courtesy AXA — https://youtu.be/RKWuj1OlDPo

4 must-have digital capabilities for smart city services

Smart city is no longer a buzzword for a utopian future. Citizens are already embracing ongoing initiatives worldwide and expecting to get rid of bureaucracy from their daily lives.

The definition of smart however differs with region, demographics and ambition. Some projects look to move citizen services to mobile and make them more transparent and interactive. Others want to use predictive intelligence to better manage traffic, security, health and emergency outcomes.

As digital service enablers, smart cities need ‘citizen engagement’ to be their fundamental goal.

To make meaningful impact, smart city services must reach citizens at the moment of truth. This means using all available channels to reach citizens when they need services. Context is king here and so is reach. This can be challenging given the rise of clutter and channel fatigue customers face today.

With increasing number of citizens already using smartphones, many smart city platforms will look to forge relationships with social networks like Facebook to get pervasive use of services. However this may not be straightforward due to security and privacy concerns around data.

Cities aiming to achieve widespread use of their services must make these elements a priority and tie these into key success factors for their service initiatives:

  1. Access to service not just free WiFi

The need for a reliable metro-net is well established. Citizens welcome it and need it. However there are many issues with modalities. Topology, fair use, security and identity are challenging. Cities currently move with a single aim; to provide internet access everywhere across the city. But in doing so, fast and free cannot not be enough. There needs to be a way for cities to tie services into the access and make it easier for users to reach services ubiquitously; A service gateway, not a network gateway. So while data connectivity is a start, recognising the user and helping them receive a service must be part of the connectivity continuum.

2. A service mesh not a bridge for silos

Demand generation is not built into smart city DNAs. Ask an app marketer and they will have a hack for their platform to grow, ask a smart city team and they’ll tell you about the latest and the greatest technology they are bringing to the city. Their mantra is “if they (citizens) need it — which they do — they’ll come”. To get cities to work on demand gen, a wholistic view of digital adaption will be needed. The smartest cities will explore channels, technologies and growth hacks to increase use of their platforms. Collaborations in identity, user experience design and cross platform integration are key to getting smart city platforms to mimic life and hence be of use to citizens.

3. Communities built on data

Citizen data needs to be secure. It needs to evolve to champion individual privacy. But it also needs to be originated and constantly managed by the citizens themselves. No smart city project can expect to succeed without understanding and leveraging user defined data. By hooking up identity projects to all aspects of citizen lives, user defined data needs to be tightly knit into the foundations of smart city platforms. Besides many applications user defined (and controlled) data allows cities to build a network of users who can spawn hundreds of services on their own and help their city manage life smoothly for everyone. This includes a network of devices, people, services and groups which come together to facilitate and engage.

4. A shared local economy

Cities are late to ecommerce. And just as well. But in the brick and mortar world, they have a tight grip on the local economy. From permits, to taxes to labor laws, you’ll find cities at the heart of the local business landscape. Just as cities attract businesses to set up shop to boost the economy, smart cities must play their role in digital distribution of goods and services. Creating a system of subscription, care and reuse of its services, cities can help its local businesses go digital. A system of virtual incubation can be implemented allowing its businesses to establish authentic digital businesses supported by a number of city services. Having better information systems for local businesses to collaborate, cut costs and be more productive is a winner for smart cities.

There are myriad ways in which these engagement goals can be met. One common thread is to look at city life as it will be in the next few years and scale the platforms in that direction. Multiple monolith platforms- one for each type of service may not be a good direction to take. From access to network (and simultaneously) to a plethora of services, cities will have to create digital experiences that compel citizens to engage, share data, build a network and collaborate with service providers. This improves lives.

Servup is a digital enablement platform for service providers. Using servup, service providers can create digital catalogs of services which they can use to collaborate across multiple channels with customers and partners. Servup maps product lifecycles to customer journeys and creates a system of permission based marketing, sales and support. Smart cities can use servup’s secure and compliant cloud technology to achieve excellent citizen engagement.

Credit: Paul J. Morrissey’s ‘smart city interaction project’ with Servup.

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