Microsoft smart cities strategy: Platforms, partners and people first

Wed, 2013-11-13 06:00 -- Jesse Berst

Q&A with Laura Ipsen, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector

Council Chairman Jesse Berst interviews Laura Ipsen of Microsoft.Laura Ipsen leads a team of nearly 2,000 sales and marketing professionals operating in more than 100 countries to serve government, education and public healthcare customers.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Laura had a distinguished career at Cisco. She developed Cisco's public policy agenda as the head of Cisco's Global Policy and Government Affairs division for 13 years, before serving as senior vice president and general manager of Connected Energy Networks (smart grid). She also co-chaired Cisco's EcoBoard, which oversees the company's sustainability strategy.

She began her career in international trade and government affairs for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Washington, D.C., and also held positions at Acer and Hitachi Data Systems.

I traveled to Microsoft's Redmond campus for a videotaped Q&A session centered around Microsoft's CityNext initiative, a broad portfolio of technologies, products and partners. I've known all along that Microsoft makes most of its sales through a vast partner network. But I was intrigued to learn how vital local partners are to Microsoft's work with cities. They help Microsoft not just to "localize" their products but also to produce local jobs, something that is increasingly important to cities as they choose between suppliers. I was also impressed with the "people-first" approach that is central to Microsoft's smart cities strategy.

I've included a brief summary of each answer, but I urge you to listen to the video clips with Laura's answers. You'll benefit by hearing the details and by witnessing the passion Laura and her team are bringing to their smart city work.  If you prefer to watch the entire interview, click here. – Jesse Berst

Why the increased interest in Smart Cities right now?

Laura explains how smart city technologies can lead us not just to a higher level of prosperity, but to more social inclusion as well. Watch clip >>

Are there still things we need to invent or do we have most of the technology in place?

The technology is largely in place. What continues to slow things down is the challenge of breaking down the silos inside cities. Watch clip >>

What can Microsoft do to help cities meet the challenge of spanning different departments?

Microsoft's platform approach is one key to breaking down the silos. Different departments can build on top of the same platform. Watch clip >>

What does cloud computing mean to a city?

Cloud computing is an important way for cities to save money. And they do not have to move sensitive information to a public cloud. They can adopt a hybrid approach and use cloud computing only for those things that make sense. Watch clip >>                                                      

Are certain parts of the world leading in smart cities?

There are wonderful lighthouse projects all over the world, including London and Singapore and many more. Microsoft's vision is to work with organizations like the Smart Cities Council to share best practices and create common key performance indicators. Watch clip >>  

What is Microsoft’s role in smart cities?

Microsoft is the only company that can span from cities down to citizens. We have 400,000 partners around the world. Watch clip >>  

What can cities do to be more connected with their citizens?

Citizen engagement is increasingly important because we live in an era of transparency. We now have the ability to move from one-way communications to two-way communications with citizens. Watch clip >>  

Where do we stand with smart city applications?

Microsoft has more than 4,000 apps in education and 1,400 in health. Our entire industry is working to engage developers to turn their attention to solving urban issues. Watch clip >>  

Tell us about Microsoft’s new CityNext initiative.

We're harnessing the next generation of technology to help cities with their goals, make existing infrastructure smarter and to engage citizens and businesses in new ways. Watch clip >>

What's wrong with business as usual?

Business as usual won't allow us to reach our goals for livability, workability and sustainability. Watch clip >>  

What value does Microsoft bring to its work with cities?

The partner network is transformative. Working with local companies and creating local jobs makes all the difference. And we are also working all over the world to find and train the next generation of partners. Watch clip >>  

What about legacy infrastructure?

You can't afford to replace or to leave it behind. Microsoft believes the right approach is to innovate on top of legacy infrastructure, to create more value from what the city has already. Watch clip >>  

What is the next step for cities to become smart?

Taking a people-first approach lets you re-imagine your city. It creates a new conversation not just between city employees but with citizens too. Watch clip >>  


Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to subscribe to SmartCitiesNow, the weekly newsletter highlighting smart city trends, technologies and techniques.