Data Analytics & AI

5 fundamentals that will make or break smart cities

At Smart City InFocus in Yinchuan recently, 65 city leaders and technology companies gathered for a practical VIP workshop to figure out how we advance smart city transformation and move from open data platforms to true data economies.

Carl Piva, VP, Strategic Programs and Head of the Smart City Forum, TM Forum, kicked off the half-day symposium saying, ”We are all under pressure in cities – we don’t have the funds to do everything we want. That’s part of the reason TM Forum is bringing cities together with industry to find new ways to do things — moving away from transactional approaches to focusing on outcomes.”

He added: “We think the solution lies in collaborating ecosystems – it’s the key to smartness.”

These were some of the key takeaways from the session:

Smart city success stories have ingredients in common

Five important fundamentals emerged – a city can’t be smart unless it has an agreed vision, inclusive leadership, data-driven decision making, a focus on residents, and collaboration between city and enterprises.

In addition, delegates stressed the importance of a public-private partnership model that is inclusive and a funding model that works.

Michael Mulquin, Principal Architect, Smart City Benchmark & Maturity Model, TM Forum, introduced the Maturity Model as a tool to get the agreed vision in place and set clear targets.

Invest in people

Unsurprisingly, cities varied widely on how mature they think they are but there was broad agreement on what’s required to make the transformation go faster – and it’s mostly about people. These two decisions were seen as likely to have the most impact: Cities must empower the right team to drive the transformation, and invest in cultural change and upgrading skills.

The other major challenge is funding, further highlighting the need to foster public-private partnerships (not forgetting the fourth ‘P’ – people!) and incentivize start-ups and developers to create services which benefit citizens, tackle urban challenges and have viable business models.

One thing that will attract this development is enabling developers to develop once, deploy multiple times across other cities – as Juanjo Hierro, CTO, FIWARE Foundation, put it, “One city is not a market.” We need to build things in an open and standardized way so that innovation can be ported from one city to another – using common architecture, information models and Open APIs.

Getting to the next data level

Cities agreed there’s a way to go before we get to true data economies. Perhaps surprisingly not all cities have even opened their data yet. For those that have, it is often trapped in vertical siloes which don’t ‘talk’ to each other and much of it is static. A lot of data isn’t searchable or standardized. The goal is to embrace a curated ecosystem approach, with ‘right-time’ holistic data from multiple sources to fuel innovative services that will address the challenges cities face.

Platforms will support this shift. They power some of the most successful companies in the world and could bring about the same ‘network effect’ in cities by connecting producers with consumers at a scale unforeseen before.

However, as one delegate noted, “We need to talk more about the emerging economy of data.” This includes establishing a value model for data, and having more ethical debates about data and its ownership.

It’s clear, and has been recognized by TM Forum, that’s not about implementing the platform model directly from the private sector, as cities have a very different mission to businesses – with their primary focus on providing good services to citizens.

Carl Piva announced the launch of TM Forum’s City as a Platform Manifesto, which offers 10 key principles for creating a meaningful local data economy and succeeding with a platform model in a city context. 70+ cities and companies have already signed up.

We need more proof and experimentation

As one delegate noted, “nobody really cares about platforms” in and of themselves. We need compelling success stories to prove the case for investment. Leaders cited national disasters, health outcomes, events such as the Olympics, increased capital, reduced congestion and improved air quality as examples of use cases that would really turn their heads.

Our smart cities app contains global success stories. Got a success story from your city? Send it in!

A look to the future

Cities have their eye on the progress of a number of emerging and advancing technologies they see as likely to have the biggest impact. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the runaway leader here, followed by IoT, autonomous transport solutions, big data, blockchain, data analytics and Open APIs. Some of these might not be strictly new – such as APIs – but their importance is growing.

What were your takeaways if you attended?

Thanks to our expert speakers and panelists at the VIP Symposium, including:

  • Guo Baichun, Vice Mayor, City of Yinchuan
  • Professor Song Junde, Beijing University of Post & Telecommunications
  • Wang Chuan, Director, General, Yinchuan Municipal Bureau of Big Data Management and Service
  • Francois Coallier, Professor, École de Tech. Supérieure
  • Susan Salkind, Residential Fellow, Stanford
  • Masoud Ghandehari, Professor, New York University
  • Simon Scerri, Member of the Board, Fraunhofer IAIS
  • Prasun Argawal , Founder, Gaia Smart Cities
  • Juanjo Hierro, CTO, FIWARE Foundation
  • Professor An Xiaomi, Beijing Renmin University



    About The Author

    Freelance Writer and Editor

    Sarah is a freelance writer and editor with an interest in new technologies and how they impact our everyday lives.

    1 Comment

    1. Saibal Das Chowdhury on

      Smart city successes and success story growth will be slow so long there is lack of interest among investors – as they rightly point out that yes cities have many problems and opportunities for sophisticated technology solutions but where is the money ?

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