A Citizen Focused Smart City Initiatives
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A Citizen Focused Smart City Initiatives

By Kevin Burns, CIO/Director of Information Technology, City of Melbourne

What is your definition of a “Smart City”? I think, in order to discuss current trends and technologies that support a Smart City, we must first create our own definition. The definition is derived from many areas including, but not limited to, City leadership (City Council, Commission, Mayor, City Manager, etc.). I think we can all agree that the general focus should concentrate on improving the experience citizens have with their local governments and allow for improved transparency of municipalities’conduct and report on business. Smart Cities initiatives can take many different approaches: Transportation, Data, Utilities, Public Safety, Sea Level Rise, Online Business Processes, Big Data, and the list continues to expand.

"Transparency and providing repositories where data can be downloaded is very exciting and certainly is one method to gain trust and confidence with constituents"

One of the primary considerations for any Smart City initiative is the communication backbone, how is this data going to be transported? Certainly, the capability to move data in large quantitiesto and from the appropriate destinations requires improved networks from a coverage and capacity standpoint. Each municipality needs to establish guidelines surrounding the installation of the small cell antennae and how they will ascetically conform to local building and code ordinances. Then, of course, the contract between the carrier and the municipality must be thoroughly considered and vetted prior to signing.

When the subject of transportation is brought up, many consider autonomous vehicles (AV) and the challenges and impact to municipalities they will present. More dense populations will be better suited to establish AV bus routes or lanes; however, they may be challenged by limited real estate to build them. Public Safety response is a major concern, as well, especially in shared space. Municipal leaders must begin planning for the futurelook of our cities and take into consideration items such as parking garages and metered parking, since trends seem to believe that these current revenue streams may be severely affected.

Data and data transparency are always intriguing. More and more citizens want access to municipal data. Transparency and providing repositories where data can be downloaded is very exciting and certainly is one method to gain trust and confidence with constituents. However, it is as important (if not more so) to provide parameters around how the data you are exposing was derived. If that important information is not established from the beginning it is very easy to make conclusions based on immature knowledge of the data. Data is a very powerful tool and should be used in making decisions. But, knowing the foundation of the data provides the proper context to make intelligent decisions.

The Utilities domain has been using what we call the Internet of Things (IoT) for quite some time within the controls of their operations. They are now expanding into their consumer market with the capability of Smart Meters that “call home” with consumption reports. Utility operators can start, pause, and stop service via the click of a mouse. This is certainly an area that has seen exponential growth in the past few years, including smart thermostats, lighting, locks, refrigerators, and all of the new devices they will be unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year.

Public Safety is another discipline where innovation is ever evolving, providing “Smart Policing”initiatives such as listening devices designed to detect gunfire, locate and provide information to responding officers. Video cameras abound and are very useful in solving crimes. Having access to camera or video that has been recorded can save countless hours investigating and solving crimes. Body and dash cameras can also provide transparency to citizens by providing solid evidence when crimes are committed, and by holding police accountable at the same time.

Sea Level Rise/Global Warming and Storm Surge are very discerning to all waterfront communities. No matter what country or hemisphere we live in rising waters are a large concern. Whether it is due to the rising seas, king tides, or flooding from a torrential rain storm or hurricane, there is potential catastrophic damage that can be caused from any of these phenomenons. Having a network in place that can provide real time data to pumps can assist in controlling the water levels, which can minimize flooding and damage. That data can also alert residents in low lying areas to prepare in advance or move to higher ground. Using this data will initiate modification of building codes, construction materials, and types of construction. Planners and city officials should be considering what the future holds and how can costal municipalities address their property needs. At what point do we engage the Insurance industry to work together in defining the new codes, zoning, building materials and engineering that will reduce or minimize risk and reduce insurance premiums?

Smart City objectives should also be focused on the citizen and their interactions with their local government. Each initiative should improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the citizen experience, whether an in-person visit, online business transaction, or something that happens behind the scenes, but has a positive impact for the citizen. Citizen engagement should always be considered with the ultimate goal of reducing the red tape.

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