Ideas to Action

Wed, 2015-10-28 22:58 -- Jon DeKeles
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In this chapter, you’ll learn how a simple roadmapping process can put you on the path to a smart city. We’ve hinted at this next point before, but now we’re just going to say it: Technology is the easy part. The hard part is turning ideas into action. Fortunately, help is at hand from those who have gone before. In reviewing hundreds of successful pilots and interviewing dozens of experts, several themes have emerged, which we have shared on the pages that follow.

If you’ve completed the other chapters in this Guide, you now have a set of targets to guide your smart city efforts. But you don’t yet know where to apply those principles first or how to translate those concepts into on-the-ground realities. In these next pages, we’ll explain how a roadmap can be the bridge between ideas and action. We’ll cover:

  • The importance of a roadmap
  • The elements of a roadmap
  • The process of building a roadmap
  • Success strategies for a roadmap

Please note that the Smart Cities Council does NOT believe in roadmaps in isolation. Rather, the roadmap should be linked to a city’s vision document or comprehensive plan. We believe wholeheartedly in digital technology. But that technology should be in service to a city’s larger goals.

The importance of a roadmap

Why a roadmap? The path to a smart city is a long one. It can easily take 5, 10, even 15 years to make smart technologies pervasive. It is essential to have a clear, consensus goal to motivate citizens. And clear targets to guide the course corrections that will be needed along the way.

As we use the term in this Guide, a roadmap is a simplified outline of the major steps to becoming a smart city. It is NOT a vision document or a master plan or a detailed project plan. Those other things come into play, but you also need a high-level, “30,000-foot view” of your future. As experts point out, academics think about the “why” of smart cities while technology companies focus on the “what.” Yet you also need to figure out the “how”... and that’s where a roadmap comes in.

Overcoming smart city hurdles

A roadmap can help you overcome obstacles to a smart city transformation. One such hurdle is human nature. People are naturally resistant to change. Yet we live in an era where change is constant. As a result, an entire management science has arisen around “change management” – around successfully transitioning companies to a desired future state.

Cities face a similar challenge... but they can’t simply order residents to attend a change management seminar. Nor can they fire the ones who won’t go along. Instead, city government must influence and inspire the population. A roadmap is a powerful tool in that effort.


Effecting change is made even more difficult by the stove-piped nature of most city governments. For at least the last 100 years, cities have been divided into departments, each with its own specialty and each with a high degree of autonomy. Although it’s not necessary to abolish departments to become a smart city, it is necessary for those departments to collaborate more effectively and to share resources. As you will read below, the roadmapping effort is a “forcing function” that obliges departments to work together.

Becoming a smart city is further compounded by overlapping boundaries. Urban challenges –crime, transportation, water supply, economic development, etc. – don’t stop neatly at city borders. Jurisdictions overlap as well. Many metropolitan regions have dozens of cities and townships within their sphere. They also embrace hundreds of school districts, water districts, transit authorities, port authorities, human services agencies and other organizations. Consider the Greater Chicago metropolis by way of example. It crosses 14 counties in three states and contains approximately 350 municipalities, 350 school districts and 140 library districts.

Meanwhile, cities are also subject to rules and regulations from federal agencies, state or provincial governments, county or parish governments, public utility commissions and so on. And, to top it off, cities must contend with myriad advocacy groups, special interest groups, neighborhood associations, business associations and other groups whose agendas can sometimes be at cross purposes. The United States provides an example. By one count, it has roughly 20,000 municipal governments, 13,000 school districts and 37,381 special authorities.

As Brookings Institution scholar Bruce Katz explained in 2011, “an excess of municipal governments (and the general absence of metropolitan governments) means that there is no ‘one stop shop’ for the application of innovative technologies. The public institutions that make decisions about transport are different from the ones that make decisions about education or water. These separate entities rarely coordinate with each other to integrate technology (and share information) between themselves or with utilities and other private or quasi public entities.”

Done right, roadmapping is a process that involves and pulls together these disparate groups.

