The Intersection of Smart Cities & Smart State Policy

by May 23, 2016Smart Cities

Gordon Feller

Gordon Feller founded Meeting of the Minds in order to harness the power of a global leadership network to build innovation-powered sustainable city futures. Gordon has worked for more than four decades at the intersection of global sustainability, government policy, and private investment focused on emerging technologies.


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As homes, businesses, cities and governments continue to migrate to newer, faster technologies, the world is witnessing a seismic shift in how we all live, work, and communicate. Advanced, Internet-based technologies have become the primary mechanism by which cities and communities gather, share, and grow. Today, there are some 15 billion internet connected devices, think Internet of Things (IoT), and that number is estimated to jump to 50 billion by 2020.[1] In order to keep up with this staggering demand, we need public policies that support the shift from outdated networks to modern infrastructure.

Unlike the monopoly era telephone networks still in existence, modern IP networks actually have the capacity to keep up with our changing society by quickly and efficiently transmitting vast amounts of data. These modern networks are vital as cities more fully employ IoT technologies to better manage data and municipal resources. These IoT technologies weave through smart cities creating interoperability between resource agencies, allowing those agencies to serve the public at maximum efficiency. Yet that efficiency requires 21st-century infrastructure which necessitates smart state policies.

In California, a bill currently before the legislature, AB 2395, authored by Assemblymember Evan Low, seeks to transition—starting in 2020—from the outmoded legacy phone system to advanced IP-based technologies and services. The bill recognizes the future needs of California and sets the right policy goals to promote IP networks and services across the state. This policy framework creates the right environment to build out modern infrastructure that can make cities and communities across California smarter and more sustainable.

New communications infrastructure is already leading to energy optimizations, improved resource allocation, and more sustainable urban habitats. This network modernization is critical as urban populations globally are projected to grow by around 60 million people each year.[2] Rapid urbanization strains resources and can deeply impact the environment.

Cities must be able to communicate quickly, effectively and intelligently in order to conserve resources and mitigate risk. For example, it’s not uncommon for a city to lose up to 50 percent of water via leaks.[3] Drought-plagued California as a whole loses more than 220 billion gallons of potable water a year due to leaks.[4] IoT technologies offer cities the ability to recognize these vulnerabilities, and collect and analyze increasingly large amounts of data in order to better manage critical resources.

More than ever it’s important that policymakers support modern network technology infrastructure that will allow for unprecedented information and data sharing. AB 2395 addresses the reality that old phone networks cannot support California’s future needs, and these old networks are diverting significant investment and resources away from modern infrastructure. Only IP-based technologies and services can seamlessly deliver data and information to improve the sustainability of our cities and improve our quality of life. Simple policy changes, like those provided by AB 2395, can be an essential tool to deliver the mechanisms for this valuable and necessary technology shift.


[1] Building Scalable, Sustainable, Smart+Connected Communities with Fog Computing

[2] The Internet of Everything for Cities

[3] United Nations Water and Cities, Pg. 2

[4] California’s Water Agencies Lose Millions of Gallons Underground

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