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.