Other roadmapping benefits

In addition to the advantages mentioned above, a smart city roadmap has these additional benefits:

  • Maximizing synergies and minimizing costs. Considering the big picture can help a city find ways to share infrastructure and share costs – doing away with unnecessary duplication of ICT investments.
  • Identifying the best places to start. Picking the “low-hanging fruit” – projects that have a big return for a relatively small investment in money and time – usually makes sense. If a city starts with quick, “big bang” projects, it can build momentum and public support. It can also help pay for future projects with savings from the early ones.
  • Enabling cities to build in stages. With a plan in place, you can be confident everything will work together in the end because you’re adhering to principles and standards that ensure interoperability and collaboration. With such a framework, a city can move forward one step at a time, knowing that individual projects will be compatible with each other, even if they are built at different times.
  • Increasing public support. A roadmap paints a picture of future improvements in livability, workability and sustainability. It can dramatically increase public understanding and cooperation. It can also rally support and financing from the private sector.
  • Attracting talent and business. Cities everywhere want to woo talented professionals and job-creating businesses, but both are increasingly choosy when deciding where to establish themselves. They are attracted to cities that have a strong, compelling vision for a better future and a path to get there. Your roadmap, in other words, is also a recruiting tool.

The elements of a roadmap

Many authorities recommend that your roadmap include these five elements at a minimum:

  1. An assessment of where you are
  2. A vision for where you want to go
  3. Project plans for the key components
  4. Milestones to mark progress
  5. Metrics to measure and prove success

Assessment – a clear picture of where the city is now, measured in terms of the key performance indicators you will use to quantify success. For instance, in pages to follow you’ll learn how Vancouver, B.C.’s action plan included baseline numbers to indicate the city’s current level of performance.

Vision – a clear picture of the ultimate outcomes, expressed in terms of citizen benefits. The vision should not be expressed solely as technical achievements but also as the lifestyle and workstyle improvements the technology makes possible. It is essential to build that vision with citizen involvement. First, you’ll get better and more diverse suggestions. Second, you’ll build consensus and commitment. You’ll also want to re-imagine what your city’s departmental organization should look like.

Project plans – “blueprints” for the most important components of the smart city. Possibilities include master plans for land use and the built environment; for digital infrastructure (communications and computing resources); for data; for transportation; for business and commerce, and for city services. These plans are also helpful for creating visibility around smart city drivers.

Milestones – waypoints at which you measure progress, share lessons learned and discuss course corrections and strengthen commit-ment. For instance, Vancouver has annual implementation updates. (Click to view an overview of Vancouver’s 2011-2012 Implementation Update.) It also holds an annual Vancouver Cities Summit, a discussion platform for business and urban leaders to exchange ideas and best practices. And it issues periodic updates in various media to keep citizens informed and enthused (see Figure 14.4)

Your residents can be a valuable tool in the measurement process. Social media can help you reach out to them to see how technology adoption is progressing, further connecting government and people.

Metrics – key performance indicators that quantify success. Examples include carbon footprint, average commute time, percentage of citizens with broadband, energy efficiency achievements, water efficiency achievements, new businesses formed, patents filed, students graduated, doctors and hospital beds per capita, percentage of city services available online, etc. In some cases, it is possible to choose metrics that also let you calculate your return on investment.

Installing metrics early in your smart city efforts can ensure transparency and improve citizen buy-in. Vancouver’s action plan has a list of very specific targets. For instance, it seeks to double the number of green jobs from 2010 to 2020, and double the number of companies who have “greened” their operations. It seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33% over 2007 levels. It has similar easy-to-measure targets for all 10 of its sub-components.

Mobilizing 35,000 Vancoverites to build an action plan
In 2009, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson put together a Greenest City Action Team. Its job was to construct a plan to transform Vancouver into the greenest city on earth. Although only part of the plan references digital technology, all of it represents a sterling example of engendering citizen involvement.

More than 35,000 people participated in the process in one way or another. Many of them monitored progress online via social media (and continue to do so). Others took part in face-to-face workshops and events. More than five dozen city staff, 120 different organizations and 9,500 individuals actively contributed ideas and feedback.

Those contributors had a strong preference to create opportunities immediately as they worked for long-term success – to build a strong local economy and vibrant neighborhoods while creating a city that meets the needs of generations to come.

The resulting Vancouver Greenest City 2020 Action Plan was adopted by the Vancouver City Council in July 2011. The plan addresses three overarching areas of focus: carbon, waste and ecosystems. It is divided into 10 smaller plans, each with a long-term goal for 2050 and a shorter-term target for 2020.

