From smart city projects to smart cities, slowly but steadily

Smart city projects are springing up like mushrooms all over the world

Smart lighting, video surveillance, smart parking, smart waste management, … smart city projects are springing up like mushrooms all over the world. But as the name already indicates, a smart city project is no more than that, a project. To evolve from smart projects to actual smart cities, many hurdles will still have to be taken.

Although smart city projects mature and new ones are being promoted and deployed every day, it will take several more years before we really can call a city a smart city. Realizing a true smart city can be incredibly complex, as so many factors and parties are involved and cities have numerous tasks and functions. To create a real smart city, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of activities, assets and infrastructure.

Numerous challenges ahead

In a truly smart city all the separate smart projects are connected, and that doesn’t happen overnight. There is a lot of legacy, there are several operations and regulations, new skillsets are required and there is loads of alignment to be done on various levels: city administration, public services, transportation services, safety and security, public infrastructure, local government agencies and contractors, education services, … the list goes on and on.

Another challenge that can hardly be overlooked concerns the attitude and the willingness to change things for the better among citizens. And the financing of smart city initiatives is one of the many stumbling blocks as well. In that sense it’s good to see government initiatives, sometimes national, sometimes supranational, sometimes on smart cities in general, sometimes on a specific aspect such as ecology and occasionally even initiatives by large industry players.

Smart choices leading to smart cities

Obviously, the complexity of full smart cities doesn’t need to stop the smart city evolutions and projects. As cities exchange experiences and develop smart city projects with clear benefits, they have the opportunity to grow their expertise and learn from potential failures. Having a roadmap in mind, with various stakeholders involved, of course greatly expands the possibilities of current ad hoc smart city projects in a further, more integrated future.

In order to be a ‘true’ smart city, cities need to have an integrated approach, whereby various projects are connected and most of all the data and platforms are glued together in order to achieve all the benefits smart cities make possible. Open technologies and open data platforms will be key to move to that next stage. Platforms like DataBroker DAO for example, a blockchain-based marketplace to sell & buy sensor data.

Choices regarding connectivity, data exchange, IoT platforms and so forth will evolve as we start moving to real smart cities. It’s best if these future choices are already being taken into account for current smart city deployments. This means that choices need to be made that can easily be scaled or integrated or, if needed, be easily replaced with better (IoT) technologies.

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