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
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Accenture analysts recently released a report calling for cities to take the lead in creating coordinated, “orchestrated” mobility ecosystems. Limiting shared services to routes that connect people with mass transit would be one way to deploy human-driven services now and to prepare for driverless service in the future. Services and schedules can be linked at the backend, and operators can, for example, automatically send more shared vehicles to a train station when the train has more passengers than usual, or tell the shared vehicles to wait for a train that is running late.
Managing urban congestion and mobility comes down to the matter of managing space. Cities are characterized by defined and restricted residential, commercial, and transportation spaces. Private autos are the most inefficient use of transportation space, and mass transit represents the most efficient use of transportation space. Getting more people out of private cars, and into shared feeder routes to and from mass transit modes is the most promising way to reduce auto traffic. Computer models show that it can be done, and we don’t need autonomous vehicles to realize the benefits of shared mobility.
The role of government, and the planning community, is perhaps to facilitate these kinds of partnerships and make it easier for serendipity to occur. While many cities mandate a portion of the development budget toward art, this will not necessarily result in an ongoing benefit to the arts community as in most cases the budget is used for public art projects versus creating opportunities for cultural programming.
Rather than relying solely on this mandate, planners might want to consider educating developers with examples and case studies about the myriad ways that artists can participate in the development process. Likewise, outreach and education for the arts community about what role they can play in projects may stimulate a dialogue that can yield great results. In this sense, the planning community can be an invaluable translator in helping all parties to discover a richer, more inspiring, common language.
While the outlook for the environment may often seem bleak, there are many proven methods already available for cities to make their energy systems and other infrastructure not only more sustainable, but cheaper and more resilient at the same time. This confluence of benefits will drive investments in clean, efficient energy, transportation, and water infrastructure that will enable cities to realize their sustainability goals.
Given that many of the policy mechanisms that impact cities’ ability to boost sustainability are implemented at the state or federal level, municipalities should look to their own operations to implement change. Cities can lead as a major market player, for example, by converting their own fleets to zero emission electric vehicles, investing in more robust and efficient water facilities, procuring clean power, and requiring municipal buildings to be LEED certified.