IoTC discussion on smart cities

Written by Brian Seitz

 

The Internet of Things Consortium recently included a short roundtable on smart cities, asking member organizations to share their thoughts on the current state, and future of smart city initiatives. Of course, Buddy Platform is right in the thick of it, building the next generation in data infrastructure that will power these projects all over the world. I pulled out my thoughts below, and the entire roundtable can be found here.

How should cities be making the case to its citizens for funding smart city investments?

Governments are starting to realize that just implementing IoT technology is not the ultimate objective for smart city initiatives. Rather, the success of a smart city initiative should be measured by the positive impact it makes on citizens’ quality of life. Whether projects underneath the smart city initiative are designed to improve efficiency of utility services, reduce streetlight power consumption and increase capability within streetlight networks, or provide civic-oriented information, nothing will be perceived as a success unless the benefits become clear to the citizens they serve.

What role do private partners and businesses play in the realization of smart cities?

Private/public partnerships can help to accelerate implementation of smart city projects, and help to ensure the right technology is matched with the desired outcome for the citizens. Also, with the rise of government funded open data projects, private business can provide compelling experiences and real innovation utilizing the anonymous data from smart city infrastructure like streets, lighting and environmental sensors.

How should policy makers approach the planning of smart cities?

Building smarter cities really comes down to the integration of legacy, and newly installed sensor and device networks that are quantifying a city’s critical infrastructure. Today many of those systems operate independently and in silos, which makes gaining insights from those systems, let alone automating them, extremely difficult. Therefore, policy makers should take a long-term view when it comes to their city’s data infrastructure, to ensure the backbone of the system is flexible, scalable and secure. With this core piece in place, state of the art sensors and devices can be added to the system as they are approved and procured by civic agencies.

Some argue that, since rebuilding infrastructure is costly, retrofitting is where the design of smart city initiatives may truly shine. Do you agree, and if so, how can companies approach “retrofitting?”

Retrofitting is indeed a key piece of the smart cities mix, but the focus should really be on the data ingestion and output. It’s the data from these devices that will bring value to government workers, allow business to build and add new services, and ultimately positively impact the residents of the city. The power of IoT class hardware means Things are getting smaller, cheaper and more connected. That means for retrofits, and new builds measuring systems and events is easier. The big question then quickly shifts to, where is the data going, how is it being managed, and how do I get it into the systems I depend on? Again, devices are important, open data infrastructure is critical.

What do you think of the DOT’s Smart Cities challenge?

The more formal support government can throw behind smart cities initiatives the better. We have seen in a number cases around the world, when the mandate from government is to innovate to benefit the citizenry, great outcomes can result. In April 2016 the Australian government released a national Smart Cities Plan, which included a Smart Cities and Smart Suburbs Program. The Amsterdam Smart City Plan is driving smart city development in several key areas including Infrastructure and Technology, Energy Water and Waste, Mobility, Circular City, Governance and Education, and Citizens and Living. Formal programs and initiatives from government can help fuel the positive outcomes and benefits for all.

For citizens who are unaware of smart cities, or smart cities initiatives, how can local governments increase public education of the benefits of IoT technology?

Citizen engagement and participation early in the process of developing smart city plans is a crucial element for success. Ultimately, the success of the programs will be determined by how citizens feel their tax dollars were spent, and if it had a positive impact on their lives. Hosting community forums throughout the planning and implementation process, building engaging web and mobile experiences to solicit feedback and ideas, and focusing on the outcomes these projects are expected to achieve will ultimately increase the likelihood these projects will be well received and successful.

What are some early success stories you’ve seen with smart cities? Any promising results and case studies we should all be aware of?

Around the world smart city projects are moving forward with purpose. The Smart Dubai initiative is a key part of city’s Happiness Agenda, the City Government of Buenos Aries is focused on fielding citizen complaints, smart lighting and flood control, and in Dublin, Ireland they are using public/private partnerships to improve air quality, access to parking and tracking bike theft. A broader look at these and other projects around the world can be found here at Buddy.com.