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Columbus, Ohio is considering throwing its hat in the ring for the $40 million federal Smart City Challenge that will transform the city into a next generation transportation concern.
As reported in GovTech.com, Columbus is weighing a bid for the U.S. Department of Transport’s $40 million Smart City grant. The winning city will use the money for developing advance technologies to improve the environmental impacts of travel and to reduce congestion.
If the city wins the federal challenge, Columbus would also get an additional $10 million from Vulcan Inc. for electric vehicle projects.
Columbus is among seven cities that are finalists for the grant, including Pittsburgh, Penn. which is hoping to leverage the grant to build a $100 million smart city fund if it wins. As part of the challenge, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is visiting all seven cities contending for the grant.
“We want to see what we invest in work,” said Foxx from Columbus on Monday. “We’re really looking at what you want to accomplish and how well suited you are to get there and what difference our investment will make here versus someplace else and whether we get more distance out of that investment here.”
Columbus – a midwestern Silicon Valley?
The city will need to have submitted its application by this past Friday. Regardless of the federal contest, city leaders say Columbus was already examining the potential for self-driving cars, electric vehicles and transport-related payment systems.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther has even gone so far as to say that the city has aspirations to become “the Silicon Valley of intelligent transportation systems.”
Meanwhile, other politicians are throwing their weight behind a Columbus Smart City Challenge bid, including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.
“I think Columbus has an advantage,” said Brown. “Columbus is really sort of every person’s city in this country. If it works in Columbus, it works, we know that. We’ve been a test center for so many corporations.”
The U.S. Department of Transport says it plans to announce the winning city at the end of June.
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With the health and fitness wearables segment growing rapidly, big players are bulking up in order to compete in a fast growing global market.
In a recent article, TheStreet.com observes the mounting consolidation-related activity in the health wearables space. And with Woodside Capital Partners predicting global shipments of wearables to grow from 19.6 million units in 2014 to 126.1 million in 2019, investment in the segment that includes fitness and health wearables are growing at light speed.
The article cites the wave of consolidation that is beginning to become apparent in such deals as Nokia’s purchase of French consumer wearable-maker Withings and the acquisition of activity trackers Misfit by Texas-based watch maker Fossil Group.
“The big players are smelling a big market,” said Ventech managing partner Jean Bourcereau.
And the size of the company is particularly important for manufacturers of health and fitness wearable devices in this explosive market.
Emanuele Levi, general partner with Paris-based venture capital firm 360 Capital Partners estimates that only about 10 firms worldwide ship more than a million units per year. Meanwhile, the remainder of the market is made up of smaller players who do not understand they need to very rapidly become much bigger to remain competitive in such a fast-growing market.
“They think they can [make] a nice device, which is very similar to the existing ones, but maybe with a little twist, and they think they can build from scratch a business,” he said.
Levi also says that wearable manufacturers need to develop coherent strategies for effectively monetizing the huge amounts of data they are generating through their connected devices.
“The wearable business becomes extremely interesting if they monetize the data,” he said. “I’ve seen very few cases of wearable companies that are capable of developing a unique application and monetizing their user base or the data they collect.”
Fitness wearables firms aren’t waiting for suitors
And while acquisitions in the wearables space begins to gain momentum, some players are choosing to go it alone rather than pursue tie-ups.
Fitbit, the San Francisco-based industry leader in fitness bands, decided to go public in June 2015 to remain independent. Not only does staying independent allow tech firms to remain competitive with the big players, but it gives them added impetus when challenging increasing government regulation of data tracked by health and wellness devices.
“You need to be able to raise enough money before you go the regulators,” said Frederic Cazals, whose law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges advised Withings. “In the U.S., you have to discuss with the regulatory authorities and it’s not easy to be able to develop objects that you can sell all over the world.”
Meanwhile, European wearable manufacturers may find it more difficult to stay independent in the current environment. Which may be why Euro firms are beginning to explore the benefits of going public on Nasdaq after building a presence in America, where the majority of the current market is located. According to MaRS Discovery District North America comprised 52% of global sales value of medical wearable devices and 44% of connected fitness devices, versus only about 25% for Europe.
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