that’s a pretty disruptive idea, especially for the movement of goods and your ability to think about cities now as suburbs of each other. So like, right, is Col…is Pittsburgh a suburb of Columbus or Columbus a suburb of Chicago? I mean, that whole proximity and the relationship of growth is totally changed, and it impacts a lot at that point. I think some other, like, they might sound smaller, but they’re pretty radical ideas, I think, is coming out of the state of Ohio and several others, it’s how do you never walk into a government building again? Right? Like, well, that’s interesting. But imagine the gravity of that across all the types of programs that we depend on, whether it’s your licensed programs or…But it pushes you to think about, like facial recognition and artificial intelligence and the safety of these things. And it’s a, it’s a fun thing to say, but it has dramatic systemic issues that you have to solve for.

Jay Clouse 31:30
I’d be down for that. I never want to go no DMV again.

Jordan Davis 31:33
Right. who enjoys that? No one, no one likes that.

Jay Clouse 31:37
I have a couple more quick questions on the Columbus case specifically, one being, I know that part of your approach has been increasing electric vehicle usage on the roads. We talked a little bit about charging stations, but if people haven’t thought about it or talked about it, they probably don’t know some of the constraints of why it might be difficult for electric vehicles to exist at a level of scale in a city. Can you talk about Columbus’s starting point, where we are today, and what those challenges were.

Jordan Davis 32:04
Yeah. So electric vehicles, people understand to be okay, they have a battery, but they’re much more complex than that. So there’s, we are mostly focused on plug-in vehicles, and that could be a plug-in hybrid or a full plug-in battery electric vehicle. When we started Smart Columbus, in 2016, 0.37%, of all new vehicles were electric, which was pretty low compared to most major cities. And we were going to try and get to 1.8% of all new car sales, which is a about a 500% increase. And why would that be hard? Well, there’s everything from industry priorities to like the actual, like, electrical system that makes it super difficult. So the electrical system, because that’s the least sexy thing, and I’ll end on the cooler stuff, is just that cars take a lot of demand, and it’s a lot of energy to charge a car. And so how do you think about as system, where do you want vehicles to charge and when? So you want to be able to incentivize the time that people charge so that they’re doing it in off-peak hours. Well, that means that the utility then needs to get connected and smart. So they have to put a smart home meter at every home so that their electrical usage is manageable and incentivized, and I can customize a bill that you get to incentivize you to use your power during low peak time-

Jay Clouse 33:30
-because it’s literally cheaper for me if I charge in the afternoon than if I charge at the end of the night.

Jordan Davis 33:35
It would be the reverse, but yes, it’d be cheaper for you at night then during the afternoon, because all these manufacturing facilities and big companies are using the energy during the day, right? So we don’t want you charging your car and adding to that load, like use it somewhere else. And so that’s complex. And then you have to say, well, then where do you want charging points in your community? Where do you want that activity? You don’t just want it on any random street, right? And you know that if everybody’s going to have an electric vehicle in the future, not everybody has a home that would afford your ability to charge at home. So you need public access long term, even if the batteries were to go, you know, 1000 miles a charge. Either way, you’re going to need to charge at some point, where do you charge? And so you have to think, then, as a region, well, where do I want that? And there’s a whole strategy to that there’s different levels of charging, you need to make sure you have the right utility, like access, which utility owns, I mean, it’s a very complex policy space. And then you get to, Okay, if I have that system setup, even to just, like, handle the scale of electrification, well, how do I just jumpstart people’s adoption so we can start testing this stuff and really trying it. And for a market like Columbus, we are not a ZEV state, which means a Zero Emission Vehicle policy state. So what happens in a state like California, they incentivize people to buy electric vehicles, and they then require auto manufacturers to sell a certain proportion of EVs to their ratio of combustion engines. Right? So, auto manufacturers are prioritizing those states to put their cars because they want to hit their requirement. And they have more customers willing to buy there because it’s cheaper for them than anywhere else. And then you have a state like Ohio where we have none of those existing incentives and regulations. And so it’s just a good-to-do thing for a company at that point, at least in 2016 it was, because people weren’t making nationally scaled–

Jay Clouse 35:33
It’s like you can get the the best parking spot at the movie theater if you have one of these vehicles.

