The smart way to a smarter city: Three critical considerations

The concept of smart buildings is generating lots of excitement, but what’s the transformation to intelligent cities look like at ground level for those in charge of making it happen? This post is the first in a series of three illustrating how Internet of Things technology can change urban areas for the better—for those who run them and those who live in them. First up, a rundown on the most common barriers to adoption for administrators embarking on the journey to a smarter city.

From traffic management to sewer maintenance to building management and infrastructure, cities around the world are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve the lives of citizens and visitors. Networks of sensors connected to the cloud provide insights that make urban areas safer, more adaptive, and more economically robust. McKinsey estimates that the economic impact of IoT in cities could be as much as $1.6 trillion per year by 2025.

However, creating genuine impact with IoT isn’t easy. Cities are complex places, with layers of different IT systems; citizens, data, and infrastructure whose security needs protection; inflexible budgets; and intermeshing operations. Choosing the right platform is a lot more complicated when you don’t have the luxury of ripping out and replacing existing physical and digital infrastructure.

Smart city research from IDC, performed in partnership with Microsoft, highlights many ways metro area administrators can overcome these challenges to realize the incredible potential of IoT. Let’s take a look at three big themes that emerge.

1. Interoperability: Getting new and old IT talking

IDC’s research shows that city departments account for over 40 percent of smart city project decision-making and 30 percent of project funding. This siloed management approach is a real drawback, when 40 to 60 percent of the value of IoT solutions lies in interoperability.

Breaking through these barriers is one of the first hurdles you’ll have to clear on your way to creating a responsive, technology-enabled city. For example, real-time data from smart traffic lights and tollbooths can help cities improve planning and reduce commute times. Combine this with data from other systems—emergency services, road maintenance, event management, or even social media—and now you’re talking about transformative insights and efficiencies. Automatically call in cleaning crews when the football team wins a big game. Dynamically price parking and tolls in response to significant events. Give multiple departments access to video feeds so they can effectively respond to incidents.

In the past, this type of interoperability could require months of effort just to get proprietary, closed systems to play nicely together. The right technology choices make this much easier. Cloud-based IoT solutions built on open standards can accommodate many divergent technologies. Using application programming interfaces (APIs), programs can be made to talk to each other without rearchitecting them. In addition, using a common data schema can make incorporating multiple sources easier. Many cities are also creating the role of Chief Digital Officer to oversee the moving parts involved and drive collaboration and teamwork.

2. Security: Safer is smarter

Sharing data across networks requires a new focus on security. As the Harvard Business Review puts it, “as local governments pursue smart initiatives, realizing the full potential of these digitally connected communities starts with implementing cybersecurity best practices from the ground up.” This means not only protecting personal information but preventing hackers from gaining access to critical systems that control power, water, emergency services, and so on.

Cloud-based IoT can help address these issues by providing a platform built and managed with security in mind. Look for a solution that offers tools for secure device provisioning and management, data connectivity, and cloud processing and storage. Knowing these tools are baked in gives city leaders peace of mind and the freedom to focus on innovation.

3. Trust: For the public good

IoT technology will go nowhere without gaining public trust. The stakes are high for citizens, who rely on government systems and services for their safety and well-being. If they don’t have confidence in new systems, they won’t embrace them. (This is especially true when it comes to handling crises. Look for the second article in this series to see how cities are planning for disasters and improving emergency response with smart city tech.)

Bring the community into the process of IoT adoption early. This can reduce project risk by ensuring the solution will meet their needs. The public brings invaluable ideas to the table—insights rooted in how they live and use the city. Plus, high community engagement will drive broad awareness and support for smart city solutions.

Building buy-in is especially important to realizing the potential for citizen engagement. As McKinsey puts it in its article Smart cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future, “Above all, the people who live and work in a city should play a role in shaping its future. Digitization is shifting power to consumers in industry after industry, and the same pattern is emerging in smart cities.” IoT plays a role by empowering people to make data-driven decisions on a day-to-day basis.

The global competition for talent, investment, and tourism isn’t getting any easier. Cities are investing in IoT to become cleaner, safer, and more enjoyable places to live even as they grow. The choices they make today will have long-lasting consequences for the people they serve. Microsoft is committed to helping cities become more prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive through the application of intelligent cloud and edge technology. Want to know how? Come talk to us at Smart City Expo or learn about our CityNext initiative.

Source: IoT

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