Every Smart City Project Is A Strategic Project
Govciooutlook

Every Smart City Project Is A Strategic Project

By Raimundo Rodulfo, Director of Information Technology / Chief Innovation Officer, City of Coral Gables

Raimundo Rodulfo, Director of Information Technology / Chief Innovation Officer, City of Coral Gables

What are the current market trends you see shaping the Smart Cityspace?

I see a growing need for rapid-deployment technologies that facilitate an agile provisioning of data capturing, connectivity, process automation, and intuitive user interfaces. Shrinking the time from customer need and problem definition to solution deployment in the digital space with adaptive and heuristic systems that learn and self-improve over time improves value to the business. New exponential technologies from this Industry 4.0 era improve user experiences and maximize the actionable value of open data by implementing analytics with advanced detection and predictive capabilities, all powered by AI and machine learning. This “plug-play-learn-improve” concept applies to solutions that rely on cyber-physical systems such as IoT sensors, autonomous systems, and smart user devices, as well as solutions that operate on strictly software and virtualization levels on cloud and mobile platforms. Automation, miniaturization, “softwarization”, green-tech, ergonomics, citizen focus, quality-driven, transparency and open data, social/sharing/collaboration, real-time geospatial visualization, 3D, computer vision, immersive UX, cyber-risk awareness, integration (APIs), gigabit mobility, and cloud scalability are some of the common trends I see in this rapidly growing space.

Smart cities will see a shift in focus from big cities to communities of all sizes in 2019. This change is being driven by two distinct shifts in our culture. The first is the overwhelming acceptance of IoT and WiFi technologies, even in rural areas. The second is the acceptance of smart city methodologies as a practical and integrable part of community planning. Your views on this trend.

From our own experience, in City of Coral Gables, we have adopted IoT, wireless technologies and smart city methodologies with good results and subsequent acceptance over the past several years. We are a city of 51,000 residents, but our daily traffic is close to one million vehicles due to our strategic location in the center of Miami-Dade County and our vibrant Downtown district. In our 5-year I.T. strategic plan which began in early 2016, we have focused on promoting the development of a smart city ecosystem that fosters innovation and economic growth. The ecosystem brings together people, businesses, organizations, things, and systems. Our digital transformation and smart initiatives in the form of enterprise systems, lean six-sigma and quality engineering, IoT, and public Wi-Fi have proved a benefit to the citizens with continuous improvement of customer service, quality of life, and key indicators in sustainability, resilience, and livability. Those positive results have made it possible for us to continue our programs with support from City leaders and the Community. Our smart city plans have implemented multiple interconnected and interoperable elements that include a Smart City Hub public platform ( www.coralgables.com/smartcity ), a data marketplace, an application store, transparency portals, a Community Intelligence Center; data platforms, Internet of Things (traffic, public safety, and environmental sensors), public Wi-Fi networks (facilities, buildings, parks, streets) and a foundation of resilient technology infrastructure with high-speed communications (fiber, wireless, satellite) that help us sustain mission-critical services during hurricanes and other emergencies that affect our region. This trend of fruitful adoption of smart technologies continues for us, as it does in urban and rural areas throughout the Country.

Please elaborate on the challenges that the organizations will need to address related to Smart Cityspace.

Funding, privacy and cybersecurity, data silos, governance, planning, asset management, skill gaps, complexity, inclusion, digital accessibility, and public acceptance are some of the common challenges in this space. We have been addressing those challenges over the years with creative solutions and the adoption of industry best practices, engineering and design, strategic alignment, public sector policies, and the development of our human capital as detailed in our I.T. strategic plan ( www.coralgables.com/ ITstrategicplan ).

What are the major tasks for organizational CIOs at this point in time? Is there any unmet need in terms of Smart Cityspace that is yet to be leveraged from the vendors?