Jordan Davis 35:38
Right. Right. Or I…one of the most provo…like the ones that move the needle most are HOV lanes. Like I get to go in the HOV lane even if I’m driving alone, but because I have an EV, I can do it. Those types of things.

Jay Clouse 35:52
What does HOV stand for?

Jordan Davis 35:53
I actually don’t know.

Eric Hornung 35:55
Yeah, what does it mean?

Jordan Davis 35:56
It’s carpooling lane, so like if you have more than one person in the car, you get to use it.

Eric Hornung 36:00
High octane vehicle.

Jordan Davis 36:01
High occupant vehicle lane, I bet you.

Jay Clouse 36:03
High occupant vehicle.

Jordan Davis 36:04
High occupant vehicle.

Jay Clouse 36:05
You almost got there.

Jordan Davis 36:06
We don’t have any HOV lanes in Ohio.

Eric Hornung 36:09
If you couldn’t tell by this podcast.

Jordan Davis 36:11
Right, right.

Jay Clouse 36:12
So Columbus’s case is unique in that we got a grant to the tune of $50 million from the government. And also, there was a lot of public private support, which is kind of Columbus’s shtick. Probably give some background on what that means and why I say that. And then I want to talk about, if I’m a city across the country that really wants to start taking this seriously, how replicable is Columbus’s approach given that they had outside funding? And like this already ingrained culture of public private partnerships?

Jordan Davis 36:45
Yeah, well, I think there’s one thing to acknowledge is that the Smart Cities challenge is not easy to replicate. And so, but that was kind of the point to begin with, was let’s fast track the amount of learnings and the amount of progress we can make in this space and do it in a really focused manner in one city. And so I think Columbus is very unique in that they were chosen to be that laboratory for that. I’m not sure how many other environments you’ll have. However, there are countries like Canada, who have done their own Smart Cities challenge. A little bit more money, they’ve selected more cities. Florida has created kind of a statewide version, Atlanta’s kind of done some, and Atlanta and Georgia Tech and Georgia have done a certain version. So people are trying to jumpstart speed and getting people’s like big ideas funded through these challenges. So I do think that it’s replicable, just probably not at the scale and grander of that specific thing. So I’d start with that context. However, I think the involvement of the community is absolutely replicable. What’s unique about Columbus is that our public and private sector do work very well together, and have made the local private sector has made cash investments to help the city along in this journey. And so I would be naive to say that Maybe not all communities would care about this one issue, but it probably happens in most cities on a variety of different things. So it’s possible. It’s just how do you make it a top political agenda for your entire community to find a place and a reason to care about it?

Eric Hornung 38:13
Do those cities need to have a body that is in charge of bringing them into the Smart City era?

Jordan Davis 38:21
I think so. I think it’s, if you want to think at a systems level about it. If you want to just focus on, you know, this one department managers innovation project, you can get away with that just fine in the systems that we have in place today. But if you want to start to really provoke the right types of questions, which are if the traffic management team put sensors now in every street light, but then the fleet is, has sensors on their own vehicles, right, and they’re doing telematics on it, somebody in the center could say, well, I can solve a lot of other problems with those two sensor points then just traffic management and fleet, right. Like I can start to understand potholes on the roads and dispatch people to fix those before they’re reported by a resident because I know that from my telematics and my fleet vehicle, right. Or I can know, if signage is down at a passageway to a Interstate, and those signs are the states. Right? So like, how do I get that data to send to the state, which is out of probably traffic management’s area of concern, right, but it’s, who’s going to facilitate these collaborations and then connect the dots to maximize the investment in the technologies, value proposition to more than just, you know, one single project, if that makes sense.

Eric Hornung 39:36
Kind of a weird question here, but maybe a hypothetical. If, you know, Lake Erie turned into land, and there was a new state created, and you were in charge of setting up the government, what would you change fundamentally?

