Some of today’s greatest cities benefitted from visionaries who – centuries ago – saw possibilities for civic betterment and made it happen. A compelling example comes from leaders back in the 1800s. Way before the phrase “urban sprawl” had entered our psyche, they committed to preserving vast amounts of open spaces for public use. Think of Hyde Park in London, Central Park jutting through Manhattan or Ueno Park in Tokyo. They are all testaments to leaders “thinking outside the box” a very long time ago.
Fast-forward a couple of centuries. It’s your turn to make that same kind of lasting impact on your city. This chapter will help get you started. In many ways, it is the most important chapter in the Guide because it lays out the universal principles that should underlie every city responsibility, from water to power to public safety and all the rest. Get these right and you’ve set up your city for decades of success.
This chapter includes 17 goals — we call them “targets” — that will propel you down the smart city path. We refer to these 17 as “universal targets” because each of them applies to every city responsibility.
Here’s an example: One of the targets is to use analytics to achieve full situational awareness. That means giving system operators a real-time, big-picture view of what’s going on so they can spot problems early and act quickly to mitigate them. An example might be an accident that has a major thoroughfare blocked. Knowing about the accident in real time gives transit operators a chance to reroute buses.
But that situational awareness also has great value to public safety, to water, to energy, to... well, to virtually every city responsibility, hencetheir inclusion in this Universal chapter. (In later chapters, you’ll read about targets that apply only to specific responsibilities – energy or transportation, for instance).
Before we drill down on the 17 universal targets, a quick refresher on key terms:
- ICT — information and communications technologies. The blanket term for the devices, software, standards and communications that make cities smart.
- Instrumentation – the devices used to collect data about city conditions. Examples include smart meters, occupancy sensors, temperature sensors, light detectors, pressure sensors and many more.
- Responsibilities – the everyday essential functions and services a city provides such as water, public safety, transportation, etc.
- Enablers – to enable is “to give power, means, competence or ability.” By that token, enablers are the individual ICT components that allow city responsibilities to get smart. Examples include computing resources, data analytics and similar functionalities.
- Targets – goals for smart city efforts. A series of objectives that, taken together, form the foundation of an ICT-enabled smart city.
Before we go further, let’s take a look at some of the amazing benefits that your citizens will gain once you start checking off the smart city targets recommended in this Guide.
Benefits of realizing the universal targets
We’ve talked about the hurdles cities face on their smart city journey and how realizing targets will require commitment, planning and execution. Now let’s talk about the rewards!
Because the 17 universal targets described here apply to every responsibility, the benefits highlighted below are also citywide in their application. We’ve organized the benefits by our three core smart city objectives – enhanced livability, workability and sustainability.
Livability will mean different things to different people because we all define quality of life in different ways. Yet the smart city benefits highlighted below have the potential to help everyone:
Revolutionizing people’s relationship with their government. By providing instant, electronic access to the information people need, the services they require, and the interaction they want with officials, cities build citizen trust and satisfaction.
Improving city service by sharing data. Many of the most exciting city applications come from sharing data between departments. Or, in a similar fashion, by sharing data with outside developers who can innovate new applications. For instance, cities including Amsterdam, London, Philadelphia and San Francisco have instituted “Open Data” programs. They have resulted in hundreds of innovative applications, including trip planners, parking spot finders, bus locators, crime reporting and alerts, and business planning tools, to name just a few.
Enabling real-time alerts and real-time monitoring. Health and public safety are improved when citizens are alerted to fires, floods, air-quality issues, public disturbances, pipeline leaks, downed electricity lines, chemical spills, snowstorms and snow plows, metro lines, bus locations, etc.
Creating citywide situational awareness. When you are able to fully visualize your city’s traffic, energy, gas and water networks, you can best ensure reliability and resiliency of those essential services.
Protecting personal privacy. People have a right to and great desire for privacy and that issue will certainly crop up when you start marching down the smart city path. The Guide’s universal principles include recommendations on privacy.
Workability means accelerated economic development.
Creating world-class infrastructure. Businesses weight the efficiency and reliability of city infrastructures when they make their investments. They have many options. Why locate in city A, when nearby city B has a more efficient transportation network, a more reliable and cost-effective energy grid, or a more advanced law enforcement program? Cities that have optimized their infrastructures are more attractive investment locations.
Protecting business from cybercrime. Hacking and theft are serious risks to businesses. A 2012 study reported that incidents of cybercrime doubled over the last three years, while their financial impact rose by 40%. Enforcing cybersecurity as described in this Guide will help city government achieve safety and resiliency, and create trust for companies contemplating a move to your city.
Unleashing innovation. Cities that free up their data via Open Data or similar programs will unleash the power of people on their data sets and benefit from new ideas. Data is a valuable and profitable resource that can fuel innovation and invention, thereby creating new businesses, revenue streams and jobs.