Based on my own experience and many successful case studies from organizations around the world, I think that public sector CIOs that are guiding their organizations through a smart city roadmap must align with the needs of their customers, the strategic goals and mission of their organizations; focus on value creation, quality of citizen services, user experience, transparency, systematic processes and standardization, continuous improvement, actionable information, efficiencies, mobility, accessibility, inclusion and citizen engagement;and leverage open data and analytics, crowdsourcing and collaboration. In our case, we started with quality engineering and process improvement projects before we started even thinking of adding more technology and complexity to the picture. A lean and streamlined process with little waste is easier to optimize, transform to digital, and automate. Many of the unmet needs I observe in the Smart City space are related to strategic planning and governance, as well as the ones I described in Question 1.

As the smart city movement has grown, the vision, technologies, and realities on the ground have become layered and more difficult to deal with. To simplify this, we’ll likely see a strong drive toward more intuitive processes, including the increased use of machine learning to gather and analyze a community’s data. What can organizations do to stay abreast of these changes?

Start with a good plan and listen to their constituents, then prioritize accordingly. Some of the smart city initiatives that are relatively easy to implement and have a quick and significant strategic actionable impact and return on investment are the ones that leverage cloud analytics with AI and machine learning algorithms applied to citizen engagement (e.g.: public sentiment analytics, chatbots); computer vision from camera feeds (e.g.: traffic analytics, object, behavioral and pattern recognition); and crowdsourced data (e.g.: public/private partnerships, open data sources). Building and continually developing a strong human capital with data science,programming, and leadership skills will help an organization navigate the technology challenges and their complexities. Building an organizational culture around quality and innovation also advances the purpose of remaining agile, relevant, effective and on-target in the face of today’s challenges brought by disruptive and exponential changes.

What is your advice for budding technologists in the Smart Cityspace? How do you see the evolution few years from now with regards to disruptions and transformations within Smart Cityspace?

My advice could be to stay alert, always learning, always humble, focused on people needs (customers, citizens, team members, stakeholders) and not just on technology, theories, and abstract plans. Listen to and live the customer experience yourself so you can truly improve your products and services. Align with the strategic goals and mission of your organization and the needs and satisfaction of your customers. Focus on quality, process improvement, actionable data, customer satisfaction, team building,sustainability, resilience, and benchmarking against world-class standards. Establish short-term goals with quick wins as well as a long-term vision, and make things happen. Listen to the ideas of every member in your team, empower them to help the customers and improve processes, and make them all participants of a shared vision. Make sure every smart city project is a strategic project that really advances the mission of your organization and improves the lives of your citizens. When implementing new technologies, beware of creating data silos, wasteful duplication or shadow-IT, accessibility or inclusion gaps, or security vulnerabilities. Prevent those problems by having good engineering, design, data governance and project management standard practices.

I see the evolution a few years from now in the smart city space moving towards reducing the gap even more between the innovations in the private sector, the tech industry, the consumer market, and the services in the public sector; with some organizations embracing the changes faster than others, depending on regulatory frameworks, economics, and public sentiment. We will see automation and cyber-physical connectivity in almost all areas of government and urban life, from robotic vehicles to seamless smart parking systems and curb management, more micro-mobility services, smarter traffic management, initial adoption of smart road technologies, a pervasive use of data and advanced AI analytics by systems and people to make everyday decisions and speed-up results, etc. Location-aware technologies that react in real-time to the environment and the users’ needs, and haptic XR immersive user interfaces will become pervasive. Digital literacy and tech adoption will continue increasing rapidly within the smart city organizations and their customer base. Changes driven by Industry 4.0 technologies will continue accelerating everywhere, increasingly moderated and regulated by those in charge of implementing ethical frameworks and common-sense balance in public policies. I think that in mobility and other areas the changes won’t be as gradual or linear as predicted, and will be rapidly replicated from one city to another, as cities develop their own digital twins on civic cloud platforms. It’s become easier to make predictions since changes happen so fast that they constantly give you a sneak peek of the future.

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