SMART CITY INFRASTRUCTURE: Initiatives That Can Transform Community Services

By Cannon, Michael | Public Management, June 2018 | Go to article overview

SMART CITY INFRASTRUCTURE: Initiatives That Can Transform Community Services


Cannon, Michael, Public Management


Residents' expectations of their local governments are constantly increasing. To meet this demand requires communities to change how they do business. The communities that will thrive will be the ones where planners, technologists, and government leaders work together to plan for and take the necessary steps to make their communities 21st century smart cities.

Every local government is unique and while some of the most advanced smart cities and counties share common qualities, the approach will be different for each one. Unless a city is being built from scratch with an unlimited budget, most smart city initiatives will be incremental.

A well-thought-out assessment serves an important first step in the journey to becoming a smart community. A smart city readiness assessment defines what resources are available, what needs exists, and where priorities and opportunities exist when it comes to a community's infrastructure and technology. Given the speed at which technology is evolving, assessing opportunities for smart cities needs to be done constantly.

Global management adviser McKinsey and Company summed it up well in a October 2012 report, "The Smart-City Solution" by Wim Elfrink (1): "When you get a critical mass, the data on the benefits [of a smart city] is so compelling: a 50 percent reduction over a decade in energy consumption, a 20 percent decrease in traffic, an 80 percent improvement in water usage, a 20 percent reduction in crime rates."

Transforming a community into a smart city offers benefits in several areas:

Quality of life. Smart urban planning and building sensors and other technology into an urban infrastructure (e.g., new construction, buildings, roads, parking systems), establishes the building blocks for smart cities, and helps "future proof" a community.

Economic development. The infrastructure found in smart communities attracts new businesses and technology-oriented workers.

Service enhancements. The ability to make information available to residents through real-time access allows them to pay bills and access such local government data as land-use information, budget information, and crime statistics.

Transportation. Smart city applications and infrastructure can improve traffic flow, parking, public transportation; support autonomous vehicles personal transport systems; and improve pedestrian safety.

Public safety. Gunshot detectors, resident alert systems, and smart cameras (video analytics) are just a few possibilities.

Environmental. Energy management options include pollution sensing, smart metering, and real-time energy consumption tracking, as well as advancements in alternative energy management (solar and wind systems).

Many of the building blocks of a smart city are technologies that are advancing rapidly, including sensors and Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, artificial intelligence, 5g wireless networks, fiber networks, and big data. Securing these technologies is also a critical component of smart cities.

Learning by Defining

Let's start by defining these technologies and how they fit into smart cities. IoT describes the world of Internet-connected devices that can communicate with each other and share data. IoT devices are expected to grow to more than 20 billion by 2020 and account for $7.1 trillion in business according to Cisco.

In a smart city, these devices can be sensors in roads, street lights, buildings, and air quality systems. They are designed to communicate with each other and can often be controlled remotely and share large amounts of data.

To prepare your community for autonomous vehicles, for example, you may need to have sensor and IP-based beacons throughout your road systems, parking lots, parking garages, traffic lights, and crosswalks. These IoT are infrastructure elements that will communicate with and help guide autonomous vehicles safely through your community. …

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