Hudson is the lone city in the United States to be honored by an international organization for its economic competitiveness in the digital era.

Hudson, along with 20 other cities and counties around the world, was recently selected as a Smart21 Community of 2018 by the Intelligent Community Forum at its Next Gen Tech Conference in New York City, produced by Silicon Harlem.

"It's a big deal," said Jim Stifler, the city's economic development director.

"Over the past few years, we have been focusing on innovation in everything we do — from Velocity Broadband to smart technology applications and open data — so that we can position Hudson for the future," said Stifler. "Being a Smart21 Community puts us in the prestigious company of innovative communities around the world."

Stifler added that earning the designation is "a tremendous gift. We need to live up to it."

"I think the designation really provides us with a great opportunity to move ourselves forward in the technology world," noted city manager Jane Howington.

She said this was the first time the city sought the recognition and noted "it was quite a surprise" to be among the 21 communities honored.

Stifler said the city has been involved with the intelligent community concept for about two to two and a half years.

"They address building intelligent communities from the ground up in the Broadband era," he said.

The 2018 Awards program focused on the theme of Humanizing Data, which explores the intersection between big data and open data, and the impacts of a data-driven economy on communities, according to a city news release. The other Smart21 Communities of 2018 include cities and counties in Canada, Taiwan, Australia, Finland and France.

Hudson and the other communities were selected based on data that they submitted to ICF, according to the news release. As they reviewed the information, a group of analysts assessed the locations’ performance on six indicators designed to "determine a community's competitiveness in economic, social and cultural terms," the news release stated.

The six indicators are: Broadband; Knowledge Workforce; Innovation; Digital Equality; Sustainability; and Advocacy.

While Hudson was selected for the honor based on its performance in all six indicators, its Velocity Broadband service played a key role, according to Stifler, who added the city built its Broadband system, and owns and operates it.

Stifler noted the city expects to have 165 business customers on Velocity Broadband by the end of the year and added the city hopes to add another 100 to 150 businesses next year. Howington said several businesses have set up shop in Hudson due to the Broadband service.

Additionally, Howington said how the city uses its fiber network played a part in earning the ICF honor. She noted the city is working toward using Velocity Broadband to implement "smart [traffic] signals at our intersections that talk to each other to eliminate backlogs or traffic jams in certain locations."

Stifler noted the city is working on offering smart community concepts in areas such as lighting, traffic flow and parking. The technology being worked on can adjust the timing and duration of signals in response to its environment. For example, Stifler said a light could stop traffic for situations such as a child chasing a ball into the street. Other examples include implementing LED lighting and mechanisms to adjust the ambient lighting, both of which provide savings on electric costs, according to Stifler.

Stifler said there are companies that are interested in using Hudson as a "living laboratory" to test new types of technology. Since the city has its own electric and Broadband systems, companies see Hudson as "very well situated" for the testing of new products, said Stifler.

Stifler said the city performed well on the Knowledge Workforce indicator because 70 percent of its residents have a bachelor's degree or higher.

On the Innovation indicator, the city did well in connection with its fiber system applications and due to places such as the Wang Innovation Center, a 6,000-square-foot collaborative learning space at Western Reserve Academy, according to Stifler.

Hudson and the other 20 communities will now compete for seven finalist spots that will be announced by ICF in February 2018. ICF will then select the Intelligent Community of the Year in June 2018.

Stifler said that Columbus earned the Intelligent Community of the Year award in 2015. Melbourne, Australia, was named the Intelligent Community of the Year in 2017.