Smart payment technologies (and why they help smart cities deliver on their promise)

Thu, 2016-12-15 14:14 -- Doug Peeples

We already know more and more cities realize the value of smart payment technology and how it benefits local governments and their citizens. Our story highlights a few ways smart payments enhance livability and help cities operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. If your city isn't using smart payment technology yet, it's probably not as competitive as it could be. — Doug Peeples

If you have doubts about smart payment technology and how it can benefit you and your citizens, take a look at a survey conducted earlier by the International City/County Management Association in partnership with the Smart Cities Council. Of the roughly 500 cities and counties responding, 60% identified smart payments and finance as the technology area they had actively deployed.

Why are they doing it?
Here are a few key reasons why smart payment technology is a plus for both cities and their residents:

Efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Smart payment technologies (such as debit/and credit cards, contactless wallets and mobile payments) offer cities a way to reduce the administrative costs by streamlining payment collection and processing for a variety of services. The result? Better services at lower cost.

Convenience for citizens. Smart payments make it possible for citizens to pay bills quickly, conveniently and safely. And, that convenience can provide a revenue boost for cities, simply by making it easier for citizens to pay their utility and tax bills. And because citizens are accustomed to smart payments for the things they buy or other services they use, cities can more effectively engage with citizens if they provide the same level of service.

Transportation and mobility. When coupled with systems like the Integrated Smart Parking Solution from Council Associate Partner Siemens, cell phone apps can help drivers locate in real-time where parking spaces are available and pay for them at the same time. A couple years ago London transportation agency Transport for London implemented a fare payment system where bus and train riders touch or tap their phones on a reader to pay their fare. It's quick and convenient for riders, and the agency reduced its related administrative costs.

Data. Smart payment systems also offer cities a way to collect valuable information about their citizens. That data can help them keep up with citizens' expectations, anticipate the need for new and/or expanded services and identify areas where service improvements are needed.

A trend to prepare for
The ways people make payments and the options available to them are evolving. An article in Mobile Payments Today outlines significant changes likely to affect how people make payments for goods and services. One of them should affect cities as much as retailers. Millennials are now one quarter of the U.S. population, and they're veering away from credit cards to the relative convenience of mobile wallets and direct online lending. And because the major companies involved in the mobile device industry are rolling out easier, more convenient versions, one provider has said it is gaining one million new users weekly — and expects the trend to continue into next year.

Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge Grant
Would you like some help to make your city more resilient? The Smart Cities Council will award five American cities Readiness Challenge Grants to make better use of technology to better serve their citizens. It’s part of a White House commitment to help cities use technology more effectively. Start your application today.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.