The No. 1 goal of Vancouver B.C.’s 2020 Action Plan was to secure the city’s international reputation as a mecca
of green enterprise by doubling the number of green jobs and doubling the number of companies actively engaged in green operations.

The Vancouver Greenest City 2020 Action Plan includes 10 “sub-plans,” each with a long-term goal plus metrics to measure success.



The Vancouver Greenest City 2020 Action Plan includes 10 "sub-plans," each with a long-term goal plus metrics to measure success.

  Goal Targets
1. Green Economy Secure Vancouver's international reputation as a mecca of green enterprise
  • Double the number of green jobs
  • Double the number of companies actively engaged in greening operations
2. Climate Leadership Eliminate Vancouver's dependence on fossil fuels
  • Reduce community-based greenhouse gas emissions by 33% from 2007 levels
3. Green Buildings Lead the world in green building design and construction
  • Require all buildings constructed from 2020 onward to be carbon neutral in operations
  • Reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in existing buildings by 20% over 2007 levels
4. Green Transportation Make walking, cycling and public transit preferred transportation options
  • Make the majority (over 50%) of trips by foot, bicycle and public transit
  • Reduce the average distance driven per resident by 20% from 2007 levels
5. Zero Waste Create zero waste
  • Reduce solid waste going to the landfill or incinerator by 50% from 2008 levels
6. Access to Nature Vancouver residents will enjoy incomparable access to green spaces, including the world's most spectacular urban forest
  • All Vancouver residents live within a five-minute walk of a park, greenway or other green space by 2020
  • Plant 150,000 new trees by 2020
7. Lighter Footprint Achieve a "one-planet" ecological footprint
  • Reduce Vancouver's ecological footprint by 33% over 2006 goals
8. Clean Water Clean Water Vancouver will have the best drinking water of any city in the world
  • Meet or beat the strongest of provincial and federal drinking water quality standards and guidelines
9. Clean Air Breathe the cleanest air of any major city in the world
  • Always meet or beat the most stringent air quality guidelines from Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and the World Health Organization
10. Local Food Vancouver will become a global leader in urban food systems
  • Increase citywide and neighborhood food assets by a minimum of 50% over 2010 levels

The process of building a roadmap

There’s no “standard” way to create a smart city roadmap. Below we’ve suggested one approach that combines advice from many experts. It includes six steps:

  1. Find a champion
  2. Assemble a team
  3. Borrow from the larger vision
  4. Establish metrics
  5. Prioritize your targets
  6. Use experts to produce specific plans

Find a champion

The best roadmapping strategy is to involve all important stakeholder groups. Even so, the effort is unlikely to succeed without a champion. Typically this is the mayor or city manager. But some successful efforts have been led by private developers, civic groups, local universities, city council members or other prominent individuals.

The champion’s job is to sell the overall vision to city employees and city residents, and to the financial and technical partners the city must recruit. The job requires energy and salesmanship throughout the life of the project. Most experts call for a strong external leader – typically an elected official – teamed with a strong internal advocate – typically someone in a staff position who can lead the day-to-day activities.

Assemble a team

When you assemble your team, you will be balancing two needs. On the one hand, you need expertise from many different areas, which suggests a large team. On the other hand, you need to be fast and efficient, which argues for a small team. Some experts feel the ideal situation is a small group at the core that meets on a regular basis with a much larger group of experts and stakeholders.

Many practitioners suggest that cities start by setting up an interdepartmental task force. Since a smart city is a “system of systems,” every decision taken in one area has an impact on others. It is essential to take a cross-functional approach. Some cities bring in a representative from every major department. Others form a core team and consult with other departments as needed. The planning and ICT departments are almost always involved. It’s also common for the mayor to lead the task force or to designate a senior staffer.

The task force must have the authority to demand cooperation. Equally important, it should have oversight of departmental projects, at least to the extent of ensuring that those projects adhere to established standards. Even if departmental infrastructure will not be interconnected immediately, you want the ability to do so when the time is right. And that requires that departments adhere carefully to standards for interoperability, security, privacy, data management, etc.

