We see four blockers: Technology – what should we do, what should we do first, how do we make sure it all plugs it all together? Financing – how do we pay for it all?, Policy – to unleash economic growth and safeguard citizens, Citizen engagement – how do we bring them along as Gold Partners from the start? How do we create a consensus? How do we make a rapid decision? All of this is against the backdrop of the world where… cities are racing to pull jobs away from each other. Geography isn’t a limit, so we have to prepare ourselves to operate and succeed in that new world.
Motto of the Smart Cities Council: ‘Livability, Workability, and Sustainability.’ Right now it’s the middle one that is capturing the most attention. How do we get the high quality jobs, the jobs that can’t be exported, the jobs that give us competitive advantage, with family wages, and provide the good lifestyle that we want for our citizens?
Re: the technology obstacle: Many cities are already missing the Smart Cities race, they are already falling behind. Others are going after it piecemeal without a plan in mind… they do it in their traditional in silos…. This costs more because they inevitable reinvent the same wheels over and over again… and makes it harder to share data… It’s the mash-up of the data that really creates the amazing new applications.
Smart Cities - State of the Architecture...
[Sue:] what can you say about how the architecture of the Smart City, vis a vis buildings, grids, other infrastructures, is emerging? [Jesse:] Gradually and in pieces – water, power, transportation, human services, are all contributing their own piece flavored in their own way, but we don’t yet have that lingua franca that lets them all trade information very easily and lets them all share common underlying foundational elements. Even a typical power utility can have seven or sometimes twice as many communication systems… and the same with cities.
One of the most important things cities can do is to create a simple roadmap and an architecture, especially for those common services like GIS and like communications and like a data structure, treating data like a precious asset that’s shared throughout the city for everybody who needs it, while respecting privacy… so it can be easily shared; and an enterprise services bus or webservices structure, so you’re not hardwiring one application to another, you’re not re-writing basic functionality over and over again; You write it once and it becomes a module you can call on from anywhere else.
[Sue:] In order for a robust supply chain to emerge, it’s important that they have customers across cities, so that kind of a city industry practice can emerge… [Jesse:] That’s right. And this is just a typical phase of an early new industry arising…. We’ll get through it. There are efforts underway to create reference architectures… both proprietary ones by leading suppliers, and several cities are trying to create an operating system for cities... One or more will succeed, or combine, and we’ll find a way through it.
Smart Cities as Mission
We’re all going to be living in cities… and can’t we do it better than just more of what we have now? There’s got to be a new and better vision. In fact there is one, and now we just need to rally around it.
Advice for other innovators? It needs to speak to you. Infrastructure can be staid, and a little bureaucratic, maybe a little boring to some… It is essential and vitally important. It’s a real commercial opportunity, because people do tend go after the glitter instead of the infrastructure. If you can bring to infrastructure a sense of mission or purpose it’s particularly noticed in this sector, because it is a little more staid and a little less show-business. There’s something about the power of enthusiasm. It’s safe to be calm and little cynical and a little detached and a little skeptical so people who are not afraid to be enthusiastic about something, they get noticed...
It really is the next frontier. We’ve done so many amazing things by wiring up our computers, and wiring up our phones. Now we are wiring up everything else…the streets, the water pipes, the electric power meters, the lines, the poles, the generators, the hospitals. It will bring even greater and more amazing changes to our world.