Innovation

TechRepublic to partner with CNET and City of Louisville to connect smart cities to professionals and their living spaces

Big data from smart cities can help businesses and professionals be more productive and efficient with their time. TechRepublic will be creating content from the CNET Urban Smart Home to show how.

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The LouieLab and the CNET Urban Smart Home will be located on the 700 block of Main Street in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

Image: Jason Hiner/TechRepublic

The City of Louisville has emerged as a surprising leader in the movement toward smart cities and on Wednesday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced that the city is opening a 7,000 square foot smart city command center in downtown Louisville and it will be capped off by the new CNET Urban Smart Home one floor above it.

TechRepublic will be creating content to serve as the connective tissue between the smart city and the smart home. The idea is that if you can feed data from the city about things such as traffic, air quality, weather, health alerts, and community activities to individual professionals in their living spaces and home offices then you can help them make better decisions about when to commute, staying healthy and productive, and engaging in valuable community activities.

CNET's Urban Smart Home is a 1,400 square foot apartment that the CNET team will be filling with the latest technology to automate living spaces and connect them with data that can put them in the fast lane for the digital age. It's a natural extension of the CNET Smart Home, a suburban showcase home in Louisville that CNET owns and has been using to test and report on the latest home tech for the past couple years.

The best part of CNET's approach is that it's not focused on technology for the rich-and-famous. Instead, it's testing off-the-shelf tech that anyone can find at a local retailer and integrate into their living space.

By the same token, the City of Louisville's smart city initiatives aren't just focused on important internal stuff like making gigantic buildings more energy efficient. Rather, it has focused its efforts on things that have a direct impact on the community, such as crowdsourced air quality studies, crowdsourced bandwidth speed testing across the community, and a partnership with Waze to help manage traffic congestion with data.

Louisville's new high tech command center will serve as the seat of the Office of Performance Improvement & Innovation (OPI2)—the catalyst that has been driving Louisville's smart city initiatives. However, their offices will only occupy a third of the floor. The other two-thirds will be an open space for other city departments, community innovators, and organizations from across the world to come and collaborate.

They've officially named it the LouieLab and it will occupy the fourth floor of 745 Main Street in downtown Louisville.

"We've never had a space to bring everybody together," said Fischer at a press conference in front of the building on Wednesday morning.

SEE: Smart cities: The smart person's guide

Theresa Reno-Weber, the chief of Performance & Technology for the city, also spoke at the press event and stressed that the experiment has bigger implications. "The innovation that comes out of LouieLab will inspire other cities and governments throughout the world," she said.

In the city's official statement, Chief Innovation Officer Ted Smith said: "Louisville is leading the trend of smart cities—communities that are embracing technology and data to better the quality of life of their citizens. The innovation space brings those goals to life, giving government and civic hackers a place to build off each other's ideas to create truly innovative and effective solutions for our city."

At the Wednesday press conference, Smith stressed that the main idea driving the LouieLab is to continue Louisville's momentum in learning how to "co-create your government" with your citizens. He said that's what has enabled Louisville to "punch above its weight" and create the kind of innovation you'd expect from a city like Boston or San Francisco rather than a mid-sized metro area of 1.5 million people in the middle of the US.

SEE: The world's smartest cities: What IoT and smart governments will mean for you

Smith is also the former Senior Vice President of TechRepublic. The TechRepublic editorial department has had its headquarters in Louisville since it launched during the original dot com boom in May 1999. Meanwhile, CNET has had a team of editors in Louisville testing home appliances and smart home technology since 2013. Both TechRepublic and CNET are part of CBS Interactive.

The LouieLab and the CNET Urban Smart Home will launch this fall.

TechRepublic, CNET, and the City of Louisville are also all participants in the annual innovation event IdeaFestival on September 28-30, and hosted in Louisville just down the street from the new innovation office. The international conference is of a similar caliber to events like TED, but at a far more accessible price ($400). For those who are interested, you can also use the code SAVE10 to save 10% off a ticket. TechRepublic journalists will be at the event covering it and will be happy to chat about smart cities, the CNET Urban Smart Apartment, and other cool innovations.

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Artist rendering of the CNET Urban Smart Home.

Image: K Norman Berry Associates, Architects

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About Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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