Many cities will move from an outside task force to an inside smart city department that will, in some ways, resemble today’s well-accepted ICT departments. Like ICT, the smart city department will have cross-cutting responsibilities. Unlike ICT, however, it will not have specialization as its goal. Rather, its role will be one of coordination, setting overall standards and ensuring that 1) all departments have a common smart city platform to build upon and 2) all individual projects are coordinated with the larger smart city vision.

Some cities put external stakeholders on the task force. However, the most common method is to use city employees and paid consultants for the working team, then to hold meetings to gather input from important stakeholder groups. Some cities own and operate most services – transportation, electric power, water, telecommunications, etc. In other cases, the private sector provides all or most of those services, with the city government providing boundaries and oversight. Cities that do not control their own infrastructure must consult closely with the electric, gas and water utilities that service their territory.

Skilled smart city suppliers can also be a resource at this stage, especially those experienced in master planning and systems integration. Even if the city does not hire them immediately, they can provide directional guidance and recommendations based on their experience helping many different cities.

Although the Smart Cities Council does not do consulting for pay, it does work with selected Spotlight Cities in the early stages of their planning. The Council advises those cities in their use of the Readiness Guide. And it assembles ad hoc teams of experts for brief “mentoring” sessions to get cities “unstuck.”

Borrow from the larger vision

We’ve emphasized that a smart city roadmap should be in service to larger community goals. Many cities maintain 10- or 20-year plans that are updated regularly. Others have vision documents, typically around goals for sustainability or economic development. And most large private developments have a master plan that has given careful consideration to the region’s strengths, needs and cultural preferences.

Many cities also have plans for particular neighborhoods, such as ecodistrict plans or revitalization plans. For instance, the Loop Media Hub Ecodistrict, led by Council advisor David Sandel, is a St. Louis community initiative. It hopes to accelerate economic growth by providing one gigabit (1000 megabits) of Internet access to each building along the city’s Loop Trolley right-of-way.

Your smart city roadmap should draw from these plans to establish your goals, priorities and metrics. Smart technology should be the means to an end. So first you need to determine what that end should look like. Every city has a unique mix of strengths, challenges and cultural preferences. Thus, every city will have different goals. Is your economy based on manufacturing? On tourism? On high-tech services? Every city should tailor its roadmap to buttress its strengths and compensate for its challenges.

For instance, cities emphasizing a lower carbon footprint (as with the Vancouver, B.C. example featured earlier) might prioritize projects that impact emissions, such as smart grid, energy efficiency and electric vehicles. Cities aiming to become high-tech hubs might emphasize such things as broadband connections and mass transit.

If your city has no long-term plans, even for individual districts, then you may want to include a visioning exercise as an early step in your roadmapping process.

Establish metrics

At this point, you have a team in place and you have broad goals pulled from your city’s long-term vision.

A valuable next step is to establish metrics to measure progress towards those goals. A comprehensive smart city roadmap should have 1) measurable goals for livability, workability and sustainability and 2) timely reports of progress toward those objectives.

Some of those metrics will be “inward-looking” as a way for city government to monitor its own performance. But we urge you to include metrics that speak directly to citizens and their quality of life.

Elsewhere in this chapter and in the appendix, you will find examples of city plans and metrics to study for ideas. You may also want to consult published “city indicators.” Examples include the Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF), Mercer Quality of Living Survey, the USGBC LEED for Neighborhood Developmentand the Circles of Sustainability Urban Profile from the UN Global Compact Cities Programme.

Prioritize your targets

With your vision and your metrics in place, you are ready to prioritize the targets you developed in earlier chapters to achieve those goals. We have placed a summary checklist at the end of this chapter. Use it to consolidate the work from the previous chapters and determine which targets to emphasize first.

How do you choose your priorities? These four steps will help:

  1. Start with the fundamentals
  2. Consider overall goals
  3. Bolster your weak spots
  4. Seek out quick paybacks

Each of these four steps will screen out some of the possibilities. If you apply these filters in order, you’ll end up with a much shorter list of possible first projects.