Creating a “recruiting tool” for attracting talent and jobs. Increasingly mobile businesses and professionals are attracted to cities that have a strong, compelling vision for a better future.
Supporting skills development. According to a 2012 study, despite the relatively high unemployment rate in the United States, 49% of employers reported having difficulty in filling science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs. City-supported skill development can be an enormous draw to businesses looking for specialized talent.
Sustainability is how smart cities provide necessary and desirable services in a way that doesn’t deplete resources.
Reducing resource use through optimization. The optimization gains from analytics and improved planning mean that cities, their businesses and their residents consume fewer resources. By harnessing the power of ICT, smart cities can curb the theft of resources and deliver a better future for generations to come.
Enabling a broad selection of technology choices. Cities that pursue interoperability in their smart technology investments will save money by being able to pick from the widest variety of solutions possible.
Reducing duplication of effort. When smart city efforts are confined to departmental silos, functions are needlessly repeated. This unnecessary duplication may range from market research to community outreach to technical design to security planning to staff training to procurement processes to designing user interfaces and much more. Agreeing in advance on universal principles takes care of these things once, for use in all departments.
Reducing costs through infrastructure sharing. Some early smart city efforts have overlooked the potential to share costs. Here are just a few of the elements that can often be purchased or designed just once and reused many times: geographical information systems (GIS); communications networks; cybersecurity designs and implementations; database management systems; enterprise service buses; workforce and field crew management architecture, and operations centers. Additionally, in some cases costs can be reduced by partnering with private sector providers (operators) who have already deployed networks and services.
Reducing costs by re-using software modules. By realizing the targets in this Guide, cities can construct their applications in a way that creates a collaborative and secure environment, makes it easy to share code modules between different applications, minimizing expensive programming.
Increasing economies of scale. By agreeing on universal standards and specifications, cities can often lower their purchasing costs while increasing interoperability. Otherwise, each city department makes its own small, slightly different order with diminished bargaining power.
Embedding best practices. By way of example, consider something as crucial as cybersecurity. Now suppose that every department is responsible on its own for researching, planning and implementing that security. It’s not hard to recognize that some departments will not have the skills and resources to do the best possible job. By contrast, if the city adopts a universal security framework, it can be assured that the individual departmental implementations will be state-of-the-art.
Enabling better financial forecasting. Financial forecasting is an important discipline and it can be greatly enhanced with the help of the data flowing from smart cities. Combining and correlating growth projections, depreciation and historic operating patterns can improve cities’ 5-, 10- and 20-year plans. And by monitoring key performance indicators, cities can measure their progress and their return on investment.
Squeezing the maximum value from city assets. Electronically monitoring the actual condition of assets at every moment helps predict when they will need maintenance in time to prevent breakdowns. With device management and asset optimization, cities will save money while still ensuring the reliability of their technology deployments.
Using computer simulations to plan with great precision. Thanks to computer modeling and simulations, cities can test assumptions, try different scenarios and make mistakes in the simulations instead of costly mistakes in real life. Many experts predict that smart city technologies will change the very nature of planning – from a once-in-a-decade activity based on estimates to an ongoing process based upon real-time data.
How to use this chapter (and the ones that follow)
The goal of the Readiness Guide is to help you make two key decisions: 1) where you want to end up and 2) where you should start.
This chapter and those that follow will help you with the first issue. They suggest the targets at which you should aim. Your only job is to review those targets and determine a) whether they apply to your city and b) how far along you are already.
When it comes to which ones apply, we are biased – we think every target in this Guide is essential to the long-term success of a smart city. Not to be overly dramatic, but you ignore these targets – especially the universal targets – at your own peril.
The universal targets are highlighted on the checklist you’ll see on the next page (and again at the end of the chapter). Each target is explained in detail on the pages that follow. When it comes to how far along you are, you can use the column at the far right of the checklist to record your estimate. You’ll use that estimate of progress in the final chapter, Ideas to Action, where you will set your priorities.
Knowing where you are strong and weak will help you choose where to point your smart city efforts first.
You don’t have to over-think the process. Nor do you have to become an expert in every target. When you have gone through all the chapters and completed the consolidated target list in the final chapter, you will be handing it to specialists to build detailed project plans. You can count on their expertise for the details.
A few large cities will hand their target list to in-house staff. But most cities will use outside experts. Either way, your job is to hand those experts your “wish list” – your prioritized target list. That list will tell them, in general terms, where you want to start and where you want to end up.
So don’t feel overwhelmed as you read through the targets. Your job is not to solve all of these issues. That’s where the experts come in. Your job is to know which issues need a solution and to decide which issues to tackle first.
If you have further questions about targets and checklists, reach out to the Smart Cities Council via the website or the contact information in the appendix.
