An engineer by trade, Cisco's Cliff Thomas sees "a big wave coming" – and he says its coming hard.
He's talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) really starting to kick in with more and more data from sensors and also from citizens. The goal, says Thomas, a Managing Director in Council Lead Partner Cisco's Smart+Connected Communities initiative, is to collect and expose the data from sensors in a way that promotes both participation from and creates better outcomes and services for city residents.
The soul of a city, after all, is not building roads or the like. "It's the citizens," Thomas says.
Engaging with citizens
One example he gave during a presentation at the Council's recent Smart Cities Now event is in New York City. There, he says, hundreds of old-style phone booths have been retooled into a 24/7 platform for disbursing hyper-local content to passers-by, for instance public service announcements, Amber alerts and the like. The result, Thomas says, is an opportunity for the city to engage with citizens in very meaningful ways.
He sees huge opportunities in such projects that connect a city's disparate systems. "That," he says, "are where the table stakes are."
He also points to Nice, France, which had a big traffic problem. Working with city leaders, Cisco analyzed where people behind the wheel were actually going (and why).
Most, they found, were commuting to compute. They were driving into the city to sit at a desk and work on a computer. To reduce traffic congestion, they developed the concept of "smart work centers" in Nice – pod-like structures in outlying malls and libraries that people could use without a full commute into the city. At the same time, the centers allowed the city an opportunity to extend government services out to the edge, so people could take care of permitting, passports and such closer to home.
Finding creative and helpful ways to connect cities with citizens becomes a win all the way around.