Denver - Berlin

Smart Cities: Dream or Privacy Nightmare?

How Smart City Models Are
Evolving to Meet Citizens' Needs

Smart City programs cannot be defined by a single “top down” approach or central organizing schema that sets preprogrammed 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.

New smart city technologies are showing promise in their ability to alleviate citizen and agency stakeholder pain-points, but the diversity of technologies and the number of applications and integration dimensions create numerous hurdles to adoption. While many cities are beginning to modernize aging infrastructure, embracing technologies to improve their essential urban systems and enable more effective resource utilization are, at the very least, a very complex challenge.


To be a truly smart city, data must be able to travel freely across systems, allowing information from disparate city operations to feed one another, increasing their overall value to citizens. Open urban architectures are like bridges built at private expense for public benefit. Everybody wants to collect the tolls, but few are prepared for the major challenges they will face to build and maintain the bridge. The size and scale of the undertaking would seem to favor larger companies, but more often it is the smaller, nimbler innovators that drive real applied value.

Although adoption patterns are not moving as fast as the recognition of the need, a city platform can help unify the physical infrastructure, back office operations, and personnel of a city, as well as speed up the time to market for relevant services. We see a growing recognition of the need for a new generation of open platforms that can unify a city’s physical infrastructure, device data, and citizen interactions into a seamless set of services. However, understanding the requirements for such platforms and their adoption is lagging, but the opportunity is substantial.

Today’s platforms for Smart Systems and the IoT should be taking on the toughest challenges of interoperability, information architecture and user complexity. But they’re not. We need to creatively evolve to an entirely new approach that avoids the confinements and limitations of today’s differing platforms. We need to quickly move to a “post platform” world where there is a truly open data and information architecture that can easily integrate diverse machines, data, information systems and people – a world where smarter systems will smoothly interact to create systemic intelligence – a world where there are no artificial barriers between different types of information.

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March 27, 2019