And now, on to the universal targets. As you read through each one, jump to a checklist to record your assessment of your city’s progress. After completing this chapter and the ones that follow, use the summary checklist in the final chapter to combine your results into one document.
How smart cities deploy and use ICT to enhance livability, workability and sustainability
|Instrumentation & Control||
Implement optimal instrumentation
Connect devices with citywide, multi-service communications
Adhere to open standards
Use open integration architectures and loosely coupled interfaces
Prioritize use of legacy investments
|Security & Privacy||
Publish privacy rules
Create a security framework
Create a citywide data management, transparency and sharing policy
Consider a cloud computing framework
Use an open innovation platform
Have access to a central GIS
Have access to comprehensive device management
Achieve full situational awareness
Achieve operational optimization
Achieve asset optimization
Pursue predictive analytics
Instrumentation and control
Instrumentation is the bedrock of smart cities. It provides the key source of data that allows a city to make informed decisions on how to reduce costs and allocate funding. In energy, instrumentation may mean smart meters that measure energy flow. In transportation it may mean embedded devices in roads and highways that measure traffic.
Implement optimal instrumentation. The purpose of this target is two-fold. 1) We use instrumentation to gather information about city conditions. 2) We use control devices to take action remotely — for instance, to throw a switch or open a valve. Becoming smart is all about having the right data to work with to make better decisions. So the overarching goal is optimal instrumentation and control.
Optimal is the key word here. The ideal smart city will have exactly the devices it needs, exactly where needed. In many responsibility areas, optimal may mean a device at every end point. In water, for instance, it may mean a smart water meter at every customer premise. In other cases, it may mean a sensor “every so often” – as frequently as needed to generate enough data to provide a full picture of what’s going on.
Three issues are worth mentioning as they apply to instrumentation; these three will be addressed in more detail later in the chapter:
- Privacy and security — Given the amount of data generated, cities must be absolutely vigilant about respecting privacy and implementing security.
- Legacy devices — Your city may already have lots of data available without the need for additional instrumentation immediately. For instance, anonymous cell phone GPS data can tell you where people are, or how fast they are moving on roadways. Key intersections may already have traffic sensors. Streetlights may already detect ambient light. Water, power or gas utilities may already have smart meters. You may decide to add additional sensors – especially now that prices are plummeting – but it’s often possible to get started with the data you are getting already.
- Connectivity — In smart cities, instrumentation needs to be connectible. Having sensors that need to be checked manually is not optimal – for instance, you wouldn’t want to have to send a technician to every water pump in your city.
Implementing optimal instrumentation creates the data critical to a smart city. It is also the first step in connecting city infrastructure to the “Internet of Things,” which is described next in the connectivity discussion.
Take a moment to consider the incredible ways technology has changed our lives in the last four decades – microprocessors, ATMs, the World Wide Web, email, Google maps, smartphones and iPads to name a few. Clearly we’ve been on a connectivity roll for a while. And it’s not going to stop. Today we are entering the Internet of Things (IoT) era where people talk to devices and devices talk to each other. This helps explains why connectivity is such a robust smart city enabler, and why machine-to-machine communications is all the buzz these days.
Connect devices with citywide, multi-service communications. Above we discussed gathering data through optimal instrumentation. Once those instruments are generating information, they need to be connected so they can communicate to provide data, as well as be able to receive orders.
The target, therefore, is to connect all devices to a citywide communications system. In rare cases, cities use a single communications network for all device connectivity. In most cases, cities use a variety of communications channels, including cellular, fiber, WiFi, powerline and RF mesh.
But it’s not enough to have just any communications system. It’s critical to have systems that are reliable and secure, based on open standards, high data rates and able to offer real-time communications to those devices that need it.
Most cities will have multiple communications systems, because no single network can realistically support every single application now and into the future. To save costs, cities ought to give strong consideration to the following approaches:
- Minimize the number of networks supported at city expense. To the extent that the city or its utilities need their own private networks, they should try to establish multi-purpose networks rather than a collection of single-purpose communications networks.
- Investigate the viability of existing public networks before building your own private network. For instance, existing cellular networks have the capacity to support smart grids, smart traffic management and smart water networks.
- Encourage cross-departmental planning and design to learn whether multiple departments can share a single network.
- Investigate policies and incentives that encourage the private sector to invest in building and maintaining citywide networks.
- Prioritize technologies and tools that can manage “hybrid” (mixed) networks. Tools exist that can merge different communications technologies, even old analog technologies such as radio.
Connecting instrumentation and control devices allows a city to feed data into analytical programs that greatly improve outcomes, minimize resource use and save money, as we will cover in detail later.
