The concept of the Smart City is no longer theoretical; more and more cities are piloting and investing in solutions that are transforming their operations and services delivery.  As discussed in the TCS and Wharton ebook, Smart Cities: The Economic and Social Value of Building Intelligent Urban Spaces, smart cities are a rising trend as cities “harness technology to transform physical systems.”

However, with this transformation comes complexity as physical assets become digitized. These new digital assets start collecting and producing new data and information, altering not only operational processes and service offerings but also procurement and governance models. For example, a street light is no longer static illumination, but a programmable asset that serves as a sensor and video platform. A park bench is a WiFi charging station that collects data.

These new digital/physical systems are proliferating in cities, often without a framework for implementation.  This leaves city departments on their own in determining how to approach security, data management, privacy considerations, and sustainable operations. Not only is this a chaotic and siloed way to manage smart city deployments, but it presents a real risk for data breaches or privacy violations which could threaten public trust and inhibit progress.

While this sounds dire, the good news is that the city of New York, in collaboration with many partners, such as TCS, has developed the world’s first Smart City Internet of Things (IoT) guidelines to:

  1. Provide a common framework to help government agencies develop and expand policies and procedures related to IoT.
  2. Maximize transparency and openness regarding the design, installation, and operation of IoT systems and how public privacy and safety will be protected.
  3. Provide clarity on the minimum requirements and expectations for installing and operating IoT systems using public space or assets.
  4. Advance the public dialogue about how government, the private sector and academic partners can maximize the public benefit derived from IoT solutions.

Last week in Washington DC, at the second annual Smart Cities Week organized by the Smart Cities Council, New York City and IDC offered a workshop to conference attendees to discuss the importance of governance in smart city implementations. As announced by the White House, more than 21 cities in the U.S. signed on to the principles of the guidelines and 60 workshop attendees spent two hours discussing their use and value to smart city progress.

These guidelines represent the work of a large ecosystem of players, essential for smart city growth. Cites around the world can now leverage NYC’s process, which included:

  • Taking a citywide inventory of IoT deployments across city agencies to ensure a clear understanding of the status quo and existing policies.
  • Researching best practices and lessons learned from 50-plus cities around the globe, resulting in a database of more than 450 best practices across five categories.
  • Developing an initial set of 99 guidelines that were reviewed by 50-plus subject matter experts from the NYC, universities, regulatory and standards bodies, public interest groups, private companies, and other governments.
  • Collecting and integrating input through a combination of calls, in-person meeting, and written input to arrive at the 39 beta guidelines.

IDC estimates that cities could be managing devices and data from upwards of 15,000 devices per a population of 100,000; the time is now to begin to control risk and chaos with a coordinated approach to these transformative initiatives.  Smart city solutions offer cities access to new information – more timely, granular data that can be cheaper and safer to collect.  This data leads to proactive operations and better decision-making, and results from pilots are evident (as shown in the figure below).

 

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The potential impact of a Smart City transformation should not be understated. With current and projected urban populations, these solutions can touch the majority of people in the world, impact the environment in significant ways, and support most of the global economic growth.

As stated in the conclusion of the TCS and Wharton ebook, Smart Cities: The Economic and Social Value of Building Intelligent Urban Spaces, “Advances in digital technology, new business models, and prioritization of sustainability goals, have given cities the tools to become an intelligent urban landscape in ways never seen before. The road ahead might seem complicated but the rewards – both economic and in quality of life – will be worth it.  So take it one step at a time, partner with the private sector when necessary, but go for it.”