Jordan Davis 39:50
Well, I think that’s not such a crazy idea because Google is trying to do that, right, in Toronto. That’s what China’s done in their smart cities where they’ve started from the ground up. If you look at Arizona, I have a little bit of challenge with those in because I feel like they ignore what makes cities great, which is the democracy part of it and the resident engagement and why cities exist in the first place, is to help give people a better quality of life and a more prosperous economy, right. So that being said, if I could just start over, I think reimagining how government works and thinking about how do you create…I mean, it would be interesting to just know if it would even be possible, but how do you make innovation with companies happen quicker and faster? So like a startup, like how can you reimagine or get rid of the entire process of procurement so that you could partner with a company that you went and had lunch with and had a great idea. Oh, I want to try that on the street. Just let’s see how it goes. I might need to put a little bit money in there. But let’s just see. I mean, if you could start a project like you can with a private sector business in the matter of a few, like, a month, that would be a game changer, I think for innovation and government overall. The fact that the sales cycle has to be six months to a year.

Jay Clouse 41:08
Why is that? A lot of founders wouldn’t understand why that is.

Jordan Davis 41:11
Well, so it’s, that’s complex. I mean, one is trying to be very accountable to the residents, that there is a fair process in place for things to be reviewed in a thoughtful manner that makes good and your tax dollars as you use, right. And that there, it limits risk of corruption, that I’m only going to do business with my friends, or I’m going to give preference to a company that I might have a personal relationship with over maybe what the fair way might be. Also, through procurement, it’s supposed to probably create a more equal playing ground for minority businesses, right. And so how do you make sure that, you know, small and minority owned businesses have an equal shot against big companies like the IBM’s of the world,.

Jay Clouse 41:53
So procurement, the way it works is basically you have a problem that you want to solve or something you want to do and you literally, as a municipality, have to put that out for bid. Correct?

Jordan Davis 42:04
Right. And the flaw of that exact example is the city has to figure out what they want to put it out to bid to buy it. Versus, you know, you might have a really great idea of a problem that you think the city needs to solve. And you don’t really have a way to effectively convince them of that opportunity of maybe this market opportunity, this underserved opportunity, that could be software, unless maybe you have a really great lobbyist, right, that has those relationships that could convince the city to make that a priority for purchasing.

Jay Clouse 42:36
There’s a world where a founder goes to municipality, says, here’s my idea. And well, meaningly so, the city government says, that’s great, let’s put out a bid for it. Literally has to describe it and the way the startup is describing it, and then chooses a different vendor.

Jordan Davis 42:50
Totally.

Jay Clouse 42:51
All right, I want to keep going down this hypothetical train that Eric started. So reimagining how government works and how quickly you could do procurement. What else would you do differently?

Jordan Davis 42:59
Some of the things that I think go on in cities are really important in terms of equity. Like, if you were to try to ask like why does government exists, like, what’s their role, like one of the main core functions of government is to make sure things are deployed in an equitable manner and that people have, you know, access to the things that they need to, to live their life. And I think, literally for decades and reinforcing for generations, the poverty cycle has just continued to be reinforced. We’re not really solving these problems, like we’re just kind of, like, acknowledging that these things exist. So I think there’s just a bigger, fundamental question about how do you reimagine these services that we’re giving to people to help them get a leg up? And like, they’re clearly not working at scale They are working to some degree, but there, there’s something going on that’s not right. And what about the government culture is limiting us to acknowledging that. There’s something about the government culture, the culture of government that is not allowing us to admit when things aren’t working and reimagine something. And so I think that is a framework of the political discourse a little bit, right like these like elections and using words that overemphasize, like, consequence and reality and not giving the right time to build greater understanding of our issues. And we end up like locking ourselves into subpar, like, solutions and subpar experiences, which I would then argue has contributed to the greater lack of trust in government, like because we haven’t given government any trust to innovate or to deliver something better, we think they’re not capable of it, right. And so we don’t trust government to take on more responsibility with our money. And I think at the end of the day, especially amidst all of this technology and innovation, we as residents should want our governments to be stronger at this time. You want our governments to step up and start having the conversation about data sharing and open data. And so I think part of that is, how do you start to, to create a system that can be proactive rather than reactive?

Eric Hornung 45:08
So in this world of everything getting smarter and smarter and smarter, what’s allowed to stay dumb?

