Have you ever considered how diverse the smart city sector is? Think about the variety of companies from different industries it brings together, along with government agencies, academics, social enterprises, urbanists and community leaders. Is there anything quite like that in the modern world?
Smart Cities could be called the Urban IoT and by definition touches “things” which come into every part of our daily lives.
The smart cities sector is technology driven and understandably attracts a who’s who of technology companies, but even within technology, diversity exists. Smart cities involve most of the world’s biggest and oldest technology companies both hardware, software and everything in between.
“We’ve built strong relationships with cities across the U.S. for over 100 years”, said Mike Zeto, general manager of Smart Cities, AT&T IoT Solutions. “Our holistic strategy can help cities save money, conserve energy, improve quality of life, and further engage with their citizens.”
It’s not just technology goliaths that have pursued and made a significant impact on the smart cities sector, however, start-ups and “middle-aged” firms are without doubt vital innovators for this emerging industry. Consider Silver Spring Networks, Semitech, LQD Wifi, Trilliant and StratIS, who each come from very different areas of the “smart city” but are all coming together to partner and integrate their technologies in this smart melting pot of innovation.
”We see Smart Cities as a tremendous opportunity to shape the world with technology, but admittedly the amount of forethought necessary to create something that can enable that impact is rare without a defined mission,” said Felicite Moorman, CEO and cofounder of StratIS, which offers access, energy, and automation management and control for commercial residential, or multifamily properties. “It’s smart building meets smart home for apartments.”
“The most viable technologies in Smart Cities will forgo planned obsolescence but remain price competitive to enable ubiquity,” he added. “They’ll be secure, with well-thought privacy policies and include software and hardware that is easily updated and upgraded without additional cost. Lastly, they’ll be beautifully designed to encourage adoption and engagement, thereby achieving that for which it was installed, whether it’s energy savings, waste management, or communication.”
It is exactly those qualities that demand the smart cities space be so diverse. Their need for an unprecedented level of integration between hardware and software in the context of the “cyber-physical systems revolution.” In addition to the need to cooperate with a broad section of the public and private sectors, as well as directly with citizens themselves.
The public sector is crucial to the formation of smart city but not just for authorizing permits, issuing regulations and through funding. City authorities and national government departments have become a driving force in smart city development around the world. Consider the involvement of Bristol City Council in the West of England, who established the ‘Bristol is Open’ project to drive innovation and inclusivity while developing their smart city.
“I believe that the best cities are the ones that embrace change and are prepared to look for new solutions to the great urban challenges, such as climate change, mobility, energy supply and caring for our growing older population” said Ferguson. “Of course, in trying new things we shall sometimes make mistakes, but by working closely with business, with academia and, of course, with citizens, we can learn together in our live urban lab,” said Bristol’s mayor George Ferguson.
It almost seems as though every new urban initiative is embracing smart city concepts, or perhaps smart cities are embracing them. Firms like Uber, Citymapper, and AirBnB have emerged as giants in their respective fields and independently from the smart city movement. However they epitomize the smart generation and after years of running alongside the meandering definition of smart cities they have become increasingly entangled.
“We have partnered with many cities around the world, but typically those partnerships are not about harnessing Airbnb’s technology,” said Maria Rodriguez, head of global consumer communications at AirBnB. “They’re instead about harnessing Airbnb’s community of hosts who are citizens of those cities.”
Rodriguez believes AirBnB’s technology facilitates hosts in becoming more engaged citizens, informal ambassadors, and collaborative partners with their city government. “To us, a truly smart city is one that leverages technology to engage better with their community, and we are happy to partner in whatever we can,” she said. “We’ll have more to share re: how we help developers design more shareable and flexible housing from the ground up.”
This is just a small cross section of the diverse players in action in the smart city arena. The list get a lot longer when you delve into utilities, transportation and roads, communities, social enterprises and the academic institution that are seeing their experimentation going into action at record speeds.
Perhaps the only equivalent to the Smart City is the City itself. Like the “City,” the “Smart City” will be at the center of our society as a whole. Like the “City,” the “Smart City” will require involvement from almost every part of our society to create the technology enabled living entities at the heart of human civilization. Unlike the “City,” for better or worse, the “Smart City” will be “smart”.
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