Visualizing the Complete Smart State

What is a smart state? In early 2016, my colleagues and I at the State of Illinois had to clearly define and articulate a “smart state”, which was the first step in creating a comprehensive smart state strategy. We quickly found no existing definition was appropriate for our project and that we needed to create a new holistic view of technology integration into the future smart state.

Our work with the State of Illinois Smarter State initiative focused on smart government. But this is only one part of this massive transformation coming at us at light speed. We found there are hundreds of inputs in a functinong smart state or city. We also found administrators are being bombarded with one off technology solutions to specific issues and they are not integrating them into a larger, formal strategy. And we had many questions: Will a smart state happen naturally over time? Do government organizations have to plan everything or can we just let this transformation happen organically, as the speed of tech change makes for quick redundancy? How will technology sectors transform and at what speed will we adopt all these technologies? What will transform? What technology is important? Who will be instrumental in the change?

In order to answer these questions and better understand this massive, emerging complex ecosystem, we came up with a sector approach that could help us clearly focus on the magnitude of the landscape. We sorted and categorized the hundreds of inputs in a Smart State or Community and identified five major technology buckets which any present or future technology can be divided. These five government buckets are Infrastructure, Mobility, Energy & Environment, E-Government and Citizen Health, Safety and Welfare. Many of these sectors have subsets which are intertwined and connected which adds to the confusion and complexity of conceptualizing the total smart state. Identifying these buckets and corresponding data flows and data security was important. Lastly creating a rough adoption timeline for all these technologies so we could identify priorities was important, some examples being blockchain and autonomous vehicles which are a decade or more into the future for mass adoption.

We then created an asset map for the smarter state. An asset map is critical to understanding and visualizing complex ecosystems. We divided the map into the five sectors mentioned above. Each of these also have subsectors that when combined will cover the complete ecosystem of the future smart state. Data flows in all directions in this model and highlights the need for comprehensive data security.

The graphic below is a very basic illustration of the Smart State which can be used as a template for government officials for understanding the complex web of a smarter community. It will give public officials a ‘mile high’ view above the landscape to categorize different technologies so they can develop a comprehensive strategy for their municipalities or regions. As I mentioned before, many of these sectors overlap or are intertwined, but for visual clarity I left those connections out of the graphic. The Illinois Smart State and Reigon Association will be creating much more detailed plans, maps and strategies in the future. We are partnering with academia and the private sector to help all Illinois communities in our mission to educate, connect on collaborate to implement technology for the betterment of all our citizens.

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CEO and Cofounder of the Illinois Smart City & Region Association. ISCRA is a 501C3 non profit that educates and connects Illinois communities on technology.

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