The Why of Smart Cities….

A long time reader emailed me on Friday. She said “wow you’ve mashed a lot of topics into your smart cities blogs, why?” Knowing the person it was more a question of the why behind rather than seeking rationale for what I had recommended. So without further ado, the why of all the mashing.

First off, we are talking about cities. People live in cities. In fact 1/2 the world’s population now lives in cities. That number is going to increase. The what and how of cities is also changing. In the days of feudal lords the city was a place of protection (and oppression). Keep the farmers in the walls to protect home. Keep them in the walls so they would do what they were told to do.

The digital city can be anywhere. You can be on vacation in Fiji and apply for a business license in New York City. So what are the components we are talking about? What are the many pieces that make a city smart?

It is an evolution not a revolution. Cities will in the next few years begging adding many services.

  1. City Broker: Why not offer a broker service and service catalog at the municipal level. The monetary stream isn’t huge but the city would be able to manage and support its citizens as we move to a digital world.
  2. City Market (Service Catalog): Why wouldn’t you want to create a service at the Smart City level that creates an incubation for small businesses to grow quickly. Every city is going to want to have an incubation system for small business and for startups. Offering services at the city level via a catalog will allow for these organizations to quickly start up and be productive. It will also benefit all the residents of the city by offering consistent lower cost goods. Large companies will benefit as well, they purchase equipment at a huge cost that they only use once a week. Now they can time share that equipment via the City Market to smaller non-competitive companies. They recoup some of their cost, the city gets a small revenue stream and the small company gets services they couldn’t afford in a non-Utility model.
  3. Personal and Home Private Cloud Security: Somebody has to do this, frankly it probably should be a non-profit organization that is an NGO (non-Government Organization) but it would need to work with the City Government in the Smart City for implementation and ongoing support.
  4. Cyber Physical Systems Broker: as more and more of these sensors and systems come only, the aggregation fits nicely into the broader City Market concept. Offering common CPS devices so that they can be reused (weather, video feeds and a fleet of security drones that sweep the city).
  5. City wide Wi-Fi – why? Frankly I think the Smart City will offer two city wide networks. One only for CPS devices to reduce traffic and one for everything else. Potentially partnering with media companies to fifer a 3rd city wide entertainment network also. In a city of 10,000,000 people there are multiple individual streams of any one movie. What if everyone was watching one cached stream of the same movie. Smart Cities would offer their citizens intelligent bandwidth management.
  6. Egoverment – or the creation of a virtual city. No more standing in lines at City Hall. Everything can be done in the virtual world. Forms are online. You can the smart city digital assistant (Siri of the City!) that will respond to you and help you navigate this new world.

There are more things (the concepts for more are in the book “The Syncverse” available on Amazon.) Smart Cities will do. Let’s start with the Egovernment. Moving government to a virtual world is the first critical step in successfully moving towards a smart city. Egovernment is more than simply putting the city online. It is also creating an analytics framework to make things better. The Smart City has net new revenue streams (Broker, Market) and net reductions in cost (on-line gov, reduced helpdesk with the digital SiriCity!) which means the Smart City can offer tax breaks to companies that downsize their offices. Today a huge chuck of a cities tax revenue is the downtown and suburban offices. If that is no longer the single largest revenue source you can offer tax breaks to companies that reduce their office footprints. Less office space means greater space for homes and small farms!

That in a nutshell is the why of Smart Cities having so much. I agree that the risk of Smart Cities having access to and control of a device on your home network and cellular phone poses a risk. Again in my book the Syncverse I proposed an NGO that would manage the Syncverse. I suspect the NGO would probably have to manage those security devices as well. Funded by the Smart City and National Governments but operating outside the control of either. Some countries will control the devices at the national level, but in the end they control access to and use of the internet today, anyway.


Smart City dreamer….