Start with the fundamentals. Certain targets are so essential that every city should put them in place at the beginning. Or, at the very least, get started on them right away, even if they also do other projects in parallel. Review the five targets below to see if your city is missing any of these basics:

  • Citywide multi-service communications
  • Adhere to open standards
  • Publish privacy rules
  • Create a security framework
  • Create a citywide data management, transparency and sharing policy

These five targets have the most profound effect on a city’s ability to transform itself. Put another way, these five targets are the ones that will get you in the most trouble if you fail to get them right. Imagine, for example, leaving each individual department to figure out cybersecurity on its own. Some departments may have access to specialized expertise in-house or via consultants. But others are likely to fail at this challenging task, putting the entire city at risk.

Reminder: You don’t have to build all of these things yourself, but you must ensure that they are in place. In some cases, the private sector may step up. (Many cities already have citywide communications in place, for instance.) In other cases, you may be able to borrow ideas from cities that have gone before rather than start from scratch. (You can already find several solid privacy frameworks, for instance.) In other cases, your city may have un- or under-utilized assets that can be put into service. For instance, many cities have unused “dark fiber” – fiber optic cables that were installed but never put into service – that can be used for citywide communications.

Consider overall goals. Once you’re comfortable that you have the fundamentals in play, filter your possible projects against your city’s overall goals. As explained earlier, look to broader city vision documents and plans that set out long-term goals. Your smart city roadmap should prioritize projects that make progress against those objectives.

If your plan calls for the expansion of tourism, for instance, you’ll want to prioritize projects that contribute to that objective. If your long-term plan calls for you to accommodate a large influx of new residents, you should emphasize projects that help you answer that imperative.

Bolster your weak spots. If you still have too many possibilities, you can narrow your choices by looking for projects that shore up your weak spots. The checklists in each chapter (and the summary checklist at the end of this chapter), contain a column to note where you are weak or strong.

Seek out quick paybacks. Finally, if you still have more candidates than you can tackle, look for easy wins. Give preference to projects that can be completed quickly and that have a rapid return on investment. Time and again, we hear from smart city experts that it is essential to demonstrate success early. For your long-term smart city transformation to succeed, you must have some early, short-term wins. These early successes will build enthusiasm and momentum. And, done right, they will create value streams that can help to pay for future projects.

8 Areas that can produce wins quickly

Although every city is different, here are seven areas that have proved to be excellent places to look for quick payback. By the way, payback isn’t always financial. Sometimes it comes in other forms, such as popularity rankings, business startups or civic enthusiasm.

Smart transportation. This sector is the number one source of smart city projects. Most cities suffer from congestion and most citizens put traffic at the top of the list of things they want solved. According to some studies, congestion reduces a city’s gross domestic product by somewhere between 1% to 3%. Smart transportation may not result in fare decreases. But it often reduces costs for the operators. And it almost always rewards citizens with lower congestion and shorter travel times.

Energy efficiency. Energy efficiency programs can often get underway without large expenditures. Many gains are possible through simple behavior changes – for instance, learning ways to save water, substituting more efficient light bulbs or learning to postpone non-essential electric use to non-peak times. What’s more, many energy services contractors will undertake work for no upfront costs. Instead, they take a portion of the savings.

Smart grids. The payback from a smart grid is not necessarily in lower electric rates. Rather, it may come in the form of reduced outages and greater reliability against storms and sabotage. In areas subject to hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes or floods, resilience is highly valued. City governments can gain great approval if they improve reliability and resiliency – and face great wrath if they do not.


Smart water networks. Council member Itron estimates that 30% of all the water pumped worldwide does not reach its destination. A smart water network can pinpoint leaks and theft, gaining a quick payback in regions where water is scarce and costly.

Smart street lights. A confluence of several factors make smart street lighting an excellent prospect for a first project. First, the latest generation of LED lighting makes possible big savings in energy costs. Second, the same LEDs that save energy also save on “truck rolls.” They last much longer, so maintenance crews don’t have to spend as much time replacing lamps. Third, by networking the street lights – adding communications to each one – you make possible numerous smart applications, including remote diagnostics and control. Fourth, once you have a “canopy network” in place for street lights (and paid for by the savings in energy and maintenance), you can use that network for other smart city applications. After all, street lights already have power, already exist throughout the city and already sit up high – the perfect places to play host to a citywide network. The cities of Paris and Bristol in the UK are working with Council member Silver Spring Networks to install canopy networks for intelligent street lighting and other city services.

