Smart city trade-offs: Making choices that are right for your city

Wed, 2013-09-04 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

smart city trade-offsA post titled "What Makes a Smart City Smart?" on the Enterra Insights blog highlights tensions city leaders often confront when determining what "smart" means for their particular city. According to urbanist Aaron M. Renn, these include:

  • Centralized vs. decentralized systems
  • Proprietary vs. open technology
  • Technology driven by government (e.g., efficiency) or society as a whole (e.g., environmental) goals versus value delivery or life enhancements for citizens and consumers

Of those three big choices, the Smart Cities Council favors:

  • Decentralized solutions that adhere to strict standards so they can easily share infrastructure and share data
  • Open standards that have been vetted by a national or international body such as IEC, IEEE, or ITU.
  • Both. Applications to make government employees more efficient. And applications to make citizen life more livable, workable and sustainable. The first one often delivers short-term payoffs that can help finance future projects. The second often brings long-term benefits that make the city more attractive (and productive) as a place to live and work

The post quotes Renn on the three choices outlined above: "These are definitely items that should be thought about when trying to get a handle around all the things that go into what we think of as 'smart cities.' I think a lot of what we conceive of as smart cities today consists in vendor led automation/efficiency solutions. These are important, particularly in an era of fiscal constraints in which business as usual is no longer tenable."

The post also focuses on the importance of communications between city departments and  the importance of getting all stakeholders involved in smart city initiatives

"While the centralized model is important," Renn writes, "we will only see an explosion in value to the extent that we are able to create platforms on which the public and entrepreneurs can themselves innovate."

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