Interoperability ensures the technologies you deploy work well together. There are three interoperability targets:
Adhere to open standards. If you hope to achieve your smart city goals, different technologies from different vendors must be able to work together. In particular, they must be able to exchange information. Adhering to standards helps to guarantee that the products you buy can use predefined mechanisms to talk to each other.
And you don’t want just any standards, you want “open” standards – standards that have been defined by an industry group and published for all to use. This contrasts with “proprietary” standards, which typically come from a single vendor who retains control over who can use them and when they will change.
Open standards help cities control both their expenses and their risk. They allow cities to mix and match products from different vendors without jeopardizing the ability to exchange data. Put another way, open standards contribute to interoperability, choice and flexibility. They also make maintenance easier, because there are communities of specialists trained in published standards, such as those from Council advisors
the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and many others including 3GPP for 3G/4G and the WiFi Alliance. The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) – also a Council advisor – provides open standards for sharing spatial information, indoor and outdoor, and for communicating with sensors of all types
Although open standards are absolutely essential to the long-term success of a smart city, putting them into practice can be challenging. There are hundreds if not thousands of standards that apply to one aspect or another of urban life. The best advice is to leave the heavy lifting to the experts. When you get to the project planning phase (as described in the final chapter), select suppliers with a public, proven commitment to open standards. Give them the task of selecting the best ones to use, subject to the oversight of your project manager or systems integrator.
When it comes to the smart grid portion, there is happily some good news. The IEC has undertaken the job of creating a free Smart Grid Standards Mapping Tool that makes it far easier to discover and choose between standards. Using either a diagram or a list, you can drill down to a specific aspect, then see a list of all the standards that relate. The IEC lists not just its own standards, but those from other organizations as well.
Use open integration architectures and loosely coupled interfaces to facilitate sharing of data and reuse of code. This gets a bit technical, but the important thing to understand is that you can build your applications in a way that makes it easy to reuse code “modules,” saving time and expense. Systems that are “loosely coupled” don’t have components that are dependent on each other, theoretically making it easier to swap them in and out. Open integration architectures are enhanced by methodologies such as service-oriented architecture (SOA) and enterprise service bus (ESB). Benefits include:
- Faster software implementations because they can be assembled in part from previously written modules
- More robust implementations because the city can have standardized tools and best practices
- Greater scalability because the loose coupling that is part of an open integration architecture allows for high availability, fault tolerance and load balancing — techniques that allow systems to deal with huge amounts of data
- Easier changes because you alter only the affected module(s), not the entire application, and because changing one module has minimal impact on the rest of the system
Prioritize legacy investments. No city can afford to rip out its current infrastructure and replace everything from scratch. Priority must go to making the most of existing investments. Typically, that means retrofitting existing assets — streets, buildings, equipment —with sensors and communications.
Fortunately, a wave of new, low-cost technologies makes it possible to connect legacy assets. In the area of emergency response, it is now possible to integrate old, analog radios with state-of-the-art IP-based communications, stitching them together into a seamless network. Likewise, a city government can often find ways to continue using old software by sending its data to new software modules that add value on top. Likewise, an electric power utility doesn’t have to replace its old transformers, it can simply add transformer monitors to report on their conditions.
Security and privacy
One of the greatest challenges for smart city leaders is to reassure residents that their rights will be respected and their data protected. This section highlights three important targets that address those issues.
Publish privacy rules. Make it a priority to produce clear privacy policies that are easily accessible. The rules should balance residents’ desire for privacy and control with the ability to gain access to data to provide better services. They should stipulate:
- Which data sets are owned by which stakeholders
- What rights and protections are afforded by ownership
- Which data sets are private (requiring authorization prior to sharing)
- Which data sets can be shared with the city or authorized third parties
- How data can be shared if defined protocols for making information anonymous are followed
Publishing privacy rules can save time, money and headaches. It can also unleash innovation. Entrepreneurs are more comfortable building new products and services if they know the rules in advance and they know those rules will apply equally to their competition.
It’s one thing to have privacy rules. It’s another to ensure that residents and businesses know about them — and yet another to actively enforce them in collaboration with national and state/province level authorities.
A 2013 column in the Boston Globe titled “The Too-Smart City” garnered a lot of attention. It took a “big brother is watching” slant on the smart cities movement: “A city tracking its citizens, even for helpful reasons, encroaches on the personal liberty we count on in public spaces.”
Cities and cultures will have different priorities for privacy. There are several sources of guidance on privacy rules that cities may want to review. As you will see, you don’t need to invent your privacy guidelines from scratch. There are several sources of helpful examples, including:
California utility takes lessons from Canada for its privacy framework
The city of San Diego, California’s municipal utility in 2012 launched a Privacy by Design smart grid initiative in conjunction with Ontario, Canada Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, a recognized champion of consumer privacy safeguards.
