The Nine Critical Applications of a Smart City

Author photo: Jim Frazer
ByJim Frazer
Industry Trends
Critical Applications of Smart Cities

This post describes the critical applications of smart cities as well as the dramatic impacts that today's innovative approaches and technologies bring to realization.

Smart Cities, as well as those aspiring to be "Smart", possess the responsibility of delivering critical products and services that are needed by businesses, public workers and citizens 24 hours a day. Residents need clean water, businesses must have power, waste must be collected, the school system must run thoroughly and efficiently. A city, county or state relies on these functions to drive the revenue needed to operate in a prudent, cost effective and efficient manner. This revenue, whether from sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes or user fees is all dependent on a vigorous economic environment ultimately dependent on growing economic activity and high paying jobs. In a broader sense, these efforts also include the three pillars of sustainability: (1) to preserve and enhance the natural environment, and (2) to preserve and enhance resident’s quality of life, while doing so in a (3) economically viable manner. Each of the vertical applications described below contribute to these goals. Cities and other larger jurisdictions worldwide have awoken to the challenge of providing this forward-looking, future-proofed foundation. The nine critical applications of smart cities include: 


1. The Built Environment

The Built Environment describes refers to all a city’s buildings, parks and public spaces. This includes schools, firehouses, police stations and hospitals. HVAC, security, lighting are all important parts of this domain.

2. Energy Infrastructure

Energy Infrastructure produces and delivers energy, primarily electricity and gas for powering virtually all services and needs, processes and comfort. This includes the substation, distribution assets, streetlighting and metering of municipally owned utilities as well as those of rural electrical cooperatives. The technologies of microgrids and energy storage as well as photovoltaic and wind generation are increasingly making an impact in this domain.

3. Telecommunications

Today telecommunications is critical for citizen’s safety and well-being as well as for economic vitality of the business community. High capacity, well-priced broadband is required for virtually all business activities today – from call centers, and retail distribution hubs, to server farms and medical imaging and telepresence.

4. Transportation and Mobility

Roads, streets, bike lanes, walking paths, vehicles, public transport, air and maritime ports all are critical. Today paradigm shifts are happening in many domains of mobility, from transportation service providers like Uber and Lyft, to more highly integrated Mobility-as-a-Service initiatives built on blockchain technology. Connected Vehicle technologies promise a reduction of incidents by up to 80%, and autonomous vehicles may deliver you or your purchases to a final destination with an efficiency unimaginable just a few years ago.

5. Health and Human Services

Telemedicine and educational virtualization / is poised to bring these critical services to underserved communities whether rural or urban. Community outreach and online voting are included here.

6. Water and Wastewater

Water infrastructure includes collection, distribution, metering and reclamation. Water purity and cleanliness are also addressed here, as well as reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation.

7. Waste Management

The infrastructure responsible for the collection, distribution, reuse and recycling of waste materials. Worldwide, incinerators and landfills are increasingly viewed as non-optimum methods for processing a city’s waste stream. Thankfully insightful solutions are coming to market that address these critical issues.

8. Public Safety

Public safety infrastructure, agencies and personnel keep citizens safe. This includes the police, fire and EMS first responders as well as emergency and disaster prevention and management agencies, courts and corrections facilities. Law enforcement body cams as well as IoT-enabled gunshot location systems are in this domain.

9. Payments and Finance

As we stated above, sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes or user fees are all dependent on vigorous economic environment.  Payments are at the core of economic activity in cities and underlie every economic transaction including salaries, consumer spending, business procurement and taxes. Streamlining the payment process by a simple online bill payment process can yield great dividends. Unified portals can drive enhanced revenue where registration in one domain – like a city co-ed softball league may detect an address change - creating revenue from a required driver’s license update.  Enhanced applications include dynamic pricing for parking and many other similar applications. Lastly many Smart City applications are now available on a subscription model where revenue is shared between the private provider and the public agency – thus eliminating any upfront capital contribution from the city.

In future blog posts, we’ll examine each of these applications in detail. In addition, we’ll introduce and examine the foundational technologies that allow dramatic improvements in features, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

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