What’s Holding Back the Smart Community Industry?
The smart city buzz is louder than ever but projects just aren’t moving as fast as some would assume. We will try to explain the major hold-ups in this write-up.
Smart city projects start with use cases followed by extensive planning and architecture physically and technologically. Normally measurement sensors are put in places like IoT next-gen lighting, advanced kiosks, vertical construction and zero-waste solutions.
While there is no shortage of big-time efficiency gains on the horizon, speakers around the country state that the next step is meshing these emerging technologies with existing economic and political systems. A high-level official recently stated, “The technology solutions are here.” “What we’re really looking at are governance issues.”
Take a seemingly simple lighting project as an example. You surely have heard of connected lighting that allows users to monitor energy consumption via a cloud. However, you may not have heard about lighting piped into high tech downtown offices via wire, allowing employees to adjust the brightness of their individual workspaces? Lighting will increase by about 35 percent by 2030. Experts believe that digitization is a mega-trend that will help communities and cities.
City procurement resources are now one of the most sought-after connection points with cities. Also, cities are starting to post more and more technical jobs including developers and even data scientists. Further, we have heard of cities now listing RFP’s which such language as “User-centric design’.
Now that pressure for progress is changing the way deals get done at the city scale is one crucial financial component of realizing the multibillion-dollar potential of smart cities, there are also more existential challenges to keep in mind.
Automation’s rise is potentially going to change and impact the labor market, particularly in cities where larger income gaps exist and are seeing trends towards expansion. This environment could lead to negative social impact.
Governance and legislation – Normally these new projects are in front of legislation making it hard for officials to make decisions in an era of temporary uncertainty.
Cities don’t own the entire city and P3 partnerships will need to be formed to maximize coverage of the utility such as Washington DC’s P3 video camera feed project.
How to achieve sustainability
We have to think about how all these technologies come together in a more sustainable economy. This involves experts in fields such as finance, technology, sustainability, urban planning and more meeting at the table to ensure risk is reduced to achieving long-term success.
Assuming achievements will be easy with breakthrough technologies. Normally technology on the front of mass adoption leads to higher risk and may have a lower chance of success. Cities focusing on pilots are taking a more measured approach for sustainable reasons. A mistake we have seen is focusing attention on only the top 20 percent of the community market and hoping that trickle-down effects will impact low to moderate-income communities.
Just as smartphones vs non-smartphone users have an advantage so will smart cities. Change is moving fast so don’t be left behind.
While the technical side of change often seems like the major obstacle, you could look to the now-commonplace Google Maps to underscore the speed and ubiquity that technology can now achieve.
We have this transition from amazement to normality occurring more and more.
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