The same technology that makes your city smarter can bring in new jobs

Wed, 2016-06-01 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

The health of a community is largely determined by its job base. Don’t believe that? Just ask cities that used to be manufacturing powerhouses. Today, high-tech jobs rule.

The usual approach to attract those high-tech, high-paying jobs is to invest heavily in worker training and education. It’s a good approach, but it’s not the only one. As you’ll read below, some cities that have invested in the Internet of Things are also attracting high-tech jobs. Start-ups and venture capitalists are flocking to those cities for the opportunity to work on and invest in cool projects.

If you’re looking for extra justification for an IoT project, this may be it. You can get lucrative jobs in addition to technology that helps you run your city more efficiently and effectively. — Jesse Berst

How IoT = jobs + lives saved
An engineering student in Cape Town, South Africa, was working on a project involving low-cost, sensor-based fire detection systems when a series of major fires erupted in the city’s slums, displacing 5,000 people in one day. After graduation, he stayed in the area, assembling a team to leverage sensors and networks to prevent such a disaster from happening again.

Council Lead Partner Cisco profiled his work. His company’s heat detection monitors are designed specifically for high-density housing, like slums. If one monitor detects fire, it communicates with all other nearby monitors warning their residents to evacuate too. It also sends text messages to the surrounding community and gives emergency responders the GPS coordinates of the fire to speed response.

He figures the system has minimized the spread of at least 20 fires so far. In addition to saving lives, his company now has 6,000 customers — and this city is now in the process of exporting the technology to others.

Embracing a startup culture
But the technology platform is much more effective if it’s also paired with an emphasis on education and a government climate that embraces startups. India is working all three of those elements simultaneously and now has a booming startup economy that’s third in the world — behind only the U.S. and U.K.

India has set up its own venture capital fund to help finance startups and has worked to topple regulatory barriers and paperwork hassles that would slow new companies down. It’s also providing tax breaks that provide more incentives for traditional venture capitalists to finance the young businesses. Beyond that, it’s working to provide high-speed broadband to every citizen and aims to train 400 million people on digital skills by 2022.

How big of a difference does this make? India is launching three or four startups every day. It now has more than 4,000 — eight of which are worth more than $1 billion. Even if you’re able to do only a fraction of that, that’s still a sizable boost to your economy.

Making a difference
In addition to creating jobs, cities that have deployed smart technologies have inspired developers to create solutions that make lives better for citizens. Review the Smart People chapter of the Council’s Smart Cities Readiness Guide to see how Calgary reunited people with their lost pets, how Belfast found housing for the homeless and how Singapore reduced the number of dengue fever cases.