Meeting of the Minds took a few moments to talk with Herrie Schalekamp about new working relationships between researchers and paratransit operators in South Africa and beyond. Herrie is the ACET Research Officer at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Transport Studies. In addition to his research, teaching and consulting in the fields of paratransit and public transport reform he is involved in specialised educational programmes for paratransit operators and government officials. Herrie’s activities form part of a broader endeavour to investigate and contribute to improved public transport operations and regulation in Sub-Saharan African cities under ACET – the African Centre of Excellence for Studies in Public and Non-motorised Transport.
Smart City Panel Reveals a Major Challenge to Implementation
Smart Cities are a great, burgeoning opportunity for all manner of vendors, from broad-smart-city-wide solution providers to small single-person start ups that leverage ever increasing data from city-based sources. It’s an exciting area that some companies are even strategizing around – building a value proposition around cities instead of specific vertical industries or countries. However, this growing opportunity is not without pitfalls and challenges, no doubt more than what can fit in this blog post – however at our Frost & Sullivan Growth, Innovation, and Leadership event in Silicon Valley this month, we posed some of the top vendor concerns to cities that were on our Smart City panel. The results – granted, anecdotal – were rather surprising. Here are a few “assumptions” we’ve heard from major smart city service providers in our day to day activities, and the summarized responses from the smart city panel. Represented on the panel were CIOs and CTOs from San Francisco, Palo Alto, Portland (OR), and the state of Ohio: Assertion #1 – Since funding is always so tight in the public sector, what do cities prefer as a value proposition, something that is more comprehensive and perhaps delivered on a performance contracting basis, or a more piece-meal approach? Response: The initial response to this question from the panel consisted of a moment of silence and a bit of blinking while the question was being processed. Not because it was difficult to understand, but because the underlying assumption – that cities are too cash-strapped for these sorts of expenditures – apparently was not accurate with the cities on the panel. Once the silence thawed, the consensus from the panel was that actually, cities have funds for this. In fact, it saves them money and time to have one vendor come and provide a more comprehensive solution across all relevant city departments rather than having numerous contracts. In the short term this may actually mean less revenue for the solution provider, however in the long term it means a stronger, and on-going, relationship with the city. The final verdict is, in short, yes funding exists, and yes make it comprehensive. Assertion #2 – If cities are willing and able to fund these programs, why aren’t they being sold at a comprehensive city-wide level? Response: Because, and this was another surprise to me, the cities on the panel are not being approached at a comprehensive level by suppliers. As one person noted, a major IT company has an account executive sending him some emails about a defined and narrow option. Six others are talking to a number of other divisions across the city. To paraphrase our panelist “Send us an EVP with a broad value proposition and we’ll to talk about it over a cup of coffee…I’ll even buy the coffee.” Result? There is a disconnect between cities and suppliers, at least according to these cities. At least between the technically progressive cities on our panel, and broad-serving providers in the industry, companies are potentially leaving opportunities on the table. While based on a limited sample size, it is telling that some of the cities most associated with being tech-savvy do not believe they are being approached by large vendors with a consistent smart-city value proposition. I suspect the vendors reading this post will have a very different tale to tell about how their experiences with selling a smart city value proposition compares to the responses above. I’d love to hear from people from either side about their experiences, you can contact me through the information below. I’ll even buy the coffee. Roberta Gamble Frost & Sullivan Partner, Energy & Environment Roberta_gamble@frost.com
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Brownfields are sites that are vacant or underutilized due to environmental contamination, real or imagined. There are brownfields of some kind in virtually every city and town in the U.S., usually related to a gas station, dry cleaner, auto repair shop, car dealership or some other ubiquitous local business that once benefited the community it now burdens with environmental hazards or old buildings.
In addressing this issue, technology has not been effectively deployed to promote redevelopment of these sites and catalyze community revitalization. We find that the question around the use of technology and data in advancing the redevelopment of brownfields is twofold:
How can current and future technology advancements be applied to upgrade existing brownfield modeling tools? And then, how can those modeling tools be used to accelerate transformative, sustainable, and smart redevelopment and community revitalization?
Across the country, urban parks are enjoying a renaissance. Dozens of new parks are being built or restored and cities are being creative about how and where they are located. Space under highways, on old rail infrastructure, reclaimed industrial waterfronts or even landfills are all in play as development pressure on urban land grows along with outdoor recreation needs.
These innovative parks are helping cities face common challenges, from demographic shifts, to global competitiveness to changing climate conditions. Mayors and other city officials are taking a fresh look at parks to improve overall community health and sense of place, strengthen local economies by attracting new investments and creating jobs, help manage storm water run-off, improve air quality, and much more. When we think of city parks holistically, accounting for their full role in communities, they become some of the smartest investments we can make.