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Why Are Smart Cities NoT Smart?


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One Size Fits All Approach Will Not Make Cities Smarter

What role should governments and large tech corporations play in the development of smart cities?

Smart city programs cannot be defined by a single “top down” approach or central organizing schema that sets pre-programmed limits. They will be defined by individual citizens, who are motivated to collaborate with each other — to create new use cases and applications that solve specific local problems.  Smart cities will be places that foster creativity, where citizens are generators of ideas, services and solutions, rather than subservient and passive recipients of them.  Lack of vision, incomplete alliance networks, along with technical barriers, have kept a range of technology suppliers from taking a more active and central role in smart city market development.

An increasing number of cities are recognizing the value of user collaboration and are putting programs in place to foster smart systems innovation

  • Global cities are actively pursuing the convergence of smart information and communication technologies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government systems and services but are they enabling citizens?
  • Too much investment in infrastructure and not enough in collaboration, particularly with users and citizens, won’t make cities any smarter.

Key Events

Boston Enables Citizens as Repair Technicians

December 4, 2016

Boston recently launched a mobile app that provides citizens the ability to report problems or needed repairs by sending their photograph of the issue to the city. Not only does this empower residents to participate in improving the city, but sparks citizen dialogues around trends and recurring needs.

City Staff Think Toronto Can Save $1.2B, Create 19,000 Jobs with Tech 

November 30, 2016

Toronto is focused on examining how many public services can be connected through digital infrastructure, for both residents and businesses, in addition to identifying challenges such as procuring equipment and – the question that led to the city creating a working group in the first place – establishing what, exactly, the phrase “smart city” even means.


Singapore Expands Role of Developing and IoT-based Solutions To Address Civic Issues

November 10, 2016

Singapore is exploring the Internet of Things’ role to most of the city-state’s projects regarding transportation, healthcare and environmental sustainability.

Chicago Leads the Way in the Nascent World of Smart Cities

September 7, 2016

With the “Array of Things” project, Chicago has developed and launched an urban sensing initiative that aims to collect, analyze and share data on traffic flow, air quality and weather conditions that will underpin efforts to improve energy efficiency throughout the city. Companies, interested citizens and agencies all have access to the city’s open data portal.

USPS Proposes Smart Cities Data Collection Scenarios

September 30, 2016

Two of the five potential pilot programs would take place in Pittsburgh in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. One project would involve placing cameras and CMU-developed software in 10 USPS vehicles to monitor road conditions and identify cracks and potholes. The other would connect accelerometers to postal vehicles to pick up vibrations while crossing bridges on the vehicle’s normal route. This data would help monitor conditions of the infrastructure. The same technology is already used by the city’s light rail.

A growing number of open data initiatives are driving citizen participation and collaboration to create new solutions 

  • Smart cities are not fixed systems that can be easily be automated or defined by a few infrastructure applications.  They will be defined by individual citizens, who are anxious to collaborate with each other — to create new use cases and applications that solve specific real world problems.
  • Top-down strategic approaches to sustainability, citizen well-being and economic development focus on the city as a monolithic entity; open data and collaborative interactions are required to really enable citizen engagement and involvement.

Key Events

Driving Towards a More Open Future for Data 

November 22, 2016

Industry bodies TM Forum and the FIWARE Foundation are co-developing a smart city API reference architecture to enable the portability and interoperability of smart city solutions as well as a repeatable data economy model. The two sides say the initiative presents significant opportunities for cities, communications service providers, technology suppliers and other parties to realize their part in the API economy.

White House Taps KC Startup mySidewalk for New Open Data

October 6, 2016

The White House handpicked mySidewalk to play a key role in a new open data initiative called the Opportunity Project. The White House initiative aims to “unleash the power of data” to build stronger communities and foster economic mobility. Twelve pilot cities were chosen for the project, including Kansas City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco and Washington.

How an MIT Lab Plans to Build More Data-driven Cities

November 11, 2016

Two of the lab’s initial projects aim to demonstrate how big data can change how we look at important development questions. A large-scale analysis of startup spaces, maker spaces, and tech incubator across the world, will help determine which designs are working, and how the next generation of innovation hubs can be more efficient. The other signature project is the assembly of a massive new database of New York real estate data. By including a more robust set of data—rents, transaction prices, building mortgages, vacant space, Airbnb locations, co-working spaces, cell towers, fiber-optic cables, subway lines—the lab hopes to create a database that can help all manner of researchers and developers build a smarter urban center, and offer a way to “hack the city.”

Verizon Acquires LQD WiFi to Work on Smart Cities and Citizen Engagement

November 14, 2016

LQD’s Palo technology hubs capture Verizon’s vision of delivering citizen engagement experiences by connecting people with their communities while providing critical security, transportation and wayfinding solutions as well as Wi-Fi capabilities,” said Mike Lanman, SVP, Enterprise Products and Internet of Things, Verizon. “This transaction uniquely positions us to utilize our unmatched infrastructure, platforms and network at scale to deploy elegant and engaging community technology hubs that connect, inform, inspire and support people where they live, work and play.

Tech suppliers are partnering to form ecosystems that enable more effective development and delivery of smart city applications and solutions 

  • The value of data made available by city governments for collaboration with technology players and citizens drives higher impact solutions.
  •  Since citizen-centric solutions are not “one size fits all”, diverse “specialist” players are emerging to focus on specific use cases. 

Key Events

Street lighting: Collaboration lights the way to smart cities

November 23, 2016

Global electronics corporation, Panasonic, and LED lighting solutions provider, Schréder, are joining forces to co-develop new solutions that will accelerate the transformation to smart cities. They will share their expertise and knowledge to develop digital solutions and transform existing lighting infrastructure into an integrated smart city platform. Schréder’s solutions incorporate LED technology and control systems that help towns and cities manage lighting networks in a more efficient and effective way. In 2015, it launched Shuffle by Schréder, which is an interactive lighting column combining state-of-the-art LED technology with multiple connected services including cameras, speakers, internet connectivity and a range of charging applications.

Air Quality: Smart Inhalers From Propeller Health Help Monitor Air Pollution

November 10, 2016

Clean air advocates in Louisville, Ky., have an unusual partner in their efforts to influence local environmental policies on air quality and pollution  — the sensors on asthma inhalers. Officials in the city, which frequently sits in the top 10 of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation’s Allergy Capitalists lists, hope to use inhaler data in combination with weather and air quality data and demographic information from federal sources to inform policies that would reduce pollution. The AIR Louisville program uses smart connected inhalers that track when, where and how often asthma patients use their inhalers.

Transportation: Cubic and Microsoft team up on smart city initiative 

November 17, 2016

Cubic Transportation Systems has announced a partnership Microsoft to help deliver the Surface Transport Management solution to allow for multi-modal integration capabilities in transport management centers to control and direct travel networks throughout the city, and deliver safer, more secure and more reliable journeys for travelers.

Corporations and governments certainly have a major role to play in the smart city – by making data openly available for developers to build upon — but they must also make it easy for citizens themselves to create and contribute their own data.  Hence, governments and technology partners have an important enabling role to play with fostering infrastructure, common frameworks, open network standards and data formats.

The “smartness” of smart cities will not be driven by orders coming from the unseen central government computers of science fiction, dictating the population’s actions from afar. Rather, smart cities will be smart because their citizens have found new ways to craft, interlink and make sense of their own data.

Key Roles & Participants in the Smart Cities Value Chain


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