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Friday, 19.07.2024
eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

It was true when the Smart Cities Connect conference began back in 2016, and it is still true today, technological solutions to many of the issues that plague cities — information access, air quality, traffic, energy management, to name a few — already exist. The real challenge that stops putting those fixes in place? The humans.

That’s the message that Chelsea Collier, Editor at Large of Smart Cities Connect, said in an interview at the spring conference in Denver, Colorado. “Smart City technology is ready and available — that isn’t the issue. It is important smart city tech be designed and deployed thoughtfully, equitably, and in alignment with the community. That brings in challenges with people and processes,” said Collier. “It can be challenging to get people to embrace new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things.”

Smart San Antonio

Collier was impressed with the approach San Antonio, Texas is taking to adopting new technology. The city has created a Smart City Roadmap with 5 challenge areas and has an open call to the industry to show them potential solutions. The challenges are:

  • Access to Public Information
  • Access to Transportation
  • Resilience and Environmental Quality
  • Public Safety
  • Safe Infrastructure

The challenges were drawn from a year-long process where the city gathered public input on the question “What makes a Smart City.” On its website, the city explains what residents said about these challenge areas — the exact issues they pointed to — and suggests what San Antonio city leaders see as potential testbed projects that industry could propose to solve those problems. However, they are open to many different potential approaches.

The City of San Antonio had a booth at the event to show off its roadmap and alert the technology vendors that they were looking for suggestions. San Antonio city leaders explain that they specialize in understanding their city and the needs of its leaders and citizens and what they need for industry is to help them understand how to use technology tools to achieve their desired outcomes.

The Smart San Antonio testbed will run from FY2023-2028.

What can technology solve?

It’s that type of innovative approach that is heartening to Collier. “What I see evolving through the conversation now is that industry is helping to participate in city problem solving.” She said after a conference like Smart Cities Connect, it is not unusual to have city leaders calling each other to share information and knowledge. It’s also becoming more common to see third-party vendors coming to the table to help cities solve problems, instead of just selling solutions.

Collier said cities are working to solve issues around mobility, public safety and data integrity. She sees data as the hero in many cases — as long as the data quality is good — because it removes a lot of the guesswork and gut feelings that often highjack conversations about potential solutions.

Take crime, for example. Collier said city data, i.e. a digital twin of a city, could highlight inequities in infrastructure in a city, allowing city leaders to begin to understand how those inequities lead to crime. We’re looking at issues such as walkability, street connectivity, lighting, and where traffic is the worst, she said. Philadelphia looked at how heat islands contribute to health outcomes, she added.

Collier gave another example of how a city, using digital twin technology, could model how building a park instead of a parking lot would impact asthma rates.

“In the past, we didn’t have the ability to thoughtfully do the math,” she said, “but now we do.”


In order to take advantage of all of the cool new technology that exists, however, cities have to start thinking about how they can adjust their processes to align with the speed of technology, which is rapidly changing. Often legal and procurement officers benefit by being at the same table as the technology evangelists so all stakeholders can see and understand the many considerations that must go into technology adoption. “It’s not that lawyers and procurement officers are wanting to stymie progress, they’re simply operating within the confines of their job responsibilities,” she explained.

Take drone delivery as an example. You could have one group advocating in favor of drone delivery to help solve issues around traffic, efficiency, and carbon emissions but that same group might not understand how to buy new technology and the legal department might stop the project because there isn’t a data and privacy policy in place.

“It’s easy to see why there is frustration on all sides,” she said.

That’s why having a smart city champion who can spearhead a project and put these groups in a room together to work out all the issues is the key to successfully getting smart city projects off the ground.

These are the people who “work within city systems and donate their valuable career, spending nights and weekends to just make [projects] happen,” said Collier. She added that supporting those smart city champions was one of the reasons she and her team built the Smart Cities Connect conference.

“Their work is so hard, and we had to build infrastructure to support them,” she said.

The fall Smart Cities Connect conference will take place November 28-30, 2023 in Washington DC.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Jennifer Runyon

Quelle/Source: Power Grid, 23.05.2023

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