Key considerations when building Smarter Cities

Written by Tim Ritchie

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 Smart City Summit in Boston. I estimate nearly 300 participants including a host of municipalities, infrastructure providers, professional services organizations, and partners like Buddy Platform were in attendance.

It was very encouraging to see a number of city infrastructure Internet of Things (IoT) projects underway, not just in the planning phase, throughout the country. With any new technology, you would expect to see some hurdles emerge – that’s been our observation with our initial forays into smart city initiatives.  We’ve identified four core challenges, and saw them surface at this two-day conference as well:

Budgeting.  It seems there is never enough time or budget to complete all that needs to be done.  That is especially true in scenarios involving multiple jurisdictions or even multiple departments.  Identifying staff resources and budget are, and will continue to be a problem until IoT responsibilities are consolidated and formalized. As things stand, even working through departmental agendas and reconciling concerns from legacy organizations are a challenge.

Privacy.  A large part of the value of IoT results from the tidal wave of raw data coming from connected devices and sensors. When aggregated and processed, that data can provide deep insight into resident’s experience of the city they work and live in. Unless the data is properly scrubbed, aggregated and anonymized, resident’s personal information is at risk of being exposed.

Security.  When there are questions about the security of new technologies, privacy becomes an even greater issue. That’s the situation we’re facing in IoT today. City residents, it is believed, are willing to provide personal data in exchange for compelling value, as long as they are comfortable the information will be used appropriately and will remain secure. If they believe their data will not be secure, they simply won’t participate.

Standards.  There is a huge proliferation of IoT point solutions coming to market. While some work together, most don’t share control systems or work in concert. In order for the IoT to reach its potential, common standards need to be developed and adhered to. Fortunately, organizations like the Open Fog Consortium are working hard to make open data standards a reality.

The Internet of Things has begun to make a positive difference in a number of cities around the globe. Download our Smart City Snapshot to learn more about those efforts. We are on the cusp of making a huge positive impact for city dwellers and the environment. Smart City challenges and grants are driving deeper planning and more ambitious trials. If you are a city with ambitions of introducing more connected technology, I would encourage you to track down and apply for Smart City grant funding available from private and public sources alike.