Today 54% of the world population lives in cities. That will soon increase to 2/3 of the population.
United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs
We prefer resilient, rather than smart, and community rather than city.
Christopher Rezendes, Inex Advisors
Each of the keynote speakers at the Smart Cities Summit in Boston quoted the UN statistics about urbanization and how critical it is to make our cities efficient, responsive, and enjoyable to live in. An important part of this is making them resilient; quick to recover from whatever gets thrown their way. What typically causes disruption and disaster? Severe weather accounts for about 90% of the disasters and 47% of those calamities involve flooding.
During calamities, situational awareness becomes essential. Smart cities are starting to enhance situational awareness by improving communication, connectivity, user interfaces, and data analytics. Smart city infrastructure will soon auto-recognize emergency workers when they are nearby. For example, elevators and doors will auto-respond to firefighters.
But how can government mobilize and take the initiative necessary to put all the innovative, emerging technologies to work making cities safer and more responsive to the needs of residents? The short answer is they can’t, at least not until legislatures authorize projects; a laboriously slow process. However, private industry is free to experiment and implement projects on the leading edge of technology – at least until regulated or stopped by legislation. These constraints on government highlight the value of public-private partnerships.
Ruthbea Clarke of IDC spoke about Smart Cities, Public Safety, and IoT and summarized the dramatic benefits of body-worn cameras, including reducing the use of force and decreasing complaints. IDC has also published their research into the top 5 steps to make body camera programs successful.
Creating A Stand-Out, Desirable City
Cities are constantly competing with each other to attract residents and businesses. Between 2012 and 2013, 36M people in the US moved to another city; that’s 12%. Kate Garman, an innovation analyst for Kansas City, Missouri, suggests that one way to win the competition is by offering better services to residents. Wi-Fi needs to be provided everywhere. In winter climes, cities could offer information services, where are the plows during a snowstorm? Not just where are the vehicles, but where is the plow blade down, actively clearing snow?
You’ve probably heard of apps that help cities like Boston find potholes, but now cities can locate problems even before they become potholes, while they are still just cracks in the road. This is accomplished through cameras on vehicles that regularly travel the city streets, like post office trucks — see How the U.S. Postal Service could enable smart cities.
So How Can A City Start Getting Smart?
Here are several possibilities to start your city down the smart path. The first is considered the killer app for smart cities: start a project to save energy.
In looking for significantly large cost savings with a smart city project, consider the situation in a city like Boston. In FY2016 Boston spent $51.6 M for energy. $25.8M was spent on electricity alone. A project that could cut that by only 2% would save $516,000 in year one. Savings that large are hard to argue with – imagine the support from voters and tax payers for such a ballot initiative.
Parking is another starter project to enter the smart city arena, considered by many to be the low-hanging fruit for smart cities. The idea is to increase parking revenue or reduce traffic congestion. Another project possibility is to upgrade street lighting with smart LEDs. One conference speaker called street lighting “the gateway drug to the smart city”. Another entrée is video surveillance, as described in How Video Is Helping Eradicate Crime; and other Secured Cities Technology Breakthroughs. Video surveillance projects are enormously popular for their ability to shut down crime.
Remember there are two audiences for smart city programs: residents and the politicians in city hall. Keep the projects visible. Wi-Fi and kiosks help spread information and provide visibility.
For more information on the concept of the Smart City and how it is defined, see The Smart City – What is it and where is it going?