August 22 2017

There is no absolute definition of a Smart City. According to the Smart Cities Council, it’s still in the “I’ll know it when I see it” phase. There are plenty of general descriptions, but nothing is concretely defined for what is known as a Smart City.

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that cities will have different requirements for their individual smart city programs. Simply put, a generally accepted high-level description [notice we didn’t say definition] of a Smart City program is that it’s about collecting data from a city’s assets and using that data to improve resource sustainability, enhance public service delivery, reduce operational costs and enrich community experience.

ACCESSIBLE DATA + OPEN ARCHITECTURE = SMART CITY INNOVATION

With data at the heart of Smart City programs, thinking about data acquisition from the myriad of assets for a holistic Smart City program can be daunting and difficult to get buy-in and establish direction. It is at this point where some cities and municipalities can get stuck. What data do we need? Who get’s access to the data? What do we do with the data? And the list goes on…

When it comes to data, it’s about interpretation. Depending on context, data can lead down varying paths so having the right data used in the right context is crucial. The more sets of eyes you can have on data, the greater the ability to collaborate when it comes time to make data-driven decisions and this is why the Internet of Things holds so much promise.  Accessible data enables organizations to explore possibilities, and it’s this innovation that will deliver real results for Smart Cities.

Any data collection program should also carefully consider the security component. From encryption for safe transmission to secure data storage to the types of data being made accessible all need to be accounted for. Access to pertinent data and obeying privacy standards should also help shape any accessible data program.

To maximize collaborative efforts, data collected needs to be open and accessible to have the ability to truly explore and innovate. Accessible data doesn’t have to mean shared just within city programs. The benefits of an open data approach can move beyond city limits and the sharing can have a positive impact on neighboring regions and municipalities, as well as potentially having an influence on a national or global scale.

But accessible data is only one part of the equation. Smart City programs also need to be developed on open architecture platforms to ensure that the right IoT solutions are being developed for individual program needs.

The idea that open architecture breeds innovation is not new knowledge. It’s well documented that technologies and solutions supported by open architecture platforms enable greater innovation and wider usage. Traditional approaches and closed systems have brought mixed infrastructure results which is why Internet of Things technologies developed on open platforms offer so much potential.

An open approach to data and architecture also allows for the introduction of best practices and standards to be set. It will be difficult for the Internet of Things to scale if it’s forced to live within the constraints of a proprietary or closed system.