Data analysis has become so common we often take it for granted. By revealing trends and patterns, applications can predict weather and allow us to navigate traffic. Information from COVID tests is used to reduce the spread of disease. We can even use this data to enhance the quality of life, solve environmental issues, and improve commerce, especially as we enter the new normal.
Increasingly, government agencies are collaborating with technology providers to create smart cities that support vibrant communities.
The concept of smart cities is not new. It began in 1970 in LA with the first big data project. Then in 1994, Amsterdam created a virtual digital city to promote internet usage. Increasingly, smart cities are springing up across the globe to specifically address each community’s unique needs.
The intelligence in these municipalities comes from connecting devices and using data purposefully to make informed decisions. Here are some examples of how smart cities are using data to improve communities:
- Reducing crime: by mapping crimes, law enforcement can anticipate incidents before they occur. Ballistics matching can identify guns used in multiple crimes and get the guns off the streets.
- Enhancing mobility: sharing real-time information about delays, commuters can change their routes quickly. Congestion pricing (charging less to commute during non-peak times) and encouraging shifts in behavior.
- Focusing on health: monitoring health situations can promote early intervention with digital solutions. Patients with chronic conditions can use wearable devices to transmit readings to doctors.
- Increased environment efficiency: monitoring the consumption of water and electricity, and incenting people to conserve. Smart grids can optimize and price energy flow based on demand. Modifying traffic patterns can lower emissions, which improves air quality and overall community health.
Local governments are using smart city initiatives to create processes and policies that drive positive change. But they can’t address the issues alone. Partnerships between government and technology are producing results.
I spoke with Paul Riser, serial entrepreneur, former Chief Information & Technology Officer of Innovation Health Technologies, and current Director at TechTown Detroit, a longstanding incubator and accelerator aimed at revitalizing Michigan’s largest city. Currently, Riser’s work is focused on leading Detroit Urban Solutions, where he is scripting the intersection of urban initiatives (including mobility, public health, energy, water tech, etc.), applying tech and smart city strategies to develop Detroit to meet the needs of its citizens.
Detroit Urban Solutions places residents first, working with stakeholders and city leaders to develop solutions to deliver a more equitable and improved quality of life. Riser’s success is in his approach, beginning by developing trusted relationships within communities and ensuring that the beneficiaries understand, embrace, and leverage technology to better their urban environment.
In Detroit and other regions, the ability to leverage technology to more effectively manage communities will become even more important as we rebound from the pandemic. Technologists may offer the secret sauce to navigate these uncertain times, by choreographing the collaboration between technology, business, and government, where each plays a different role. Governments provide laws, policies, and maintain the infrastructure. Businesses focus on generating revenue, selling products, and attracting clients. Technologists will build the infrastructure and, importantly, manage data privacy, which is paramount for maintaining public trust and confidence in smart cities.
The internet generates large quantiles of data that can track our every movement, our searches, who are our friends, and our preferences. It can tell just about everything. Because it is not always possible to strip personal identification from data, technologists need to create protocols which protect the public and keep private data private.
- Confidentiality of data must be safeguarded.
- Cybersecurity needs to be maintained to prevent a data breach.
CIOs will be well positioned to manage stakeholders, consciously placing the good of the community above corporate profitability and political agendas.
By 2050 it is expected that 68% of the world’s population will live in cities. These increases in urban populations will put a strain on the infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and transportation. Smart cities provide effective solutions for managing urban growth. And technologists will be at the forefront of helping to manage these initiatives, working alongside urban planners to regulate resources, reduce pollution, and design cities where citizens can thrive. The technologists are an integral part, the silent hero, making smart cities even smart(er).