Jordan Davis 45:14
That’s a good question. What is allowed to stay dumb? Well, you know, every time I probably think, Okay, this is fine, then some other great, cool startup like comes up with an idea of like, how to do it differently. Like, you know, you thought well, curbs, of course, like curbs are just static curbs that were in this work session, and this brilliant engineer from Waymo was like, well, we could make it like a disco curb and like the curb can change colors. You know, when it’s available, it’s pink or like, if you reserved it, you got the yellow Bay, and that’s yours. Well, of course, you could make the whole physical curb like a LED board, like yeah, you can start to communicate with the world on that. That makes total sense. And so I think that’s an interesting question, because I’m not sure there’s any…there’s such a lack of exploration in the past, like, several decades of what could be, like, digitalized and connected in the public space. And now I feel like everything is on the table for consideration. But I think the truth is you cannot replace resident interaction with technology. While like crowdsourcing ideas and communicating people on email and being were more responsible on apps, residents still want to have a relationship with their elected officials and with their government, and that still needs to be a very human experience. And people want to feel like they have a relationship with their government. And so you can’t totally forget that in the process.

Jay Clouse 46:36
You mentioned a few cities earlier. If I were to go on a global Smart City highlight tour,

Jordan Davis 46:42
Ooh.

Jay Clouse 46:43
What city should I visit and why?

Jordan Davis 46:45
Okay, this would be so fun to do, by the way. So yeah, if you want to go let’s do it. London, data and like transit payment type stuff…Well, I would say actually transit payment, what China’s doing is really interesting in terms of payments.

Jay Clouse 47:01
And what is that?

Jordan Davis 47:02
Essentially, the ubiquitous nature of using your credit cards to your fingerprints to different ways of paying for things in a very quick short order manner. Common cards for a lot of, like, London invented the Oyster card, right, which was then taken off, but…

Jay Clouse 47:20
And what is that?

Jordan Davis 47:20
Oh, the Oyster card is the transit card. I mean, they started it almost like a decade or more now, probably, I’m not so good at dates, but they linked it with your bank account. So like you could get payment, like right into this account of your Oyster card and your Oyster card would swipe you in so you wouldn’t have to pay with cash or any of that. And that’s only become more and more than norm. But now they’re thinking about well what does this mean in different forms? Like, I was in Vancouver and they are doing some cool stuff to tap to pay. So you just use your phone and you tap when you come in, or wearable. So like if your kids go to school, like put a wearable band on them and that’s their payment when they get on the bus, which I think is pretty interesting. There’s all these new ways to make payment more easy and seamless. Let’s see, okay, I would go to Seattle and probably Vancouver for like, how you can create a relationship between the changes in transportation planning, like, placemaking and planning and sustainability, like how do you do it from a policy perspective, a planning perspective, getting more people in transit. Like they’ve done a really graceful job at figuring all that out, like the viaduct thing, and Seattle’s really cool. I would definitely watch Toronto and of course, like the Google sidewalk labs project, I think they’re just really documenting a lot of thought leadership and out of the box ideas about urban planning, sustainable development, all of that. I would say come to Columbus, of course, make this, make it your big stop. You can see a lot of projects in light and life. Autonomous vehicles, Vegas is putting a lot on the road. San Francisco, of course, is putting on the road. Oslo for electrification, the Dutch, the Netherlands are doing all kinds of stuff. They’re really killing it. Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of activity, which is great. I think I heard today for the US private transportation, 36 states are doing something in autonomous vehicles so they can have them deployed and active in their states. That’s crazy. You could not have even said that three years ago.

Eric Hornung 49:22
Are any small towns doing anything? That was a lot of big cities you mentioned.

Jordan Davis 49:27
For sure. So like even in just in the Columbus area, there’s a city called Marysville that has connected all of their streetlights and are doing a lot of connected vehicle work and IoT work for traffic management. So they’re doing some really interesting things. There’s some cities outside of Denver that are doing some interesting traffic management. Like, could you…when you get out of Red Rocks, the concert venue, that community, essentially what if you could manage traffic without having to deploy like police officers to like, change, right, the patterns of Lights, like how many times do you see police officers in the middle like changing traffic? Like what if you just did that digitally on demand based off that specific event in the specific times? And that’s kind of cool that they’re doing that. Well, we’re going to be doing something in Athens, an autonomous vehicle deployment in rural Ohio. And the federal government just is looking to fund more things in rural America too. So I think it’s more of a smart communities probably scope, then it’s not just all the big cities.

