What’s the Secret to Smart City Success?

October 18, 2018 - 9 minutes read

In a previous post, we wondered, “Is there a right way to build a smart city?” Well, a Finnish city named Tampere has an answer. It’s leading the initiative for smart city development by publishing a free guide to creating a smart city. The guide includes examples that city officials and Internet of Things (IoT) developers can use to implement smart city paradigms locally.

Dubbed the Smart City Cookbook, the 56-page book highlights best practices it distilled from analyzing smart cities around the world alongside insights that leaders came across when building Smart Tampere’s features.

Sharing Is Caring

Nick Cotton is the author of the Smart City Cookbook. Cotton also leads smart city education and operational development of Tampere. Regarding his book, he says, “We wish to share our smart city know-how and tell how about our learning path. Of course, we also wish to raise the awareness about Tampere as a smart city.”

Smart cities haven’t blossomed yet; they’re still in the early stages of ideation and implementation, with very few established cities taking the initiative to start converting parts of their city with smarter and greener features. Because there aren’t many truly smart cities, data is sparse on how to build a successful smart city. But we do know there are a few key elements to a successful smart city.

Baby Steps Toward a Bigger Picture

All cities have a strategic vision that they’re working toward. But contrary to common assumption, city planners don’t need to start from scratch to make their metropolitan areas more intelligent. By incrementally adding smart features to the plan, a city can start becoming smarter over time.

The Smart City Cookbook offers measurement frameworks to track progress toward pre-set goals. Smart cities can find success by measuring the impact of their features on several aspects: environmental, economic, social and community, and research and innovation.

The amount of value these four aspects bring to a city’s residents is just as (if not more) important as building smart city features on time and on budget. Not all city features will impact those four values, but an impact on at least one category is considered to be excellent and on-track to smart city success.

Open Data = Resilient IoT Infrastructure

Partnerships between the private and public sector would quickly push innovation in each smart city’s IoT landscape. Because the city runs off of tax money, it cannot afford to fail; on the other hand, private companies have the capital to fail quickly and often, allowing for iterative improvements to a service. PPPs (private-public partnerships) aren’t short-term programs. They leave a lasting impact on the city and its citizens.

IoT is the foundation of a smart city. How else could a traffic signal keep track of congestion further down the road? IoT simplifies analysis and execution of data-driven decisions. IoT-enabled devices and data collectors can save energy around the city, help with city planning, and improve safety in many neighborhoods.

The city of Tampere knows the importance of being transparent with its citizens about data collection, retention, analysis, and encryption. As a result, the city opened all of the collected data to the public, allowing companies and private parties to develop apps, services, and visualizations for Tampere citizens.

According to the Smart City Cookbook, “the creation and usage of open data channels should be at the heart of a smart city strategy.” For the sake of the city’s trustworthiness and its citizen’s privacy, we can’t agree more.

5G Is the Highway to the Future

Just as IoT is the backbone of smart cities, connectivity is the heart of IoT. If a smart city’s network is slow, poorly built, or not working, the city will be greatly impacted. In particular, a high-speed connection from a 5G network will be required to bring us into the future.

If a city cannot upgrade its 4G or 3G fast enough, it will be left behind its competitors. 4G won’t allow self-driving cars to communicate fast enough, it won’t be able to route ambulances down the best path more efficiently, and it won’t allow for much more than a fast social media connection.

The World Bank found in a 2009 report that economic growth increases 1.2% for every 10% increase in network upgrades in developed countries. Las Vegas is building a strong fiber network that the state of Nevada is imagining will be of great use for drone users. Chris Walach is the director of operations for unmanned aviation at the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems.

He elaborated on a drone “highway” where drones can enter, exit, and fly from airports and other buildings throughout the state, saying, “Such an air corridor will eventually go from Las Vegas to Reno, most likely following the same fiber route. Anytime a drone can tap into such a fiber network, this could really enhance drone data transmissions and boost productivity to a level that the (unmanned aerial system) industry has not yet realized.”

Collaboration Is Key

An international conference, called Smart Cities Week, was recently held in D.C. It centered around the future of smart cities, smart city adoption, and new smart elements. Smart cities around the world must keep in touch and share insights with each other, according to experts who spoke at the event. It cannot be a matter of politics or competition; for the sake of humanity, we must work together to advance cities for every citizen.

Reports predict that 68% of the global population will live in cities by 2050. With most cities set to experience unprecedented growth, sharing what does and doesn’t work in each city can expedite innovation and quality of life.

Jose Escobar is the Senior Manager of Strategy and Business Development for Verizon’s Smart Communities effort. Escobar emphasizes that “we have to plan and work together. How do we generally work together on the same side of the table to understand what are those common challenges we will be facing that we didn’t ask for so we can try and solve for that moving forward?”

The True Heart of Smart Cities

Although much of a smart city revolves around its technology, environmental impact, and reducing stress on city resources, it’s important to note that citizens are still the priority of every smart city.

Cotton agrees, stating, “At the heart of developing a sustainable and safe city that offers high-quality services are the citizens. People are at the center of innovation and change, and that is a message that is at the heart of this book.”

Without its people, a city cannot thrive or survive. What do you think cities should prioritize as they slowly convert themselves into smart cities? What do you wish your local town would implement? Let us know in the comments!

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