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The Smart City Imperative—Why ICT Matters

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) when properly applied will have significant benefits for Cities, Industry and Citizens and can help mitigate the problems that significant population growth in cities is causing. This growth is caused by longer life expectancies and the trend towards urban vs. suburban living. These factors are putting tremendous pressure on the infrastructure of cities and is affecting the quality of life. IT will be a critical component of the innovative methods required to manage the growth. Over half the population lives in cities today and the UN projects that 66 percent of the global population will be living in cities before 2050.

New ways of thinking are required and a number of cities have harnessed an ecosystem of public and private cooperation that looks holistically at the many issues cities are confronted with. The changes will impact all citizens. Commercial Real Estate is now judged on its utilization of power as well as its wired score. Creating a technically rich, sustainably efficient, and safe environment for citizens as we grow will require creative and collaborative approaches.
Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta recently wrote in ATL’s Smart City Challenge submission to the Department of Tranportation, “Atlanta is a community of collaborators…One that is well positioned to bring our entire innovation ecosystem together to be a global leader.” “We are headed in a new direction that increases economic opportunity and social mobility; creating a transportation network that reconnects neighborhoods, inspires new forms of civic engagement, embraces “smart” technology and fosters investment decisions and dollars that are aligned to create a a better quality of life for all who live, work and play in Atlanta.”
Dr. Boyd Cohen has developed the Smart City Wheel which the City of Atlanta is using to help identify the critical issues facing its livability and its high growth future. Atlanta’s very proactive approach to getting in front of these issues can be used as a guideline for building a roadmap for the future. Critical Issues regarding Healthcare, Education, Energy and Water, Transportation, Public Safety, Hospitality and Environmental Sustainability are being addressed. All stakeholders must understand the interdependence and their role in helping manage the growth.
Atlanta’s success can be traced to a very involved public and private cooperation ecosystem. Organizatons such as Invest Atlanta and The Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce have dedicated resources to help grow both its economic and commercial environment while at the same time focusing on quality of life. AT&T designated Atlanta one of its pilot smart cities. Companies like Coca Cola, Southern Company, Georgia Pacific, and many others participate in a quarterly forum to exchange ideas on the drivers of Mobility and Technology. Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) will be the enabler of the digital transformation.

Gartner estimated that there were 1.6 billion connected “things” in smart cities at the end of 2016 and growing by 42% in 2017. Most credible consultants project growth rates of over 20 percent per year for the next 5 to 10 years. There are 382 cities in the United States with greater than 50,000 residents. McKinsey has forecasted that the economic impact by 2025 to be up to $1.7 trillion.
Cities are seeing practical gains in the transportation, utilities, and public safety areas already.
Cities have been beginning to place increasing importance on building smart cities. Cost Savings and Sustainability are 2 key goals. CompTIA released a study in August of 2016 and the 6 leading drivers for adoption of Smart City programs were:

  1. Better Streams of data to improve decision making
  2. Staff Productivity gains
  3. Cost Savings from operational efficiencies
  4. Automating work process
  5. New or better citizen experiences
  6. Better visibility and monitoring of assets

Some of the major concerns related to adoption are:

  1. Cybersecurity Risks
  2. Lack of skilled workers with IoT expertise
  3. Upfront start up cost
  4. Interoperability with existing systems and devices
  5. Operating Costs
  6. Quantifying the return on investment (ROI)

Cities fundamentally are facing decisions whether to develop their own infrastructure, buy infrastructure directly from the network providers, or to find a cooperative model that ensures that these transformative technologies will be deployed at a rapid rate and a price point that allows for wide adoption. Atlanta has been progressive in pursuing this approach and has issued an RFI for network operators to provide their capability. We will keep an eye on that process as well as in other major markets.
In future posts, Dense Networks will expand on the specific technologies, skills and best practices being applied or developed for Transportation, Utilities, Public Safety, Citizen Engagement and Environmental Sustainability efficiencies. We will also follow the Cities of Orlando and Philadelphia as they implement the Smart City Awards they won earlier this year. The developments in this space will impact commerce and the quality of life for years to come.
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