Feature Story

Defining the future: What are the key ingredients of smart cities?

by Blake Snow

key ingredients to smart cities

Five key ingredients for aspiring smart cities.

What makes a city smart?

Is it reliance on renewable energy, blanketed internet, and efficient traffic? Or maybe clean air, rapid waste removal, or inconspicuous sensors used to better supply public services?

Whatever it is, Sanjay Khatri appreciates the amorphous definition. "There is certainly a broad spectrum of smart cities," he says as Head of IoT Platform Product Marketing at Cisco Jasper, an IoT platform provider. "Some are smarter than others, providing multiple connected services – whereas most may have only rolled out one connected service, such as intelligent transportation services."

See also: First smart cities...and now smart islands

Ultimately, a fully-realized smart city consists of a range of applications that are interconnected and interdependent."What's the biggest misconception about smart cities then? Viewing them as being overlaid with one or two new technologies rather than wholly new infrastructure, he says. In other words, a completely new and underlying way of assessing and delivering public services.

See also: There's never been a better time to make cities smarter

"Although most cities start with a single connected project, they must understand that this isn't about enabling a single application," he says. "It's about enabling a future connected services. Ultimately, a fully-realized smart city consists of a range of applications that are interconnected and interdependent."

See also: Smart cities call for smart buses

How can aspiring cities achieve that? Khatri points to several ingredients:

Plan ahead with open-based solutions.

"We see lot of initiatives stall due to lack of common technology and policy frameworks," he says. "So even as a city considers its first connected service, they should have a roadmap of future outcomes they may want to pursue and select technologies and platforms that allow for broader deployments."

Consider connectivity choices wisely.

Being able to communicate with things and people is a major component of smart cities. To do this, "cities will likely use a combination of several fixed, wireless, narrow/broadband, and licensed/unlicensed connectivity types," he says. "As a result, cities will also need a platform for managing connectivity, data, and hosting applications."

Protect newly exposed digital doors.

"This is not just about securing connectivity and data, although those are critical," Khatri says. "To make their cities even smarter, administrators must also determine how to share and empower sensitive data with third partner technology providers."

Develop public-private partnerships.

To fund the estimated $2.2 trillion of new infrastructure needed—including a half trillion in transportation alone—cities must work in partnership with private companies to offset tax shortages, Khatri says. This can be done in part with strategic and innovative tax incentives that benefit both the general public and private interests of partnering companies.

Focus on outcomes, not technology.

"Policy makers can have the greatest impact by focusing on specific outcomes rather than technology," Khatri says. "By defining specific outcomes such as reduced traffic congestion, environmental pollutants, energy expenses, etc., you can then work backwards to determine which technology solutions can enable those outcomes."

Of course, smart city focus will vary by geography. While San Francisco is expected to continue to innovate in areas of lifestyle and connectivity, Khatri notes, rapid urbanization in both India and China will likely depend on overcoming utility, public transit, and air quality deficiencies first and foremost.


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