“Our cross-border partnership with SDG&E follows similar successful alliances forged with other organizations globally, as well as in my jurisdiction of Ontario, Canada, to build in Privacy by Design,” said Cavoukian. “Privacy is a fundamental right of every energy customer, and I am very pleased to be working with SDG&E to ensure that our innovative privacy framework is an integral part of the smart grid deployment.”
Developed by Dr. Cavoukian, Privacy by Design has been made an international standard, and is a practical solution for ensuring privacy that can be designed into the ever-growing and systemic efforts of ICT, and of large-scale networked data systems, as the default condition.
The 7 Foundational Principles
1. Proactive not Reactive; Preventative not Remedial
The Privacy by Design (PbD) approach is characterized by proactive rather than reactive measures. It anticipates and prevents privacy invasive events before they happen. PbD does not wait for privacy risks to materialize, nor does it offer remedies for resolving privacy infractions once they have occurred — it aims to prevent them from occurring. In short, Privacy by Design comes before-the-fact, not after.
2. Privacy as the Default Setting
We can all be certain of one thing — the default rules! Privacy by Design seeks to deliver the maximum degree of privacy by ensuring that personal data are automatically protected in any given IT system or business practice. If an individual does nothing, their privacy still remains intact. No action is required on the part of the individual to protect their privacy — it is built into the system, by default.
3. Privacy Embedded into Design
Privacy by Design is embedded into the design and architecture of IT systems and business practices. It is not bolted on as an add-on, after the fact. The result is that privacy becomes an essential component of the core functionality being delivered. Privacy is integral to the system, without diminishing functionality.
4. Full Functionality — Positive-Sum, not Zero-Sum
Privacy by Design seeks to accommodate all legitimate interests and objectives in a positive-sum “win-win” manner, not through a dated, zero-sum approach, where unnecessary trade-offs are made. Privacy by Design avoids the pretense of false dichotomies, such as privacy vs. security, demonstrating that it is possible to have both.
5. End-to-End Security — Full Lifecycle Protection
Privacy by Design, having been embedded into the system prior to the first element of information being collected, extends securely throughout the entire lifecycle of the data involved — strong security measures are essential to privacy, from start to finish. This ensures that all data are securely retained, and then securely destroyed at the end of the process, in a timely fashion. Thus, Privacy by Design ensures cradle to grave, secure lifecycle management of information, end-to-end.
6. Visibility and Transparency — Keep Open
Privacy by Design seeks to assure all stakeholders that whatever the business practice or technology involved, it is in fact, operating according to the stated promises and objectives, subject to independent verification. Its component parts and operations remain visible and transparent, to users and providers alike. Remember, trust but verify.
7. Respect for User Privacy — Keep it User-Centric
Above all, Privacy by Design requires architects and operators to keep the interests of the individual uppermost by offering such measures as strong privacy defaults, appropriate notice, and empowering user-friendly options. Keep it user-centric.
Create a security plan that designs security into smart systems from the beginning, and continually assesses risks thereafter. A smart city’s security policy and risk management framework must be comprehensive, encompassing the cybersecurity as well as the physical security of all assets — from massive infrastructure to tiny mobile devices.
Data privacy depends upon the security of the systems that store data. Highly secure systems are operated by authorized people only, and produce reliable, predictable results. Systems that are “insecure” are unreliable, highly vulnerable to attack, and subject to major data breaches.
New smart city capabilities — with everything from energy infrastructure to employee cell phones connected on the Internet — add tremendous connectivity, generate a lot of data, and offer great promise. But they also create what security experts call “an expanded attack surface,” which introduces significant new cyber vulnerabilities.
Cities need an expert, comprehensive security plan at the heart of all smart city systems development. Cybersecurity must be “baked-in” throughout the system, starting in the design phase, not merely added afterward around the perimeter.
This plan should encompass data, applications, devices and communications systems at minimum. It should have a strong identity access management component; cyber defense-in-depth security controls; “human factor” security awareness training; and a strong trustworthy computing foundation.
It’s best not let each individual city department to come up with its own security plan. Instead, leverage the best cybersecurity resources available to your city (internal and external) to come up with one security standard that everyone must meet.
But even with the best experts and strongest security plan, no city is immune from cyber attack. Therefore it is also extremely important to monitor breaking cyber threats and new vulnerabilities, constantly; and to have detailed disaster response and system restoration plans in place.
An aggressive cybersecurity plan, with security control requirements all participating smart city departments must meet, can greatly reduce the risk of attack, and mitigate adverse consequences should one occur. And, perhaps more important, it can build the kind of trust and confidence in smart city systems (and their privacy controls) that can lead to wide adoption.
