Dr. Edward Pultar, PhD, hiding incognito like a ninja at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain

What is a Smart City?

Is Your city smart?

How do You define Smart Cities?

From 14–16 November 2017, I went to the 2017 Smart Cities Expo in Barcelona, Spain, to learn more about smart cities.

In talking to folks in charge of Smart Cities initiatives around the world, I realized thatI’m not the only one who realize that maybe no one can define exactly what Smart Cities are today.

It seems we all agree it’s a combination of ways technology improves important aspects and tasks of cities, like monitoring water, air, parking, lights, and vehicles.

Yet it also seems that there aren’t many clear use cases / case studies that can put exact numbers on your ROIs / Return on Investment that you’ll get for your specific Smart City applications.

There was quite a load of whiz bang wizardry and fancy displays in the Smart Cities conference expo hall, yet I’m curious how much of it is vaporware.

All smiles at this Smart Cities booth

Many businesses were there with Smart Cities, remote monitoring, and Industrial IoT solutions, like Esri, Huawei, Siemens, Valarm, Microsoft, SAP, and ZTE.

Also present with booths were many cities and countries like Andorra, Israel, Dubai, France, Catalunya, Germany, Chile, Colombia, Norway, Estonia, San Diego, Schenectady, New York City, and Atlanta.

I even had the fortunate pleasure of meeting the mayors of various towns and cities. Were these governments and their officials all the way out in Barcelona to show off their latest Smart City implementations, or to learn about the newest gadgets they can deploy, or a combination of the 2?

Many companies claim that they can solve all of your Smart City needs, yet they may not realize that they’d be biting off more than they can chew.

Most cities already have so many nuts and bolts and existing systems, which makes it quite challenging for anyone to come in and take responsibility for everything and conquer the headache of integrating everything.

In my opinion, honest vendors accept and admit that they can only focus on and effectively deploy specific Smart City applications, like water level and flood warning systems, and don’t pretend that they’re also the absolute best solution for tracking trash cans with RFID tags, deploying new street lights, and building self-driving cars.

I believe that the requirements for Smart Cities mean that multiple organizations and stakeholders need to work together.

In my opinion, I don’t think there’s a one size fits all, or ready-to-go boxed up on the shelf, kind of solution for Smart Cities.

Why? That’s a great question. Cities come in many different shapes, sizes, varieties, and geographies. What works for some won’t work for all.

Cities have different ages and are in different cycles of urban development and growth. These factors alone lead to seemingly infinite possibilities for what makes the most sense for making your city smarter today. Honestly, it can be intimidating to see all of the buzz words and hype that comes with each newly adopted trend, like IoT, drones, virtual reality / VR, and so on.

I feel that by taking a step back and simply thinking ‘what’s the smallest step we take today for improving the citizens of our city?’ then we’ll help those whose opinions really matter in cities — your citizens.

We realize that just because something looks cool, and uses the latest versions of technologies, doesn’t mean it will help your bottom line. And it certainly doesn’t mean it will improve the lives of your community and the people who actually live in your city.

Remember to always keep in mind your customer, your residents in this case. And stay flexible, don’t sign a blank check to 1 company thinking that they’ll solve all of your Smart Cities needs.

Businesses that focus on industry specific solutions are more familiar with the true challenges of a particular applications, so be sure to track down who will be most effective for you to work with.

Thumbs up for helping our communities around our world to improve citizen health and safety

Thank you for reading.

What do You think about Smart Cities?

Please share your opinion.

I’d love to learn more from you.

And if you’ve got any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at Edward@Valarm.net.