Smart cities are built around a modern, high-capacity network, just as early settlers built towns around a major river or bay. But there is no single dynamic driving smart cities, a trend so young that service providers and urban areas are still exploring multiple approaches.
"We believe an advanced network is the underlying building block of a smart city," ays Joe Kochan, COO of US Ignite, a non-profit that seeks funding for smart city projects. Cities can build the networks themselves or partner with AT&T, Verizon or Google. "We're agnostic how the network gets there," Kochan says. It is the smart city that overlays that network, he notes.
"There is no requirement for a gigabit network [to reach] the end user. It's easier if that were the case." Kochan says. Typically, a smart city network begins with anchor institutions -- hospitals, schools or police and fire, ambulance, he says.
Confusion and progress go hand in hand
Smart city announcements pepper the flow of news stories. Phoenix and Cox Communications recently shared news about their US Ignite project funding. AT&T is working with Miami-Dade County, Fla., to explore smart city solutions. And telecom service provider Sprint donated $250,000 to Connect Chicago. Multiple pieces make up the smart cities whole, as the AT&T diagram on the home page shows. But what pattern do these announcements paint? (See: Cox Funds Phoenix Smart City Push, Miami-Dade County Joins AT&T's Smart City Initiative and Sprint Launches Connected Chicago Campaign.)
The US is now at the "smart city 2.0" stage, says Bettina Tratz-Ryan, research vice president for smart cities and smart ecosystems at Gartner Group. US cities that have not figured out their business model usually start with the technology, she says. By the time they get to the 2.0 stage, they focus on the outcomes they desire before applying technology to achieve them.
Charlotte Banks on Verizon
Charlotte, known for its financial district, saved $10 million in two years via smart city and IoT initiatives.
Those desired outcomes vary from city to city. In Manhattan the goal is energy efficiency. Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco focus on the environment and congestion, and use sensors and networks to connect data points between vehicular use and air quality or to gauge the impact of traffic on productivity.
"Many cities are interested and are starting to build a vision." Tratz-Ryan says. "Cities here are under extreme cost pressures."
In Europe, however, an engaged but aging population demands smart city services to retain independent living. In the Middle East, the top-down model for implementation is part of a bigger shift for nations transitioning away from an oil-based economy to other industries. And in Asia, where cities are rapidly expanding and appearing, smart city initiatives are vital for traffic management.
The measure of all things
Cities lag behind states and the federal government, yet they are the building blocks of smart solutions for governance. Working at the local level seems best, US Ignite’s Kochan says. Trying to solve a high-level, complex problem at the national level requires a scope too large to view. "Cities are taking the lead in untangling complicated problems." he says.
To this end, US Ignite is already working on between 100 and 200 smart city initiatives, Kochan says. The National Institute for Standards and Technology is also working in another 60 to 80 projects, he noted. And Sigfox plans to deliver Internet of Things services to at least 100 US cities and towns, Allen Proithis, president North America at the French-based company, tells The New IP. (See: Sigfox: IoT Triumphs & Tussles.)
Globally, smart cities will grow to $1.1 trillion by 2019 from $411 billion in 2014, according to Marketsandmarkets. Much of this will be fueled by the mass migration of people to cities worldwide, which urban areas -- and their service provider partners -- will have to manage.
— William Terdoslavich, Freelance Contributor. Follow him on Twitter at @williamtnyc; connect on LinkedIn or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Special to The New IP.