Earlier this week I wrote how 3 American cities are looking to rebrand themselves. Now while this is not my normal ‘beat if you will, the concept behind a smart city is that one that can and will impact every brand doing business in said city.
The fact is smart home products are just the beginning of what will become a much larger connected network within society. Now, various cities around the world are taking that connectivity to the next level. They’re addressing some long-standing development issues by examining the potential of smart cities. In fact, estimates are that more than $41 trillion will be invested in Internet of Things (IoT) tools and platforms to modernize cities around the world.
To get the greatest return on this investment, there are some dos and don’ts when it comes to developing a smart city, based on the numerous attempts to date.
Do See The Larger Picture
It’s important to put context around the purpose and benefit of building a smart city. The bigger picture is the creation of the digital economy in which smart cities will operate and contribute. A digital economy essentially needs smart cities to truly thrive and fulfill its potential.
The Smart Cities Council says that a smart city “uses information and communications technology (ICT) to enhance its livability, workability, and sustainability” by “collecting, communicating, and crunching” data from all sources. Because the digital economy operates on data, it could benefit from having city functions move to that platform.
Do Use Available Data
All the data to build a smart city is there. City officials and planners just need to know how to use it. As an article from The Wall Street Journal reports:
“In just the past few years, mayors and other officials in cities across the country have begun to draw on the reams of data at their disposal — about income, burglaries, traffic, fires, illnesses, parking citations, and more — to tackle many of the problems of urban life. Whether it’s making it easier for residents to find parking places or guiding health inspectors to high-risk restaurants or giving smoke alarms to the households that are most likely to suffer fatal fires, big data technologies are beginning to transform the way cities work.”
Such data can help a city both identify its individual needs and provide the capabilities for designing what its smart city will look like.
However with anything data related there are privacy issues to contend with. “As is the always the case, officials need to always be vigilant when it comes to the collection of data and using it accordingly,” explains Vik Monder, founder of Monder Law Group. “Data needs to be treated like gold, of course with all the prerequisite safety measures in place and adherence to all applicable laws.”
Don’t Skip The Integration Process
It’s important to integrate all components of the urban landscape when creating a smart city. Despite being a digital evangelist and one of the top IT CMOs in the world, Naveen Rajdev, CMO for Wipro, a technology company, emphasizes the importance of considering the human component:
“In a world where technology rules, it’s imperative we find time to think, breathe, and unplug, so city leaders must carefully marry tech and mindfulness. Otherwise, they face the consequences of information overload: weakened decision-making and the feeling of being overwhelmed, among others. A city’s occasional digital detox is crucial.”
Wipro is the creator of Wipro HOLMES, an artificial intelligence platform, so Rajdev knows that technology is integral to making work and life better. But it can be easy to forget that cognitive computing, hyperautomation, robotics, and analytics don’t address everything.
Integration is essential at the start of the smart city planning process. Rather than consider people, networks, analytics tools, and platforms as separate pieces, fit them together before moving forward. It will save time and money, as well as lead to a much more effective smart city. The best way to do this is to understand how each department and aspect of the city needs and uses data in order to determine where there are connections. Those will become the points of integration.
Don’t Make All Smart City Planning About Technology
While technology does help construct the smart city, it’s not everything. There’s still a real need for expertise related to investment and city development. These insights provide a means to understand current infrastructure issues and identify areas of integration between development, planning, and technology. André Bueno, a private equity real estate investor at the Bueno Group in Los Angeles, knows that smart city planners need to consider the complex planning environment in order to determine how the technology that connects it will work most effectively. He explains:
“What we’re seeing is in terms of smart cities, cities are actually starting to collect public data. Los Angeles, for example, opened up its data and analytics to actually show other tech companies, ‘Hey, here’s all the information that we have on transportation.’ How many people are crossing this intersection every day at this time? With that data, they’re able to work with developers and say, ‘Hey, you know what? There’s actually a lot of housing demand in this area. You may be able to reduce traffic by 30% by building here.’”
DO Realize It Takes Considerable Time To Build
It’s important to look at constructing a smart city as a long-term project. Although technology is moving at an increasingly rapid pace, the rest of the process is not. Patience is a must, along with an understanding of how the other components work. As Bueno notes:
“Year one, you’re just working through paperwork. That’s assuming you get it expedited, and you do all the right things. Year two is when you start building. That means that you’re three years out before you even start delivering any products to anybody. You have to be fairly confident that you’re delivering to an environment that is going to look the same three years from now.”
There are many layers to address to construct the most relevant smart city. There are also numerous stakeholders involved, and everyone’s role must be considered. That includes stakeholders such as environmental agencies, city planners, local lawmakers, unions, and residents.
However, data once again becomes a valuable way to reconcile all stakeholder interests. It can also help speed up certain aspects of the smart city building process. For example, the available data can help planners know what steps to take in forecasting adequate inventory for construction projects related to the smart city buildout.
Do Benchmark Other Best Practices
There are many cities with best practices that other cities might incorporate rather than reinvent the wheel. For example, Intel and San Jose, California, are working together to implement Intel’s IoT Smart City Demonstration Platform for the city’s Green Vision initiative. The project is called Smart Cities USA and is intended to “drive economic growth, foster 25,000 CleanTech jobs, create environmental sustainability, and enhance the quality of life for its citizens.”
Meanwhile, Los Angeles is exploring the use of drones for city functions such as firefighting and sewer management. City officials are using data to assess how they can reduce accidents and increase traffic flow. Other U.S. cities have followed suit.
Don’t Assume Today’s Plan Will Work Tomorrow
Realize that a smart city is a living, breathing creature that will continuously evolve. The best approach is to start small while envisioning a big future. Right now, the most important activities are discovery, research, and planning. From there, the future will guide the rest of building a smart city.