Anatomy of a Smart City

Published by: Brian O'Connor | Published on: 27 Nov, 2018
Anatomy of a Smart City

A Smart City is defined as one that uses technology to improve public services, increase transparency and become more efficient. Smart Cities are multiplying around the world. The escalation of the Smart Cities movement is the result of the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT), with transportation, utilities, and emergency response among the areas most affected.      

Smart Cities are resource-eļ¬ƒcient and use technological innovation to make cities work better for the people who live in them. They harness the data from commonly used smart devices, networks, cloud infrastructure, and applications and analytics to develop new insights as well as new products and services.

According to research by the McKinsey Global Institute, smart-governance solutions can improve public health, safety, environmental, and other quality-of-life metrics by as much as 10-30%.

Unsurprisingly, some scorn these hi-tech initiatives. However, Smart Cities are more than a trend, they are the way of the future as the world becomes increasingly urban. As of 2018, 4.2 billion, or 55% of the world's population, live in cities, up from 34% in 1960. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs predicts that by the year 2050, 6.7 billion, or 68% of the people on the planet, will be urban dwellers.

Smart City practices are popping up all around the country. In San Francisco, an app allows smartphone users to find available parking spaces in garages throughout the city. The City of Chicago is using predictive analytics to dispatch food inspectors to the city's 15,000 restaurants by using variables to predict which businesses are most likely to have code violations. In an 8-week trial of the program, restaurants with code violations were found two weeks faster, on average.

In San Antonio, smart city techniques are used to adjust streetlights in stormy weather to improve visibility and reduce accidents. Even the city’s court system has been streamlined by smart city technology. The city encompasses 460 square miles, which requires some citizens to travel a long distance to get to the courthouse. Through smart city technology, residents can use video court monitors at kiosks throughout the city instead of appearing in person.  

While most cities today are not Smart Cities, many are beginning to adopt analytical techniques and plan for a future where digital technology and intelligent design can be harnessed to create smart, sustainable cities with high-quality living and high-quality jobs. However, for cities to realize their full technological potential, they must first improve their digital infrastructure.

San Leandro, California is a city of 90,000 residents and a manufacturing center for food giants Ghirardelli and Coca-Cola. In 2012, city leaders began to fear that companies would leave without access to proper infrastructure. Consequently, the city installed a 20-mile fiber optic loop to provide the foundation for IoT. Similarly, the 14 Forward investors, acting through the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, is working with United Private Network and Centex Technologies to strengthen the regional broadband network.     

Today, the IoT touches every aspect of our lives from business methods to the delivery of education, healthcare and how we connect with elected officials. Most recently, the Dallas Innovation Alliance began using their Central Business District as a living lab pilot zone. The Phase I pilot includes five to seven projects that include smart lighting, waste management, digital citizen-centric kiosks, smart irrigation, smart parking and public Wi-Fi. They are testing key performance indicators around economic development, energy and water cost and usage, public safety, and transportation.

The outcome of these initiatives will provide a case study for the city to see what works and determine what to build moving forward. The Dallas Innovation Alliance has commented that the exercise has already been successful, with new tech companies moving to the West End like Snapchat and Accenture.

14 Forward’s objective to increase local bandwidth is an important first step, toward providing citizens access to information. It is an essential component to Killeen and cities around the region achieving Smart City status. However, it is equally important that Killeen and the region embrace technological innovation to foster economic growth and minimize the strain on government resources. Cities must realize that they need to act, or risk being left behind. 

A Smart City is not just a city that leverages new technologies, but it is an ecosystem comprised of many stakeholders. 14 Forward’s goal of expanding Interstate 14 and linking regional communication assets is acknowledgment of a clear understanding of the role that Smart Cities can play in our region’s future. 

Smart Cities rely on everything being connected to each other. This, in turn, is highly dependent on technology. Technological literacy is key to turning Killeen into a Smart City that is well connected, sustainable and resilient; where information is not just available, but also findable.  The idea that a Smart City is all about providing smart services to its citizens which can save their time and ease their lives is not new. It is also about connecting them to governance where they can give their feedback to community leaders to shape the city. This cannot be achieved without technology.

The Brookings Institution makes the point that local governments should recognize that tech-driven solutions are as important to the poor as they are to the affluent. With smartphones serving as the prime interface in the modern city, closing the digital divide and extending access to networks and devices is a critical first step. Only by first identifying the gaps in the network and strength of service can local officials create policies and programming to address deficiencies.

Once those gaps have been remedied, city planners can deploy technology in ways that make cities more inclusive for the poor, the disabled, the elderly, and other vulnerable people. More cities can deliver telemedicine and video consultations to elderly residents who are unable to easily travel to see doctors. Fostering collaboration between the public and private sector and city residents is key to creating a smart citizen who will be engaged and empowered and positively contribute to the community.