March 21, 2017

Five Things that Make a City Smart

Smart City leaders shared perspectives on how to make cities smarter at Mobile World Congress 2017.

Mobile World Congress 2017 hosted numerous leaders of smart city initiatives from around the world. By and large, Smart Cities are focused on using technology to improve quality of life for all of their citizens. Their goals range from improving the environment and strengthening democracy to enhancing education and encouraging entrepreneurship.  From Dubai to Dublin and Barcelona to Shanghai, those leading smart city efforts shared a variety of common goals and practical tips for success. Here are 5 common themes they espoused to help make cities smarter..​

1. ​Use the Cloud to Eliminate Paper, Reduce Costs and Improve Access to Information and Resources

The smart city ethos fosters goals that are positive for a city’s citizens and the environment in which they live. As a result, smart cities cite these benefits as reasons to migrate systems and processes to the cloud. The more a city can move its paper or IT-based processes into the cloud, the more self-service it enables and paper it eliminates. Going paperless reduces costs and is simple to measure as an environmentally-friendly metric. Self-service improves quality of life and compliance because it moves processes like renewing auto registrations, ordering parking stickers or paying for business licenses online and out of government buildings. Moving core IT systems to the cloud also benefits from the usual–less back office infrastructure to buy and maintain.

​2. Remember That Data Belongs to the People

Any city produces and may gather a trove of public data, but traditionally it has not been easy for citizens to access. As part of their move to the cloud, smart cities make this data accessible not only by search, but by API. Following the ethos that public data belongs to the city’s people, it makes sense to make this data freely available in ways developers can use.​

​3. Enable Entrepreneurs to Innovate Smart City Services

By exposing data and processes through APIs; providing access to cloud-based IT resources; and connecting entrepreneurs with public money and community investors, smart cities encourage innovators to work and ultimately build profitable organizations within their cities. Ideally, these organizations will focus on creating applications that improve quality of the life for citizens. That may happen directly through specific services they create or indirectly as growing companies generate jobs, produce tax revenue and often fertilize new commercial real estate development.

​4. Use Common Sense and Technology to Improve the Environment

From using energy-saving LED lights and low or zero emission public vehicles to developing new greenspace, smart cities aim to protect air and water and reduce noise. Smart cities also deploy smart meters as part of their energy management, reduction and diversification strategies.

​5. Replace Antiquated Bureaucratic Processes With Blockchains to Strengthen Democracy

Among the best uses for a blockchain is to record, store and secure public transactions like getting a marriage license, renewing a driver’s license or recording health inspections. Any transaction that results in a license, certification or other official credential is public record and can be recorded securely and stored in perpetuity in an open blockchain. Many smart cities aim to move all such transactions to Blockchains by 2020.


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