The New York-based think-tank Intelligent Community Forum recognized Columbus as one of the top seven smartest cities in the world last year.

The New York-based think-tank Intelligent Community Forum recognized Columbus as one of the top seven smartest cities in the world last year.

Now, city officials want an arm of the federal government to make it official, and pony up considerable cash to make the city smarter still.

Columbus is one of seven finalists in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge.

Kelly Scocco, assistant director of the Department of Building and Zoning Services, is visiting neighborhood organizations offering information about the Smart City Challenge and trying to drum up support for Columbus' application.

She received the Northland Community Council's endorsement last week, on a motion from William Logan, coordinator of the Code Task Force and vice chairman of the NCC's development committee.

Winning the challenge over competitors that include San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Denver, as well as Kansas City, Mo.; Portland, Ore.; and Austin, Texas, could prove very rewarding, according to the USDOT website:

"The USDOT has pledged up to $40 million, funding subject to future appropriations, to one city to help it define what it means to be a 'Smart City' and become the country's first city to fully integrate innovative technologies, self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors into their transportation network.

That's not all, either.

"Additionally, Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Inc. has announced its intent to award up to $10 million to the challenge winner to support electric vehicle deployment and other carbon emission reduction strategies, and Mobileye announced that it would outfit the entire fleet of the winning city's public bus system with its Shield driver-assistance safety technology," according to Mayor Andrew J. Ginther's website.

During her presentation for the NCC, Scocco said Amazon Web Services is further offering $1 million worth of web and cloud expertise, and another private company would provide up to 100 free Wi-Fi kiosks in disadvantaged neighborhoods to the winning city.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says the vision of the Smart City Challenge is to "demonstrate and evaluate a holistic, integrated approach to improving surface transportation performance within a city and integrate this approach with other smart city domains such as public safety, public services and energy."

Columbus might not have quite the cache of, say, San Francisco, or be as well known for cutting-edge technology as Portland, but that might actually be a good thing when it comes to winning the challenge, according to Scocco.

Columbus being similar to so many other cities across the Midwest could be helpful, she said, because the program's goal is to replicate what the challenge winner is able to accomplish with the grant money and other funding.

"Improving access to jobs, the efficient movement of goods and increased access to services is critical to the sustained growth and prosperity of the Columbus region," Ginther said on the city's website. "Columbus neighborhoods, new Americans, disadvantaged residents and visitors to the region will all benefit from a smarter, safer and more accessible community."

The winner of the Smart City Challenge will be announced in June, Scocco said. She said the second round of applications from the finalists are due by May 24, and these will include letters of support like the one NCC members offered.