Jay Clouse 50:28
You haven’t mentioned scooters at all.

Jordan Davis 50:30
Scooters. People love talking about scooters.

Eric Hornung 50:34
Jay loves scooters.

Jordan Davis 50:35
I love scooters, I use scooters all the time. I love that.

Eric Hornung 50:38
Have you actually ever scattered?

Jay Clouse 50:39
Yeah. I’ve never scooted in Columbus, strangely.

Jordan Davis 50:42
Really?

Jay Clouse 50:43
No.

Jordan Davis 50:43
Huh.

Jay Clouse 50:44
Well, because I had already figured out how to get around my city in Columbus. And the scooters didn’t really open up anything to me that I wouldn’t already walk to. And so it’s like, do I want to save five minutes but pay $3? And most time the answer’s no. What is the place of scooters in a city?

Jordan Davis 51:00
So, I think scooters are like the most unexpected popular thing to enter cities in a long time. Like, of course Uber and Lyft, you know, were unexpected and popular. But scooters are so much more expressive, like you can see it’s a scooter, where like Uber and lift you just kind of thought it was disguised as another car ,like you didn’t really notice it as much, where like, you see a flying V of guys on scooters on your street, your like, Ooh, that’s different. And so I think it’s absolutely is going to make its mark on cities. I’m active user of them, and I would hate to see them leave my city. I think they’re really convenient, easy, quick way to get around. I don’t have to, like if I’m wearing a dress that day, not riding a bike is, it’s a great alternative for that. So there’s a lot of wins. I think the question is the problems with it our street litter, right? People get really angry that they get tipped over and dumped in trash cans or they break or those types of things. So how do you keep the cleanliness of the sidewalks and the public right of ways and the walkability and not also sacrifice like ADA access, like if they’re on a ramp like that’s a really big deal for someone in a wheelchair or someone that’s blind, right, like that really changes how I can get around. So how do you manage that? And then I think the other thing is how do you keep people safe, because if our cities aren’t yet caught up with the amount of activity that’s on the roads, like if we had this many people biking, you would need more bike lanes. So you have to think about bike lanes now different, like their micro mobility lanes. You need…We have a lot more people using the streets. And so we need to think about these like dedicated safe spaces for them to be ridden. And so those are really disruptive. And so if you are going to say, Well, how do I regulate the cleanliness of them, there’s a movement among cities through the Open Mobility Foundation, which has created a data standard for how data is shared with the cities, but then also how do cities regulate the scooters? So like maybe there’s an event that day, or there’s a protest that pops up or, God forbid, there’s a natural disaster, and you want to, you know, take, how does the city like send regulation to the scooter so they can more adapt in real time to events? Also, how do cities better plan for based off their usage? So like, what’s the data required, but they’re supposed to give to cities so that you might plan the next investment of bike lanes, right protected bike lanes around what are the scooter habits of people using them. Right now, they’re like a black hole. So you don’t really know. But that’s something that a city should know because then they’ll plan for it better. But it’s a totally new behavior and usage of the roads and the right of way. I think charging of those will be really interesting. Like I don’t know how sustainable it will be, especially if scooters start changing form factor and they become bigger or hardier for like a random person to go pick up and make enough money to justify the work, increasing amount of work that it will create. And so do you have public charging for scooters, and they need to be docked? Like even somebody was saying, Well, if they’re docked, well, then they’ll be autonomous so that you could summon the scooter from the docking station to where you are, and you don’t have to, like, go find it, you know. So I think that there’s a lot of innovation in regards to creating, like, common destinations of zones that they’ll live and then still allowing you to have, you know, this access as close to the door as possible. So you could still, like drop it off at your door and then have it go to the docking station that might be like two blocks away or something.

Eric Hornung 54:34
What do you think about like carless streets?