Public safety. Smart policing can have a dramatic impact on crime rates and public confidence. By feeding current and past crime statistics into analytical programs, cities can predict where crime is most likely to occur. And by equipping officers with cameras, laptops, tablets or smartphones, they can reduce the time spent on bureaucratic paperwork and increase the time on patrol.

Digital government services. You can often get a quick win by converting a government service from “manual” operation to a more convenient online or smartphone version. Done well, such projects can save money for the city while simultaneously improving citizen satisfaction (no more standing in line). There are dozens if not hundreds of possibilities, including licenses, permits, registration for social services, purchase of fare cards, reporting potholes and many, many more.

Setting up simple e-government apps can be a matter of months or even weeks. For example, Council member Civic Resource Group International offers a next-generation digital platform called CivicConnect. CivicConnect provides a tightly integrated suite of information-rich smart city applications, including portal management, transportation demand management, 311 citizen requests, open data and more.

Smart payments: Payback from smarter payments can be quick – and significant. Cash and other physical means of payments are generating huge costs for city administrations, as well as being very risky and needing secured transfers. By digitalizing all disbursements and collections, a city can generate significant savings and increase its operational efficiency. One example: By switching city service benefits from direct deposits and check cashing services to a prepaid card, the city of Toronto generated huge savings for both social assistance recipients and the city. Public estimates claim that more than $250 a year can be saved for a single client receiving $600 a month, and the city itself expects net savings of at least $2.5 million annually by eliminating the cost of issuing checks. This program was rolled out in less than a year.

Use experts to produce the specific plan(s).

At this stage, you have a prioritized list of targets plus ideas for your first projects. You may even have a cross-departmental implementation calendar that looks several years ahead.

If you are not already consulting with experts, now is the time to bring them on board. Their job will be to produce specific, detailed project plans and engineering specifications. (If you are building a district or city from scratch, then the experts’ job will be to produce a master plan.)

Finding the right experts is an important task. They must have a holistic, big-picture outlook to help your city find cross-departmental synergies. But they must also have access to specialized knowledge to produce detailed technical specifications. Ideally, they will also have experience in smart city projects.

“Outsourcing” all or part of your project implementation can have important benefits. First, few city employees will have the up-to-the-minute technical skills to ensure that the city is getting state-of-the-art solutions. Second, few city employees have the time to take on such a complicated extra job. Smart city projects demand focused effort. Most city employees – and most city leaders – are focused on too many initiatives to truly drive the smart city charge, even if they have the technology skills. Outsourcing allows for a passionate focus on the project. And outsourcing can survive and bridge a change in government if elections or appointments occur in the middle of the project.

Where do you find such experts? Many cities have had success working with regional universities. Many cities bring in consulting firms to administer the overall process, trusting those consultants to bring in other specialists as needed. And many cities have found success working directly with experienced smart city suppliers like the Council members listed in this Guide’s appendix.

The suppliers in the appendix have demonstrated exceptional smart city capabilities. They have collectively worked on thousands of

projects that relate to smart cities. They know what works in real life, what problems are likely to occur, and which technologies are truly ready for prime time. It is no exaggeration to say that they represent the planet’s very best smart city suppliers.

And they’ve also demonstrated a vitally important characteristic – the willingness and ability to collaborate with others. No single company can create the totality of a smart city. It takes a small army of specialists to build out the “system of complex systems” that is a smart city. Membership in the Smart Cities Council signals a firm’s commitment to collaborating with other companies to produce the best possible solutions.

Success strategies for a roadmap

Much of this Guide gives advice with a technical flavor. However, when it comes to building a compelling and effective roadmap, the most important advice pulls from common sense. Cities should:

  • Think big... but start small
  • Work together... but move fast
  • Emphasize synergies and interdependencies
  • Borrow from the best
  • Harvest good ideas

Think big... Earlier we said that a smart city roadmap should be subservient to a city’s long-term vision. Don’t hold back when setting those long-term goals. Be bold. Aim high. With the help of digital technology and willing citizens, virtually any city can achieve a greater level of health, happiness and prosperity. Yes, it will take longer for some cities. But the beauty of the digital revolution is that it offers hope to all, regardless of location. Indeed, in some cases digital technology allows cities in emerging economies to leapfrog cities from the developed world. Since they have much smaller investments in legacy infrastructure, they can jump straight to the better technologies now available.

