By Brian Cotton
Last week my company, Frost & Sullivan, hosted a panel discussion in Silicon Valley called, “Smart Cities Solutions,” as part of our Global Growth, Innovation and Leadership exchange. Comprised of municipal government officials and corporate executives, the panel spent 90 minutes discussing the process of building smart cities. Ironically, it wasn’t until the last few minutes of the session that they got around to talking about the citizen.
This got me thinking. As a consultant in the Smart City industry, I have a behind-the-scenes perspective on the development of Smart Cities. And building a successful SmartCity takes time, money, political will, and above all citizen support.
To make informed decisions and be able to support citizens, we need to understand some things about Smart Cities. After all, Frost & Sullivan’s new Smart Cities study is predicting that by 2025, there’ll be 26 Smart Cities in place globally and another 90 cities on the way to becoming smart. So the chances are good that many of us will be living in one.
At Frost & Sullivan, we think of a SmartCity as a set of key players working together to provide services to citizens, with a framework of technology supporting it all. A city is “smart” when the key players use the technology to understand, manage, and predict things relevant to their mandate to serve its citizens. Importantly, the players need to collaborate so that unnecessary overlap is avoided. (For example, I can’t understand why streets are routinely torn up repeatedly to install new water lines, then power cables, then sewer lines. That’s definitely not smart.)
In the SmartCity there are two types of players. First, there is Municipal Government, which uses a Smart City to drive down the costs of creating and delivering services, to solve discrete problems like public safety or traffic, and to holistically build a city with the capabilities to sustain future growth. Then there are Technology Companies and Consultants who supply technology, capital and know-how to help build the physical and digital infrastructures and deliver SmartCity services.
But if there’s a third player in these solutions, it would be the Citizens themselves. They are a critical piece in Smarter Cities planning because the services we define are designed to enable them to live better lives through improved communities. We also fund the development and operation of the Smart City with our taxes, so in essence, the citizens own the Smart City and the capabilities it brings. To that end, we are truly partners in the development of “Smart.”
In a Smart City, the government uses the capabilities of the city to capture data and insight (such as usage patterns) to understand the needs of citizens and address them effectively.
But in order for the system to work, we as smart citizens can’t stop at just using the services – we need to provide feedback on them. Our interaction with government directs it and its technology partners, to improve and develop additional smart capabilities and services.
Every citizen in a Smart City is responsible for being actively engaged in shaping how the city serves them. After all, the Smart City is really about them.