Jordan Davis 54:36
Oh, yeah, like the Paris kind of idea of, you know, banning cars? Oslo’s doing that too. Yeah, I think that’s going to be really hard to imagine in a US city. Well, at least in Columbus, because so much of our city was designed for the car first, especially in Columbus, and a lot of European cities. They have smaller streets with a lot of density, and it comes back to days where there wasn’t, weren’t cars, and so they were designed for people that writer on foot. I think the effort though to try and force behavior change towards a more shared environment is the aspect that I think is the most interesting. So not only can you, are you creating a place making attribute with those policy decisions, but you’re saying then that everybody to move around, if you’re not walking, you have to be in some type of shared mobility device, whether it’s a shuttle or TNC, or something like that. And then I would just have to ask, naturally, like, is that then equitable? Like how affordable are those options? Like, are you pricing people out? And so I think the conversation is so macro and big, I have a hard time thinking that the US will be able to navigate that degree of change in the near future.

Eric Hornung 55:47
Is there anything we’re not asking that we should be asking?

Jordan Davis 55:51
I guess like if you were to say, in are the next five years, like what are the topics that cities are going to be talking about, I think something interesting will be what’s the cities’ and states’ government’s role in subsidizing micro, like shared mobility and scooters. So cities invested in docked bike stations, like bike systems. So most shared bike systems in cities were somehow paid for by the city to get them to come and start here and make them, you know, a lost leader. Well, scooters, we, still jury’s out if they’re actually going to have a sustainable business model and they can actually make money on it, but people like them, they like to move around the cities like that. So what will cities do to keep that option for their residents? I think that’ll be an interesting conversation about, because every mode of transportation is subsidized some way. So what’s the new way of doing that for these new options? Data is huge. Like how do you share data across the public and private sector? What degree of it, how much is it is open? What do you do with the data when you have it? How much of the data, you know, do you actually need versus you think conceptually you want. I think people need A lot less data than they think in the ideation phase. And so, how can we get really focused on the type of data standards that you can create at a national scale so that startups and others can actually scale at a national level? Like if you have to customize everything to a local community, like, it’s just not going to work, like you can’t make enough money on one city alone. So I think that’s an interesting, you know, space of how do you build who is the governant entity or the leader to set these data standards, and who’s going to be the one to help facilitate that to bring it to life?

Eric Hornung 57:32
Okay.

Jay Clouse 57:32
Cool. Well, Jordan, thanks for joining us here for lunch, dinner. What was this?

Eric Hornung 57:38
Linner.

Jay Clouse 57:38
Strange time of day

Eric Hornung 57:39
Dunch.

Jay Clouse 57:40
It was awesome. Thanks for sharing with us. If people want to learn more about the work that you do. Where should they go?

Jordan Davis 57:46
They can go to smart.columbus.gov, and on there, there is a playbook page that has a really, really well documented lessons learned, articles, we publish all of our materials there, but also on the website you can learn about all of our, you know, 22-some projects and all about our partners and the journey we’ve been on.

Eric Hornung 58:11
All right, Jay, we just spoke with Jordan from Smart Cities Columbus.

Jay Clouse 58:15
Not only did we speak with Jordan, we broke bread or broke meat with Jordan.

Eric Hornung 58:18
We broke..we broke meat with Jordan. Yeah, that’s a, that’s a phrase. We had some bonchon.

Jay Clouse 58:25
Yeah.

Eric Hornung 58:25
You’re a big bonchon gyuy.

Jay Clouse 58:27
Big bonchon guy. Love the bonchon.

Eric Hornung 58:29
You have a fun fact about bond john. If you eat it all…

Jay Clouse 58:31
Ah, yes. Fun fact about bonchon. If you eat at all, they bring you more bonchon.

Eric Hornung 58:36
Which really hurts you as a completist.

Jay Clouse 58:38
Yeah, that’s exactly why I found this out aast year we went to Gangnam, I was timing…

Eric Hornung 58:44
Are we sponsored by Gangnam yet?

Jay Clouse 58:46
We should be I was timing finishing the bonchon with the end of the meal. And so I finished the bonchon, and all of a sudden more bonchon. Anyway, I really enjoyed that conversation. I have the benefit of getting to talk with Jordan every now and then. But never for forty-ve minutes diving deep into Smart City stuff the way we just did here on the show. There’s just so much to it. There’s so much necessary context that like a ground level, and then all the aspects and elements that could be a part of it that we couldn’t even touch on. Like, we didn’t get to talk about 5G really at all, you know. Well, we’ll talk to somebody else here at CES a little bit about that. But when you are living in a city, you know, as someone that was in Columbus when we got the grant, there was just so much that was not understood and even misunderstood about what a smart city is and what that grant meant. I’ve really appreciated Jordan and the Smart City teams leadership and how they’ve approached that problem, because it’d be really easy to just start throwing money everywhere at all of these different vendors that are coming at you. But to really intentionally build a city that you want to serve its residents is a challenging thing.

