Smart cities 2.0: what works today

Let’s imagine a modern city in 2020. It is a smart city. Urban planning, ecology, and information technology reach into every neighborhood, to improve citizens’ quality of life.

Sensor-based systems are already in place in many municipalities and regions all over the world.

A dream of efficiency

In the first wave of smart cities, starting around 2009, mayors and city managers were excited about adopting sensor technology. It was what they had been dreaming of to monitor air quality, traffic, noise.

Sensors would help manage services, to improve, and modernize urban areas. Municipalities listened carefully to the many smart city advantages, and cost reduction was a big driver. And so calls for bids were issued and won.

Smart cities version 1: Technology for its own sake

In the first wave of smart cities, the goal was testing the technology, not building a business case.

Early projects were funded without any real continuity plan. As a benchmark, a telecom project allocates 15% to 20% of its total yearly budget for maintenance operations. In the early smart city projects, this was not even contemplated.

Our lessons learned for smart cities version 2.0

In the first iteration of smart cities, we discovered the technology boundaries, the importance of clarifying requirements, and aligning expectations.

  • We are a long way from commoditization

As long as projects remain experimental and anchored at the pilot stage with dozens or a few hundred units, it won’t be possible to consider hardware as a commodity.

  • Second: Interoperability is key

Services are multiple in a city. There is not just one vendor. With all the new radio and cloud technologies vying to be the single, “go-to” technology, interoperability is key. 

We also found that:

  • Installation and maintenance matter.
  • Sensors have to be calibrated and replaced, so we made them easy to install and reprogram.
  • Quantity is not as important as Cities today appreciate accuracy over price.

In smart cities version 2.0, the citizens are driving this time. They demand quality-of-life indices. Lighting, energy, water, transportation are crucial; air quality and noise pollution touch everyone acutely.

Smart cities and the Internet of Things allow people to interact with their environment and the city and regional governments in new ways.

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