The streams of data that smart cities collect create enormous opportunities, but also require special handling. Smart cities treat public data as a citywide asset. That data needs to be accessible to other systems and stakeholders including, where possible, the research community to help ensure that the analytic environment is always current. Citizens, of course, will expect full access to their own data. These requirements demand a citywide policy.
As we move forward, city data will be used by multiple applications from multiple departments. And it may be used by outside developers as the foundation for useful services to benefit residents. An error in master data can cause errors in all the applications that use it. In a similar fashion, an error in releasing data to those not authorized can cause a cascade of problems.
Many types of city-managed data become infrastructure on which companies and others can build wealth. A “spatial data infrastructure,” for example, enables city players to freely use and add to street and landscape data as well as 3D building models, point-of-interest data and weather data.
One more time for emphasis: A smart city’s most precious resource is the data it produces. Avoid squandering or endangering that valuable commodity by failing to carefully define a thorough data policy, as explained below.
Create a citywide data management, transparency and sharing policy. Ideally, cities should build a master plan and an information data model that spells out how data is governed, stored and made accessible. Best practices call for a clear governance directive that a) establishes the chain of authority and control over data assets and b) spells out who makes access decisions and who determines accountability. The citywide data management policy defines a city information model for all entities and assets that preserves relationships, attributes and behaviors.
This citywide policy should cover both private and public data and ensure that data from each department is made available to others. It must also align with the policies in the security and privacy targets discussed previously. It is important for data to be stored on secure, reliable and scalable systems long enough to enable the dependable pattern analysis and reliable forecasting explained in the analytics target later in this Guide.
A citywide data management plan will increase the city’s agility (ability to quickly build new applications as needed) and accuracy (by ensuring everyone is working with correct data). It can also lower costs by reducing errors and eliminating unnecessary duplication. A citywide plan also makes it much easier to enforce privacy, security and best practices.
Keeping up with ever-advancing computing technologies in an era of budget constraints can put city leaders between the proverbial rock and hard place. But smart cities find a way – and sometimes find the more advanced solution is more budget-friendly too. Even so, there is a right way and a wrong way to pursue your computing objectives, as you’ll discover in reading about the four targets in this section.
Consider a cloud computing framework. There are many ways to deploy computers, but most cities should consider cloud computing first. It is the computing framework best equipped to deliver efficiency and optimization.
Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers to store, manage and process data. Typically those servers are accessed via the Internet. Please note that cloud computing can be delivered as a service from a third party – sometimes called “hosted solutions” or “software-as-a-service” (SaaS). Or it can be built and operated by a city using the same architectural principles as third-party providers.
Cloud computing provides a common, shared foundation across departments and across different computer systems. Consider these attributes:
- Identity services for consistent and secure single sign-on
- Virtualization for seamless application portability. Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as an operating system. A single server can run as multiple “virtual” computers with different operating systems, for instance.
- Management functions for full visibility and control
- Scalability to support millions of data collection points
- Industry-standard frameworks and languages for writing applications
Applications and services reside in the cloud, where they are accessible from any device. Additionally, those applications and services are typically built with an event-triggered enterprise service bus architecture that provides a structured method for combining loosely coupled software components. As we discussed earlier in the interoperability target, this approach makes it easy to share data and reuse software code between departments.
The benefits of cloud computing are many:
- Growth – It becomes easier to add computing power in small increments
- Power – It’s typically less costly and simpler to scale up computing services
- Reliability – If one computer crashes, others can easily pick up the slack
- Cost – It becomes possible to mix and match hardware from different vendors, increasing choice and thus driving down expenditures. In addition, many third-party providers will “rent” software to cities for a monthly charge, with little or no upfront cost.
- Advanced features – Smaller cities can gain the same functionality as their larger cousins by tapping into cloud offerings from third parties. The provider sells the service to many different customers, allowing it to enjoy economies of scale that make it possible to create advanced features. Smaller cities would never be able to afford the large ICT staff and server farm required to host such applications on their own.
Cloud computing may not be an immediate option for every city. Cities that have already made large investments in other approaches may settle on a hybrid computing model. And cities in geographies with a cultural emphasis on centralization may prefer a centralized computing model.
- Establish an open innovation platform - Open Data. Today’s Open Data movement represents one of the most powerful opportunities cities have to connect with citizens in meaningful, life-impacting ways. The move to make public data freely accessible to anyone who wants to use it for legitimate purposes has been referred to as “the big bang” for all of the Big Data that cities are amassing today. U.S. President Barack Obama characterizes Open Data as “the new default for government information.” Keep in mind that Open Data doesn’t work well unless it is discoverable, assessable and usable through open data encodings and open software interfaces.
However you label it, by making raw public information easy to access, you allow city employees, utilities, citizens and third-party developers to create innovative applications and services for the benefit of the city and its residents.