... but start small. With your grand plan in place, start small at first. Pick a project that has a small upfront investment, a quick turnaround and a rapid payback. Ideally, this first target will be a consensus priority – something that is near the top of the list for all of the key stakeholder groups. Invest in one or a few select projects with the biggest and fastest payback. On the financial side, this allows you to apply the savings from the first project(s) to finance the next one(s). On the public relations front, it allows you to get an early win that builds support and momentum.

Starting small can also mean taking a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach. Many cities start their smart city journey by designating one area for a pilot project. Districts –neighborhoods, if you prefer – are small enough but big enough too. They are small enough to be manageable and nimble. But they are big enough to have a critical mass of constituents and to gain some economies of scale. And they are small enough to innovate quickly but big enough to have a meaningful impact.

If the neighborhood approach is not right for your city, you might look for other self-contained environments such as industrial parks, campuses, leisure complexes, transport hubs, etc.

Work together... Time and again, we hear that collaboration is key to successful smart city projects. “When it comes to achieving the high-tech, sustainable, and smart cities of the future, there is one word that sums up the pathway to success: partnership,” explained Terry Kirby in The Guardian in May 2013. Kirby and other observers say those partnerships should include (at a minimum) local governments, local utilities, local universities, local business groups, local developers and property owners and relevant advocacy groups (such as those that promote sustainability).

Smart city pioneers agree that collaboration is key – and that it can be surprisingly hard to achieve given the “stove-piped” structure of many city governments and the sometimes adversarial relationship between the public and private sectors. First, city governments need to get better at collaborating internally after decades of working in departments with strict boundaries. Second, cities need to get better at collaborating with business and with the public.


Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio argued in 2012 that “technology is mostly irrelevant unless policymakers, city managers, heads of department and city CIOs get the fundamentals right. What really matters is how different sectors cooperate and how they can exchange meaningful information. Of course there is technology involved, but that’s not enough to make cities smart.

Cooperation requires solid governance and a roadmap that is respectful of 1) the different – and potential diverging – business objectives and timeframes of different stakeholders and 2) the inevitable resource constraints.”

... but move fast. Those who hesitate may not be lost, but they will be passed by. As part of your planning, identify “hot spots” or priorities to enable a quick start on the journey to becoming smarter. For one thing, cities are in constant competition with each other to attract business, talent and creative types. Cities need to begin their smart city journey soon, or they will forever be playing catch-up to their rivals.

In addition, starting fast with an easy win can help with the political realities. Many elected officials operate on a relatively short horizon. Yes, they may have long-term goals for their cities. But they must operate within the constraints of frequent elections. They must show short-term progress along the way if they hope to be re-elected.

Emphasize synergies and interdependencies. Done well, your roadmap will consider the totality of the city, not just one or two important departments. In the beginning and at every progress review you should be looking for inter-departmental synergies.

If, for example, you target water alone, you will fail to capture the interdependencies with other departments such as energy. For instance, pumping water for irrigation and human consumption can represent 20% of a city’s overall energy budget. Often a city can slash its energy bill just by shifting pumping to off-peak hours when there is less demand on the power grid. Likewise, the same communications system that carries messages for smart water meters can often handle smart electric meters as well, doing away with the expense of a second network. These kinds of synergies and savings don’t show up when systems are studied in isolation.

In previous chapters, we’ve highlighted the interdependencies between different responsibilities. For instance, the built environment relies heavily on services from energy, telecommunications and water systems. Likewise, public safety relies heavily on services from telecommunications, energy and transportation

The roadmapping phase is when you put the theories of synergy and interdependency into practice. All the more reason to work together – to construct a task force that gets input from all the departments.

Borrow from the best. Study those who’ve gone before. It’s smart to learn from your mistakes. It’s even smarter to learn from the mistakes of others. And it’s smartest of all to learn from the successes of others. Hundreds of cities have embarked on smart city initiatives big and small, so there’s no need to invent your smart city plan from scratch. Study their roadmaps and plans (most are public documents).

