The Smart City is Enabled and Sustained by Trust
Smart city initiatives are top of mind among city leaders, urban planners and technology vendors today. However, most of their mindshare and resources is directed towards technology, and not on trust.
While a smart city is powered by technology and data, it is enabled and sustained by the trust its stakeholders have with the city, its services and service providers, and with each other. When there is no trust or that trust is lost, people will not use its services, nor will they participate and contribute input and data. The value of smart city services declines as expected outcomes do not materialize and people seek better alternatives.
To be relevant and remain so, a well functioning and sustainable smart city must design trust into its policies and processes right from the outset, and continually reaffirm this process. This trust must be integrated into all aspects of the smart city – its beneficiaries, creators, processes, management, policies and technology.
Trust in the Smart City: More than cybersecurity and privacy
Many smart city builders and solution providers equate trust with privacy and cybersecurity. While important and relevant, these are only two elements of many that create trust in a smart city. Distilling trust into these two elements oversimplifies the challenges involved and leads to inadequate solution approaches.
For city residents and businesses, trust is closely aligned with outcomes. When a city creates services that consistently provide the outcomes residents and others expect and rely on, at a fair cost, then a sense of trust is earned and reinforced. Residents expect that the bus service gets them to work and back home safely and on time everyday. When that occurs consistently, they will trust and rely on the bus as their main commute choice.
A more holistic definition of trust is the firm belief in the outcomes and value of the services provided, regardless of whether they are provided by the city or others in the smart city ecosystem (Figure One). These trusted outcomes are relevant, rendered reliably, fairly and consistently, for its intended purpose, by service providers who are credible, transparent and have the capacity to execute.
Trust is lost when:
- Services are consistently irrelevant and benefit only a few stakeholders. These services are often labeled as a misuse of taxpayer money and resources.
- Services are not rendered reliably, accurately and consistently to deliver the outcomes they were designed for.
- Services are not in compliance with regulations or policies, and/or misused beyond its intended purpose.
- Service providers are not knowledgeable and capable, transparent, and fair in delivering the desired outcomes.
The Smart City Trust Framework
With the importance and relevance of trust established, we now introduce a framework for building trust into the smart city ecosystem (Figure 2).
At its core is the end-to-end process used to create and operate smart city services. A set of ten strategic and operational levers acts on the process to create trusted outcomes. At each stage of the process, a different combination of trust building tactics from each lever is applied. There is no “one size fits all” set of tactics – they vary from service to service, provider to provider and city to city.
The ability of the city and its service providers to deploy these levers is a core competency in building a smarter and more responsive city. Over time, as users expectations and needs evolve, these levers must be continuously adjusted to maintain or exceed current levels of trust.
Building Trust in a City’s Smart Streetlights
A city wishes to deploy smart technologies to connect and remotely monitor and manage its streetlights. The city will know immediately when lights are out or “dayburning” and schedule repairs. Machine learning algorithms, using sensors from streetlights, predict impending failures and proactively notify maintenance crews.
Once smart streetlights are deployed, “business as usual” is not good enough. Trust in this service and the city diminishes when the lights are not repaired quickly because there is now no excuse for not knowing a streetlight is out. Conversely, trust is also diminished if the maintenance crews discover that the lights are functional when it is not, or if the light needs servicing when it does not.
Resident and other stakeholders must be engaged to understand their concerns, needs and expectations. Current processes, performance metrics, policies and systems must be redesigned to allow the city to respond to outages in days, not weeks. In addition, changes to the organization, including jobs, roles and responsibilities, team structure, culture and accountability will be necessary. To minimize the disruption caused by these changes and facilitate adoption by city employees and residents, change management activities, including communications and training, must be conducted prior to the actual service transition.
The new service is only as effective as the technology, algorithms and data enabling it. Machine learning algorithms must interpret the sensor data from the remote streetlight controller units and distinguish between a true anomaly and a false positive. In addition, these algorithms must predict with high accuracy when the lights may need servicing by examining the sensor data. To maintain this accuracy, these algorithms must be continuously trained by certified experts using representative and unbiased data sets. Finally, the connected streetlight system must be secure, and not allow for unauthorized access to the lights, nor disrupt the metering and billing systems.
Regardless of where cities are in their journey, smart city and service planners must build the trust foundation now. Key next steps are:
- Understand the trust ecosystem framework and adapt it to fit the vision, strategy and realities of your specific city.
- Perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis using the framework to assess your trust capabilities and ecosystem. .
- Use this framework to identify and address “trust gaps” in ongoing and planned smart city projects.
Build your “trust capabilities” by identifying and focusing on high priority areas through a combination of internal development, outsourcing, augmentation and strategic partnerships.
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
Social distancing is becoming the new normal, at least for those of us who are heeding the Center for Disease Control’s warnings and guidelines. But if you don’t have reliable, high-speed broadband, it is impossible to engage in what is now the world’s largest telecommunity. As many schools and universities around the world (including those of my kids) are shut down, these institutions are optimistically converting to online and digital learning. However, with our current broadband layout, this movement will certainly leave many Americans behind.
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.