Most of this information has been collected at taxpayer expense. And most of it is available to the public in theory. Until recently, however, it could not be accessed in a useful way. (You can’t build a data-based application if you have to go city hall and pull it out of paper files.)
New York City has been one of several leaders in the Open Data movement. In September 2013, officials there announced that since the launch of its Open Data portal in 2011, the city has opened up more than 1,100 data sets from over 60 agencies. These data sets total more than 600 million rows and have received more than 2.8 million views. NYC also announced a citywide plan to unlock all of its public data by 2018.
NYC, of course, is not alone. Government agencies around the world are embracing Open Data, providing dozens if not hundreds of applications that take advantage of city data. These applications range from:
- Transit planning apps that show the best way to travel
- Crime reporting apps that show trouble spots
- Street monitoring apps that pinpoint potholes and problems
- Mapping apps for first responders
- Location apps that show where to find ATMs, hotspots, day care centers, urgent care centers, government offices, parks, meeting spaces, etc.
Clearly Open Data and similar innovation platforms can improve public services in countless ways. It can also make government agencies more accountable, generate new revenue streams and help to stimulate economic growth.
But cities often confront stumbling blocks on the road to an Open Data environment. Two that may be most challenging:
- Governance and privacy issues. Who owns the data, who controls it, what safeguards are in place to protect personal information when a city decides to open its data for public consumption? Open Data policies must be clarified in the broader data management, transparency and sharing policy discussed earlier.
- Non-standard data formats. Rather than spending taxpayer dollars to reinvent the wheel in every city, one of the promises of Open Data is the ability to share apps between cities. But that requires cities to use the same data schema, which is often not the case. However there is an initiative underway involving seven major U.S. cities – Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle – to create a database of standardized Open Data applications.
Fortunately, help is at hand for cities that want to join the Open Data movement, as you’ll read on the next page.
Open Data: How to Get Started
There’s no single path to an Open Data initiative, but most cities will want to take these three steps:
Create a team of Open Data advocates: You’ll want a team that includes personnel from a number of departments, including but not limited to: IT, communications/media and managers from departments with data sets with citizen appeal – for example, public safety, transit, public health. Perhaps most important is to have executive-level representation on the team – the city manager or mayor, for instance.
Develop an Open Data policy: First, develop an Open Data policy that is included in and consistent with the city’s broader data management, transparency and sharing policy. Second, create an Open Data policy roadmap that outlines your goals, which data sets you will start with (this can be expanded once you’ve tried a few pilots), where and how you will make them available (a new web portal, on your existing city website, etc.) and what needs to get done by when and by whom. Third, smart city planners should emphasize the importance of open software interfaces and open data encodings, preferably open interfaces and encodings that implement freely usable global interface and encoding standards. These enable technical interoperability between diverse systems, which enables Open Data policies to work.
Choose your first project: Typically the safest approach is to choose a relatively small, low-cost pilot project to get some experience, work out any problems and get a success under your belt. You may want to take the approach that other cities have found successful and reach out to your local developer community via contests and hackathons. They’ll likely have ideas about which data sets would make useful apps. Another route is to analyze what kinds of information is most requested by members of the public.
Once a city opens up its data, citizens and businesses start to rely on it. They may even have their business and revenue streams depend on it. Cities should make sure their Open Data implementation offers a 24x7x365 availability in a secure manner. As such, a choice for Open Data becomes a core responsibility of the city, reflected in a strong information back bone.
Useful Open Data resources
There are many places to turn for ideas and inspiration on Open Data initiatives. The Council’s free Smart Cities Open Data Guide is a good place to start and ourApps Gallery showcases many examples of apps created by and for cities using Open Data.
Other useful resources include:
City Forward is a free, web-based platform that enables users to view and interact with publicly available city data about cities and metropolitan areas around the world. On the site, which is a philanthropic donation of services and technology from Council member IBM, users can search for data by city, subject or source.
Code for America (CfA) runs a fellowship program designed to leverage technology and government data to make cities run better. Among the apps developed by CfA’s fellows are Boston’s adopt-a-hydrant app and Honolulu’s tsunami warning app.
Data-Smart City Solutions – an initiative by the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School and powered by Bloomberg Philanthropies – features news and trends in civic data. It’s a helpful resource if you want to see what other cities are doing with Open Data.
Data.gov showcases examples of cities and developers working together to improve the lives of city residents.
Open Data Platform formed in 2015 to open up the back end of open data projects. More than a dozen companies have joined the association at the outset, including Council members IBM, GE and Verizon. Association members will use the same basic platform for their open data solutions, providing a wide range of benefits for cities undertaking open data projects.
You may also want to visit:
Freeing London’s data.
Establish an Open Data platform: How Edmonton reduces construction season angst
Street construction projects are a big deal for businesses in the area where the construction is occurring, for citizens who need to get from Point A to Point B in a timely fashion and for neighborhood residents who must endure the noise.
