Building Smart Cities - Solving the Implementation Paradox

By Jim Frazer

Industry Trends

How to Build a Smart CityHow to Solve the Smart City Implementation Paradox?

The "smart city implementation paradox" describes the situation that the smart city ecosystem finds in widely divergent situations worldwide. While there are a plethora of very compelling applications, many with very short financial paybacks, the adoption rate of these solutions has been increasing at a rate that is far below even the most conservative forecasts. One approach to surmount this obstacle is to have a much better, very comprehensive understanding of the communities that drive the decision-making – or decision-delaying, along with their underlying user needs.

Best practices of smart city development include the following steps:

  • A review of the human/societal factors that drive smart city adoption
  • An examination and application of a structured planning process – stakeholder communities, consensus-based needs, measurable functional requirements, and testing.
  •  A deep and nuanced look at the applications impacted

      and finally,

  • An examination and validation of market-ready technologies.

First, The Five Human / Societal Factors

As you begin this planning process, best practices require practitioners to fully address general human and societal concerns. These can be grouped into five broad areas:


Technological factors include automation, IoT, sensors and data, smart infrastructure, Intelligent transportation systems, technology leapfrogging, energy efficiency, integration, autonomous vehicles, microgeneration, e-mobility, data connectivity, additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, intelligent buildings, cybersecurity, small-scale solutions, remote services, and digital modeling.


Social factors include population growth, urban migration, aging society, mobile working, household patterns, inequality, employment, community cohesion, informal settlements, public health, education, individual safety, tourism, the global middle class, well-being, sustainable behaviors, digital lifestyles, housing, infectious diseases, and entrepreneurship


Environmental factors include water management, food security, green infrastructure, ecosystem services, waste minimization, extreme weather, air quality, pollution, urban sprawl, recycling, biodiversity loss, heat stress, sanitation, non-motorized transport, land use patterns, sea-level rise, retrofitted buildings, infrastructure usage, and transport motorization and electrification


Economic factors include regional connectivity, aging infrastructure, finance, circular economy, skills shortage, user-centricity, responsible business, city resilience, digital economy, urban logistics, urban manufacturing, women’s economic influence, urban regeneration, small business, sharing economy, supply chain vulnerability, informal economy, self-sufficiency, city identity, economic growth and decarbonization


Political factors include global politics, competitiveness, privatization, public-private partnerships, collective consciousness, stakeholder engagement, public opinion, institutional capacity, transparency, leadership, environmental policy, system interdependence, terrorism, subsidies, urban governance, policing, devolution, building standards, the electoral cycle, and public space

While this list of five factors above along with all the subsidiary issues is not all-inclusive, it’s meant as a thought-provoking list that can be used in brainstorming sessions.


Second, The Planning Process

The Smart City 3.0 approach focuses on stakeholder needs – and not just those of vendors or public agencies, in particular, it uses the Systems Engineering Process in order to assure all needs are satisfied and no unneeded extra requirements have been added. National and international standards should be supported in this process to speed the development effort, drive down costs and increase the likelihood of success. Ideally, unified platforms should be defined and discussed.


Third, the Nine Vertical Applications

In previous blog posts, we’ve examined the nine applications typically provided by public agencies. These include the built environment (from elevators and indoor positioning systems to the challenges of building cybersecurity and how to develop cybersecurity solutions), energy, telecommunications, transportation, water and wastewater, health and human services, public safety, payments and finance, and waste management.

In this domain, let’s take a focused look at transportation including the developing technologies of vehicle electrification, parking management technologies and mobility-as-a-service.

Vehicle electrification will play a much larger role in the very near future, including for fleet operations as well as for transit bus, construction equipment and even mining vehicles. These developments will also dramatically impact the electricity demand curve by introducing and removing loads in a new way.

Parking approaches are poised for significant disruptions as that stakeholder ecosystem discusses dynamic pricing models and the parking control platforms that make these innovative applications possible.


Energy too is an important application within the Smart City domain, including microgrids, solar power, automated demand response, lithium batteries and grid scale battery storage – all of which can be combined into a true transactive energy network.

Lighting also is undergoing a digital transformation. Controllable streetlighting, adjustable human centric lighting and the foundational control platforms all are bringing substantive economic and quality-of-life impacts to Smart Cities.

Mobility-as-a-Service – through use of transportation network services and traditional rail and bus mass transit, the next generation of travelers will experience a transformation of their habits, a reduction in single-occupant vehicles, reductions in transportation expenses, and - from a supplier's perspective - increased profitability of customer-focused mobility services.

Lastly, the Seven Technologies that Impact a Smart City

In a previous post, we examined the seven technologies that are used to achieve dramatic improvements in features, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness in each of those domains. These include instrumentation, connectivity,  interoperability,  cybersecurity / security and privacy, data management / data ownership, computing resources, and analytics.

As cybersecurity is an often under-recognized component of a Smart City, we’ve discussed cybersecurity processes and models, effective strategies as well as the security implications of IT/OT convergence and the perspective of the Department of Homeland Security on cybersecurity.

In order to weave together the applications and technologies, it’s important to revisit the concept of a  substantive planning process of defining stakeholder communities and documenting stakeholder-driven, consensus-based user needs – as well as the measurable functional requirements that are derived and are dependent on these user needs - not only is this a good process to follow but it also aids in achieving sustainability.


Summing up,

The best practices of Smart City development include the following steps:

1.       1. A review of the Human / Societal Factors that drive Smart City adoption

2.       2. An examination and application of a structured planning process – stakeholder communities, consensus-based needs, measurable functional requirements, and testing.

3.       3. A deep and nuanced look at the applications impacted

      and finally,

4.       4. An examination and validation of market-ready technologies.

Following this guidance yields Smart City projects that fulfill the consensus-based needs of all the stakeholder communities while ensuring that projects are delivered on-time and on budget

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