Skip to main content
Exploring what’s next in tech – Insights, information, and ideas for today’s IT and business leaders

Designing smart cities we want to live in

Many urban development plans are incorporating technology that genuinely benefits citizens. Here's a roundup of information to bring you up to speed on what's possible, what's been done, and the potholes on your road to success.

City governments aiming to provide online services have lots of tough decisions to make. As everyone and everything gets connected, it becomes critical to build the appropriate city platform.

“Living just enough, just enough for the city,” sang Stevie Wonder, eloquently expressing the promise of better options in new environments. Plenty of people have followed that hopeful path to urban living: Today, more than half of the world's population lives in cities, and by 2050, 6.4 billion people will do so, the United Nations estimates.

In an ideal world—the one we each work to create—our local governments provide services that give citizens more power, whether mundane (pay utility bills online), additional services (find a bicycle to rent), or human rights matters (transparency of government data). They and we are motivated by cost savings, streamlined human processes (because nobody wants to spend time in line at the department of motor vehicles), and city residents’ well-being. We may not have jetpacks yet, but we do want to improve our day-to-day lives with the help of municipal governments. Ultimately, smart cities are a process of putting data at the service of citizens, responding to their expectations and interests, with respect for privacy.

At enterprise.nxt, we have covered each of these topics in some depth, because they touch on each of the business and technology areas we care about. Here’s an overview of what is possible in terms of designing smart city services, the infrastructure and data management issues to contemplate, and what could go wrong.

Eyes on the prize: What can be done?

As with so many other endeavors, it makes sense to first think about the goals you want to accomplish—and the results others have experienced in similar efforts. Before any city gets started on a path to future cities, its IT department (and interested citizens) should learn from what other cities have done. There are excellent examples of cities with blueprints and road maps:

Cities push predictive analytics to combat social ills: Cities want better insights on what causes their biggest societal problems. Enter predictive analytics. Kansas City is adopting this data science methodology to fight entrenched social problems as varied as crime, homelessness, and illiteracy.

Stadium technology turns the game around: Sports fields are becoming the most advanced smartphone environments on earth. Their goal: updating arenas to overlay sports and other events with app-driven services that keep fans engaged, boost convenience, and put fans in control of the cameras. Pulling out a win means advanced connectivity skills in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, because 50,000 cheering fans expect always-on Internet service.

Smart cities NYC: Stuff you could do (and didn't know you could): There are 8 million stories in the Naked City, and freely available data about almost every one of them. And if New York isn’t your town, compare it to what Boston is doing (Go Red Sox!).

IoT low-power WAN to improve quality of life in India's cities: Experts discuss the potential impact and improvement of low-power edge computing benefits on rapidly modernizing cities.

Designing smart cities

Before urban planners begin the design for their future cities, it’s important to get citizens involved. Find out what they need and want to ensure participation and prioritize properly. Use cases are essential.

Smart cities: Focus on networks and governance first, devices and apps second: In the race to become smart, many cities are reaching for the bright, shiny (IoT) objects. Instead, plan the infrastructure required for implementing truly innovative services and systems.

Government data can't be wrong, right? One problem with the government collecting data is that sometimes that data is wrong. Trying to fix it can be a real hassle, especially when it’s about YOU. That has lots of implications about how a smart city architecture should design government data processes.

Security and privacy

The next issue to address is security, most obviously because of the history of breaches in data and IT infrastructure—and with reported incidents about IoT-enabled devices not keeping up with password tech and malware taking down a power grid. The security focus also applies to physical infrastructure. Hundreds or thousands of cameras feed data into mission control centers; someone has to evaluate, filter, and protect those video feeds. For a city’s security, the right data has to be augmented by human intelligence.

And then there’s the issue of data privacy…

Fixing cities' data privacy potholes: Several issues appear in the crossroads of data privacy and smart cities' push toward open data frameworks. Municipal organizations must create policies—right now—to keep from spilling personally identifiable information and ensure privacy.

Smart cities: Who owns the data? Cities use technology to assist residents, and data is a byproduct of that effort. But who owns the data and how it's used is up for debate, and it often depends on where you live.

Public video surveillance: Smile! You're on municipal camera! Whenever you travel through a city, hundreds of cameras and other sensors may be recording your every move. Despite the important real-world uses of public cameras, the surveillance can feel slightly creepy. How do we keep the value and reduce the creepiness factor?

How smart IoT will disrupt how regulations are enforced: Smart city IT systems aim to be flexible and agile, with data both informing policy and helping to enforce compliance. But disruption is not a term regulators comfortably use, and a world of fast-changing policies is not a future most companies want to embrace. Here’s the good, bad, and ugly in the debate over data-driven policy disruptions.

If you want to keep up with our smart city coverage, sign up for the enterprise.nxt newsletter.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.