Edmonton, Canada enjoys a very short period of warm weather when all construction projects seem to take place, thus at any given point during this time, the number of active projects is quite large. As Council advisor Center for Technology in Government (CTG) put it, “Edmonton is known for its two seasons: Winter and Road Construction. It makes perfect sense that one of its flagship Open Data initiatives would involve releasing street construction data.”
And that’s what Edmonton did. The city website presents construction project information using both static and interactive maps. The interactive map allows users to click on a blue dot and bring up a description of the project at that location. A local developer also took the information and created a mobile app for smartphones.
As a result of the new tools, CTG reported use of the data set has increased substantially. From its launch in April 2012, monthly views increased to over 1,200, then declined gradually to less than 250 by mid-October, when the construction season was largely over.
Have access to a central GIS. A geographic information system (GIS) that maps all of the city’s assets and location information is a big contributor to what makes a smart city smart. Most cities will want to implement a single, central GIS system so that data from one department (traffic alerts, for instance) can be shared with others (such as emergency responders). Some cities even share the cost of GIS services with outside organizations, such as utilities and phone companies.
What GIS enables users to do is combine many layers of data – all linked by their geographic location (latitude and longitudinal coordinates) so that greater insights into issues can be discerned. For example, by layering one dataset on school facilities (building locations) with another dataset of the transfer routes for trucks carrying hazardous wastes through a city (street routes), you can reconfigure the travel routes to avoid such sensitive sites.
In another example, Council member DNV GL combined customer survey data on appliances, the propensity of electric consumers to participate in a demand response program offered by their utility, and electric usage data by zip code with the physical locations of the utility service territory to identify the potential for reducing peak at specific geographic points around the system. Such data can also be used to target pilot programs or marketing campaigns for maximum effect. In short, GIS provides a way to get much more value out of data from different sources, and display results visually on a map for quick recognition of solutions.
GIS is tailor-made for smart cities. To name just a few of the great applications of this technology, cities can use GIS to:
- Map crime data to aid their public safety work
- Locate pipes, pumps, cables and other assets to help better monitor and analyze the efficacy of their water infrastructure
- Maximize traffic flow and share helpful traffic maps with the public
- Conduct better environmental impact assessments for their buildings and parks
Have access to a central GIS. The Houston, Texas public works department GIS is available online. This rendering shows water main locations. Having a GIS that maps all of a city’s assets and location information is what makes a smart city smart.
There are also many benefits to cities with GIS:
- Spatial decision-making is greatly improved
- Efficiency gains accrue through more intelligent maintenance scheduling and delivery routes
- Improved accuracy of essential records such as property boundaries and locations of key assets
- Resiliency is boosted through improved situational awareness in times of stress
Most GISs implement open encoding and interface standards that enable them to “talk to” other GISs as well as diverse mobile devices, emergency response systems, smart grids, sensor webs, smart vehicles and more.Application developers discover countless opportunities for innovation when cities provide access to 3D urban models, address data, elevation data, zoning, bus routes etc. via encodings and interfaces that implement open standards.
Being able to manage devices remotely and with computer assistance offers significant benefits. Among them:
- Cities can save time, improve their infrastructure security and quickly and easily implement any necessary software upgradesBeing able to manage devices remotely and with computer assistance offers significant benefits. Among them:
- Cities can save time, improve their infrastructure security and quickly and easily implement any necessary software upgrades
- Cost savings accrue to cities through the central management of their devices
- It is easier to enforce consistency and compliance with the city’s data management, security and privacy policies
- Cost savings accrue to cities through the central management of their devices
- It is easier to enforce consistency and compliance with the city’s data management, security and privacy policies
We don’t want to diminish the importance of the other enablers. But truth be told, analytics is a super enabler. Analytics takes massive quantities of data and turns it into actionable intelligence that enhances livability, workability and sustainability in very direct ways. In this section we’ll cover three targets that let cities tap into the full power of analytics.
Achieve full situational awareness. Gain full knowledge of what is going on throughout the city.
This situational awareness can be delivered in many ways. From “dashboards” to visualiza-tions to command and control centers and to alerts delivered to computers or phones. The exact method of delivery depends on the unique circumstances of your city.
In most cities, this kind of awareness doesn’t happen today. If you consider systems such as energy, water, traffic, policing and emergency response, you’ll recognize that today’s operators are often “flying blind.” They may know general parameters, but they don’t know precisely what is going on at every point throughout the system. One example is an electric utility that has not yet deployed smart meters or other sensing technologies across the electric grid. If power is out in a neighborhood, the utility may not know it until a customer calls in. Same story with transit operators, who may not get a heads-up that a bus has been disabled in an accident until the driver has a chance to make a call.