The barriers to smart cities
Despite the powerful drivers in favor, the path to smart cities has obstacles along the way. Members of the Smart Cities Council have worked on thousands of smart city projects all over the world. As they’ve collaborated with local governments certain consistent barriers have emerged.
Siloed, piecemeal implementations. Cities often tackle challenges in a piecemeal fashion, due to short-term financial constraints and long-term traditions that divide city functions into separate, “siloed” departments with little interaction. As a result, many projects are built to solve a single problem in a single department, creating “islands of automation” that duplicate expenses while making it difficult to share systems or data.
Building a smart city requires a system-wide view and an integrated, cross-departmental approach. The bad news: holistic thinking and collaborative work are hard. The good news: done right, they can save time and enable new services that were not possible in an isolated, siloed model. For instance, a city department can drastically cut the development time for a new application by re-using data and software modules already created by other departments. A municipal water utility can drastically cut the cost of a communications network by using one already built out for an electric utility. And a city can sometimes reduce overall information and communications technology (ICT) costs by as much as 25% just by implementing a master ICT architecture and technology roadmap.
The Problem with "Siloed" Cities
Expensive redundancies. Despite the fact that modern IT architectures make it possible to connect city departments and solutions today, far too many cities still use a “siloed” approach to smart city applications. Individual departments build individual applications, with little regard to sharing costs, infrastructure and data. The result is expensive redundancies and unnecessary difficulties in coordinating between those isolated applications.
This is not to suggest that cities must finance and implement dozens of investments at one time. In fact, it is entirely fine to begin with just one or two projects. What is critical is that these projects all fall into a larger, integrated plan so that city investments are not redundant. Silo avoidance depends on the use of widely adopted open international standards.
Most experts agree that technology will not be the gating factor for the smart city transformation. Instead, we will be limited by our human ability to coordinate and collaborate between departmental and technology silos.