Smart Cities Connect is both a conference and expo held twice a year. This year GISinc attended for the first time in Kansas City, with three goals in mind:
The first was to spend time with the 400+ city leaders from around the world that attend and listen to their discussions and conversations regarding their smart city initiatives, data driven activities, and the technology that helps them achieve their goals for a smarter way to do business and support its citizens.
Second, we attended the conference to support our friends receiving awards; Marietta, GA received the Mobility Award for its TravelSafely Application and Cary, NC received a Network Award for turning Cary into a Simulated Smart City.
Third, we attended the conference to showcase the work we are doing in the GeoIoT space supporting innovations for communities. Learn more about our GeoIoT Platform here.
Some thoughts around what I heard from the conference:
First, I think it’s important to define what this term “Smart City” is or should be. Some would say it’s all about the technology, not so fast. In short, a Smart City is a city that collects many different types of data that allows its practitioners and citizens to make better or “Smart” decisions. Yes, this data can be collected from modern sensor technology or IoT “Internet of Things” which provides more timely access to the data. But, it’s the data that is used to better equip a city for responding to challenges. In essence a Smart City is a Data Driven City with the right technology to be proactive rather than reactive.
As we know technology is only a part of the solution that can improve efficiencies and help make smarter decisions and we typically look at technology first within your business systems to achieve this efficiency, especially around citizen engagement. One thing that is apparent from listening to the numerous panel discussions is that digital literacy is a challenge that communities face. Having a clear outreach program that not only educates its citizens but also provides access to the digital world they live in is critical for adoption. I’m beginning to realize that to achieve digital literacy you need to start out with an analog discussion. Technology with updated processes will greatly impact your Smart City initiatives.
Smart Cities are sexy on the surface, but a lot of hard work and cooperation is needed behind the scenes to make this possible. Use these 3 guidelines to help when looking at new technology for supporting your Smart City initiative.
Imperative to prototype, prove out the right technology for the right job. If you don’t like the word 'prototype' use something else but take small bites.
Prototypes cost dollars, don’t’ be afraid to spend some money. Not a lot but make that commitment.
Build off of common challenges across cities, look at what others are doing
Identify a problem and move forward to answer that problem
Identify individuals who will and can champion the process
Leverage your existing investment or build upon the GIS technology you already have
In closing it’s important that you no longer look at Smart Cities as a project but look at it as a program. Projects are short-lived, and most times lose funding. Programs are long-lived and are incorporated into the budgets. Overall, I give the Smart Cities Conference a “B”, why not an “A”. Well it was interesting hearing about the challenges from the leadership of these communities, but I noticed very little attendance from those professionals responsible for making it work. I wonder how the message will get translated back to these folks from their management that did attend?