Eric Hornung 59:51
Yeah, I think it’s a challenging thing just, like, everything gets lumped in this idea of smart cities. So like, what’s all included in there. And being able to ask some probably dumb questions to Jordan help me frame a little bit more about the incentives, disincentives, and structures around cities and smart cities.

Jay Clouse 1:00:10
One thing that I continue to ask myself is, what is the opportunity for a startup founder when it comes to Smart City technology, because if you’re in the process, as it sits, is so cumbersome and difficult. The sales cycles are long, the contracts aren’t super high value most the time. Last year or two years ago at South by Southwest, there’s a founder talking about how all the innovations he was seeing, seeing in this space, were all priced at $10,000 per year, because that’s what was the discretionary budget of someone in the municipality. And it’s just hard to think of a massive venture scalable business that lives in that ecosystem well. Although, I think you had a take on a business that you think would be hyper valuable.

Eric Hornung 1:00:52
Oh, yeah, I think we hinted at, hinted at it a bit in the interview. And it would have to be, it would be a very, very challenging business to is setup. But if you did, the business of cleaning and storing and distributing permission data from all of the cities in the United States and even beyond, essentially a data broker establishing a consistent format for that data so that anyone could run regressions and analyses on a data set would be just, I mean, that’s a multi, multi, multi billion dollar business. But I, it has to be the right person at the right time who can, who has the skills to, one, launch that, and the political acumen to navigate that. It’s a special person who’s going to build that company.

Jay Clouse 1:01:38
Well, we’re looking forward to seeing how cities adapt to these different challenges and building the smart cities of the future as it relates to transportation and connectivity and also diversity and inclusion, frankly. It’s it’s…really brings up these questions of sometimes gentrification and who is the city for and how do you best serve all of your residents and make sure you’re not designing a city that excludes some. We’ll see a lot of case studies and, unfortunately, some bad case studies across the world as time progresses. But we’ll look forward to talking more people in this space. If you guys have any thoughts on smart cities, you can email us hello@upside.fm or tweet at us @upsidefm, and we’ll talk to you next week.

Interview starts: 6:24
Debrief starts: 58:09

Jordan Davis is the Director of Smart Columbus for the Columbus Partnership, leading strategy and public-private partnerships for the Central Ohio region’s $550 million smart cities initiative.

She was instrumental in Columbus becoming the sole winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities Challenge in 2016 and since has managed the upstart of a new joint venture for the region focused on realizing a connected, autonomous, shared, and electric transportation ecosystem that improves people’s lives.

Jordan facilitates collaboration between the public and private sector, secures new private investment in the Acceleration Fund, oversees public affairs, and supports the long-term strategy to sustain the Smart Columbus Initiative. Additionally, she oversees an aggressive electric vehicle adoption program, shared mobility growth plan, autonomous vehicle deployment, and a dynamic corporate engagement portfolio.

We discuss:

  • AD: Finding experienced employees for your new business with Integrity Power Search (4:58)
  • “Smart” trends currently happening in cities (7:03)
  • Initial focus when the grant started (9:16)
  • Other forward thinking cities at the time of winning the grant (11:06)
  • Why did Columbus win? (14:57)
  • Research process (18:50)
  • Choosing technology vendors (20:13)
  • Evaluating successful adoption (25:08)
  • New structural (vs. iterative) changes (27:30)
  • EVs in Columbus (31:37)
  • Replicable Columbus (36:31)

Learn more about Smart Columbus: https://smart.columbus.gov/
Follow Jordan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JDLead
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This episode is sponsored by Integrity Power Search, the #1 full stack high growth startup recruiting firm between the coasts. They partner with venture capitalists, private equity groups and CEOs to build amazing teams for the world’s most disrupting companies.

Learn more about or get in touch with Integrity Power Search: https://upside.fm/integrity