Everything seems to be “smart” these days. Of course, there’s the ever-present smartphone, along with a cadre of “smarties”: cars, watches, TVs, washers and dryers, refrigerators, homes, dog houses, classrooms and workplaces, to name just a few. In centuries to come, might anthropologists label the 21st century as the “smart age”?
At what point does a “smart community” become as common, vital and indispensable as the smartphone? If an organization is only as strong as its weakest link, is a string of smart homes and vehicles enough to constitute a smart community, while the city that houses the Internet of Things remains remedial?
Reason would dictate a resounding, “No.”
If a majority of residents, businesses and systems are becoming “smart,” then it follows that municipalities, counties, public agencies and utilities should speak that same digital language. In order to assure accurate dissemination of information and communications for budgeting, emergency management, operational efficiency, public safety and crime reduction, public utilities and a litany of other necessities, all channels need to be tuned into the same frequency.
The Evolution of the Smart City
According to a recent Gartner study, New Business and Technology Priorities in Smart City Require CIOs to Change, Bettina Tratz-Ryan explains, “Community development has strongly evolved from community information and notifications to an engagement environment. Smart cities provide the foundation for citizens to become active participants and contributors in the development of their city.” ¹
She continues, “City management as a business strategy can be a recipient of the power of civic contribution, such as ‘311’ environments involving interactive reports of potholes and waste receptacle collections, and caring for green spaces of parks by relieving public works from watering plants and mowing the grass.”
The advancement of technology has incrementally reduced the time and effort necessary to relay information from one entity to another. Communication from points A to B has nearly reached light speed; in effect, everything is point A. Yet if the communication is delivered with the newest technology (e.g., the latest iPhone), but received with outdated tools, the smart conduit fails.
With municipalities and utilities under pressure by citizens who increasingly want to be heard, building the right digital smart grid requires municipalities to not only adapt to the needs of their constituents, but also disrupt the status quo internally. State and local government CIOs are now at the table, influencing business strategy and leading technology investment to meet customer demands and the larger demands of their community ecosystems. They are investing in and upgrading outdated software regularly—building the infrastructure to support smart city strategies. However, for as many as are making the investment, countless communities are struggling to overcome the investment constraints.