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Three Unstoppable Smart City Trends (and why you want them even sooner)

December 14, 2015 Business News No Comments Email Email

Famed computer innovator Alan Kay once suggested “the easiest way to predict the future is to invent it.” As we set our eyes on 2016, I am going to introduce three smart city trends I hope you will help to invent for your own city.

Make no mistake – these three trends are already underway. They will happen whether or not you jump on the bandwagon. I am merely suggesting that the sooner you bring them to your city the better.

Integrated is the first trend to watch, or, as the Europeans prefer “cross-cutting.” Far too many cities are still building “siloed” smart city applications one department at a time.

But cities are realizing it’s far better to install equipment and applications that can be shared between departments. Even if you start with one small project in one small department, you still want technology that can accommodate future growth. Look for technology that supports:

  • Open standards
  • Expandability (for instance, a communications network that can be easily upgraded to carry more traffic)
  • Common data formats (to make it easier to exchange information)

Interoperable. The idea of “plug-and-play” technology has been the Holy Grail for decades. And interoperability may be more important to smart cities than to any other sector. After all, a smart city is not a single system. It is a complex system made up of other complex systems, all of which need to talk together and work together.

It is imperative, therefore, that you continue the quest for interoperability. Step one is to insist on products and services that support open standards such as those promoted by organizations like ANSI, IEC, IEEE, ITU and NIST.

But standards are just the first step towards interoperability. Since vendors often implement the same standard in different ways, you must insist that they prove their interoperability before they are awarded the contract.

Inclusive. The third trend is inclusivity. All over the world, smart city pioneers are realizing that technology can and should help all levels of society. Not just the well off, but the disadvantaged as well. Not just the healthy, but the disabled as well. Not just the tech savvy, but those without expensive computers as well. Not just the residents of the dense urban core, but those in outlying areas as well.future of cities

Creating an inclusive smart city starts with early stakeholder engagement. Embrace all of your key stakeholder groups in your early planning. Yes, that should include most if not all city departments. And yes, that should include the business community and the local universities. But it should also include advocates for the disabled, the disadvantaged, the remote and those who have been pushed to the fringes of society.

How do you create a more inclusive smart city? It starts by asking the right questions early in the planning. How will this work for people who only have a smartphone…or even no phone as well? How can we accommodate outlying areas with poor connectivity? What can we do to make these services available to the transient and the homeless?

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said it best last September at the launch of the White House smart cities initiative. “We must plan for all and build for all,” he said. “We must create ladders of opportunity.”

When it comes to tech trends, it is easy to adopt a victim mentality. Day after month after year new trends come crashing in. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and apathetic.

But sometimes tech trends can pave the way for important business, social and governmental changes. Viewed from that lens, we should all welcome the coming wave of smart city technology that will be integrated, interoperable and inclusive.

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, more than 120 member corporations and advisory organizations working to improve the livability, workability and sustainability of the world’s cities. Visit SmartCitiesCouncil.com for the Internet’s largest collection of free smart city articles, guides, downloads and case studies, including the acclaimed Smart Cities Readiness Guide, now in use around the world. You can reach him at Jesse.Berst@SmartCitiesCouncil.com.

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