Harvest good ideas wherever you find them. You’ll find links to several smart city plans and related tools in the appendix of this Guide. The Smart Cities Council website can also help. You’ll find success stories in the examples and case studies section. And you’ll find advice on building plans in the visioning and roadmapping tools section.

Now you’re ready to get started. It will be hard work, but it will also be rewarding. The roadmap you create will be the jumping off point for a better city for current residents and the generations that follow.



Enabler Universal Targets

How smart cities deploy and use ICT to enhance livability, workability and sustainability

Implementation Progress

NonePartialOver 50%Complete

Priority box Instrumentation & Control

Implement optimal instrumentation

Supplement: for all transportation modes (Transportation)

Supplement: across the watershed (Water and Wastewater)

Ensure universal high-speed broadband access (Telecommunications)

Ensure a citywide wireless network (Telecommunications)

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Priority box Connectivity

Connect devices with citywide, multi-service communications

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Priority box Interoperability

Adhere to open standards

Use open integration architectures and loosely coupled interfaces

Prioritize use of legacy investments

Supplement: including physically stored data (Public Safety)

Enable distributed generation with interconnection standards (Energy)

Enable multi-channel access to an integrated customer transportation account (Transportation)

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Priority box Security & Privacy

Publish privacy rules

Create a security framework

Implement cybersecurity

De-identify patient and student data for storage in the cloud

(Health and Human Services)

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Enabler Universal Targets

How smart cities deploy and use ICT to enhance livability, workability and sustainability

Implementation Progress

NonePartialOver 50%Complete

Priority box Data Management

Create a citywide data management, transparency and sharing policy

Supplement: including energy usage data (Energy)

Supplement: including water usage data (Water and Wastewater)

Architect a single health history for citizens (Health and Human Services)

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Priority box Computing Resources

Consider a cloud computing framework

Use an open innovation platform

Have access to a central GIS

Have access to comprehensive device management

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Priority box Analytics

Achieve full situational awareness

Supplement: across the watershed, and informed by weather data (Water and Wastewater)

Achieve operational optimization

Supplement: for sustainability, efficiency, and cleanliness and safety (Water and Wastewater)

Achieve asset optimization

Pursue predictive analytics

Supplement: integrate all transport modes for multi-modal transportation optimization (Transportation)

Automate fault and outage management (Energy)

Automate fault and leak management (Water and Wastewater)

Segment and personalize programs for customers (Energy)

Enable dynamic, demand-based pricing (Transportation)

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Quick payback with smart street lights
San Diego’s LED Street Lighting Project
Lorie Cosio-Azar, Project Officer for the city of San Diego Environmental Services Department, explains why Council member GE’s energy-efficient LED street lighting fixtures and wireless lighting controls will save her city more than $250,000 annually.

Lighting Up the Future, Together
Streetlights are important civic assets that consume approximately 40% of a municipality’s energy budget. Replacing existing streetlights with networked LED luminaires enables tremendous energy savings. Learn more in this video from Council member Silver Spring Networks.

Multiple paybacks from smart grid technologies
Space-Time Insight at Sacramento Municipal Utility District
The payback with a smart grid isn’t necessarily lower electric rates. Learn how Sacramento Municipal Utility District is using situational intelligence applications to increase grid reliability and integrate new energy technologies such as wind and solar power, electric vehicles, energy storage and demand response in this video from Council member Space-Time Insight.

Have access to a central GIS
OGC Smart Cities Spatial Information Framework
Location information can provide valuable insight that smart cities can use to improve the lives of citizens. The Open Geospatial Consortium Smart Cities Spatial Information Framework highlighted in this white paper from Council advisor OGC provides guidance on planning and implementing open spatial standard architectures, which are key to driving interoperability and efficiency in GIS projects.

Emphasizing synergies and interdependencies
Improving government interoperability: A capability framework for government managers
This comprehensive white paper by the Center for Technology in Government, a Council advisor, provides guidance for government managers as they begin to move beyond the vision of a more effective government to the reality. It defines government interoperability as the mix of policy, management and technology capabilities needed by a network of organizations to deliver coordinated government programs and services.

Use experts. Finding the right experts is an important task. They must have a holistic, big-picture outlook to help your city find cross-departmental synergies.