Innovation in Smart Cities of the future - Part VIII, The Players I

Cities are kept together, in a way are defined by their infrastructures. The owners of these infrastructures, often connected to the Municipality, play a significant role in the evolution of Smart Cities. In this figure the approach of the Amsterdam Municipality to the sustainability of the electrical infrastructure. Credit:

The trends in the evolution of smart buildings. From modularity to smart illumination up to an integration in the smart city context and leveraging of Big Data. Credit: BSRIA

The digitalization of the Society and the pervasiveness and ease of use of internet is resulting in a dramatic growth in the number of players that can have their saying in the evolution of a Smart Cities

Clearly, institutions within the Municipality are at the forefront, for sure in terms of vision and planning. In most cases they are also the ones investing heavily and with a long/medium term horizon.

The Municipality itself invests in core infrastructures, directly or through its controlled institutions and offers eGovernment services to citizens. Often the Municipality is in charge of education (from kindergarten to high school), road system, water purification and distribution, waste collection, road lighting….

Public utilities, like electrical, centralized heating can be strongly or loosely connected to the Municipality and surely are important players.

Transport, be it public buses or private transportation constitute a crucial element for a smart city evolution. Political steering and Social culture can guide the evolution in this area.

In several cases infrastructures, from telecommunications to logistics are privately owned although they always have a connection/obligation with the Municipalities. 
Sharing of resources and coordinated planning is essential for a more effective evolution.

At political level there is the power to control public investment and to direct the private one, using a variety of “incentives”.

These players have often considered their investment as Social Cost, something they have to do. In the context of Smart Cities at least part of them could be seen as investment to generate revenues. 

By creating platforms that can be used by third parties these institutions can aggregate innovation and generate business.

Business is clearly focusing on short term revenues, and can only invest marginally in worthy social endeavor that do not fall within its biz strategy.

However, through mechanisms of incentives and by fostering coordination, private business can become part of the overall Smart City strategy,  designed by the Municipality.  As an example, private biz may offer WiFi access on its premises and this can be stimulated by the Municipality that can also ensure single stop authentication. This is the approach followed by Londrina in Brazil.

The supply and delivery chains can adopt a uniform tagging system that can be used by the Municipalities, or third parties, to monitor the city.

An Open Data Framework set up by the Municipality can become the aggregation platform for many kinds of data, most of them deriving from private biz.

A city is made of building, spaces, hotels, apartments… and a smart city is made of smart buildings, smart spaces, smart hotels, smart apartments…

Each of these has a owner and new ones have to fulfill general criteria imposed by the Municipalities. Additionally, existing ones can be stimulated to upgrade, like becoming more energy efficient, providing surveillance cameras and sharing the information, provide screens on the facade that can be used to share information, accommodating WiFi access points…

Overall we are seeing the possibility to apply modular design to city buildings, not necessarily in terms of architecture but in terms of functionalities.  Illumination can progressively shift to LED and this, in turns can provide an alternative way to information transport.

Buildings and more generally city resources can offer a set of APIs that can be used to create apps for remote monitoring and control, as a first step towards a functional integration of various resources.  As an example some boroughs in the city of Los Angeles have started to use, and require the use of remotely monitored faucets, The first results point to some 40% savings in watering gardens (private and public).

IoT is clearly an area that can contribute significantly to the increase of a city smartness by increasing the smartness of its “components”.

IoT will obviously contribute to increment the data sets of a city. All together these “big Data” can be harvested for information deriving from their correlation.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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