Making cities smarter

Staff writer
11 Dec 2014

There are typically a lot of different players involved in a smart city project - i.e. different municipal departments, utilities, devices, partners, etc. What’s the best way to unify all this under a workable architecture that everyone can use?

This question can be best answered by looking at a roadmap for a typical smart city. A coherent architecture must be envisioned, developed and implemented. The construction of a smart city infrastructure is a deliberate process underpinned by best-practice methodologies. The US, EU, and UK have announced their methodologies and practices regarding top-level design for smart cities, including OASIS Transformational Government Framework (TGF), European Interoperability Framework (EIF), smart city Framework (SCF), and G-Cloud.

These key references articulate a number of common viewpoints. For a start, each city has its own issues, so there is no one-size-fits-all smart city solution. Also, it requires extensive cooperation. Reliance on top-down administration cannot solely ensure a smart city’s success; instead, there must be an official program in which all stakeholders participate.

Government policies must allow access to the data. An information-sharing platform and marketplace for ideas must be set up to encourage innovation in applications. A smart city development must be an iterative process built in phases, with clear guiding principles, vision, roadmaps, and delivery programs.

And finally, smart cities start with smart government. So governments must transform themselves in areas such as leadership and governance, operating models, procurement management, digital asset management, and channel management - reducing costs and improving the efficiency of public services.

Our experience has shown that in order to unify all of the above under a workable architecture, city leaders must design a clear vision that best suits local conditions, including a phased roadmap under the direction of a dedicated leadership team. This team should ensure the openness of city data for information sharing, and the availability of service procurement and supply models.

The vision for any smart city must be clear (measurable), competitive (differentiated from others based on local characteristics) and inclusive (including political, economic, and environmental factors). Designs should focus on citizen-centric design and delivery models, universal digitalization of city spaces and systems, and an open, collaborative process for information collection and sharing. The roadmap should also be a pragmatic framework with clear goals in achievable phases.

Cities may have different priorities, but the ultimate high-level goal is the same: to improve local quality of life. When drafting a top-level workable architectural design, city leaders must use both digital communication and IT technologies to resolve compromises that involve politics, law, competing organizations and technical resources. The best outcomes come about when citizens and businesses engage collaboratively in service design, provisioning, and delivery. A smart city should also have the flexibility to evolve based upon the requirements of its citizens. It is born from the wisdom of the citizens for whom it provides services and works best when generated by citizens and for citizens.

What can we expect to see in terms of smart city projects in APAC in the future?

In the Asia Pacific region, because we have a diverse mixture of developing and highly developed countries, we are seeing many different smart city projects being initiated or in the planning stages. Solutions areas that are a focus for the APAC market are Safe City, Smart Buildings, Smart Transportation, Smart Resources, Smart Governments and Smart Water. In developing countries, health, education and tourism are also major focus areas.

Many of the industry analysts are touting global investment numbers between the years 2015-2030 at around $185 billion for smart cities. Most of the growth is expected to come in Asia-Pacific, starting in 2015 and growing to around $12 billion annually by 2020.

This article first appeared on Telecom Asia Vision 2015 Supplement December 2014 edition