Smart City Challenges Across Borders

Many cities today are looking to adopt smarter technologies to better serve their citizens and communities. With a new wave of technologies at play like 5G and LoRa networks, there are many questions around what it takes to become a smarter city.

How can the city best work with technology vendors? How can technology advance city sustainability? And with so many options, how do you choose what technology to implement?

To help answer these questions, Wavefront hosted a conversation on smart cities in tandem with the San Diego trade mission on June 26. A panel included industry perspectives from Erik Caldwell (Director of Economic Development at the City of San Diego), Susie Armstrong (SVP Engineering at Qualcomm), Victor Gonzalez, (VP Engineering at Intrinsyc Technologies) and Jessie Adcock (Chief Technology Officer at the City of Vancouver).

San Diego and Vancouver share similar interests in furthering digital strategies and face similar challenges in doing so. In 2017, San Diego underwent a large-scale deployment of smart city technology by installing over 3,300 street lights with sensors that monitor city activity like traffic and crime. Similarly, Vancouver continues to advance its digital strategy using new technology and citizen engagement platforms.

Smart City Panel, June 26, 2017

To understand today’s definition of a smart city, some goals and key challenges for the cities, here are some key takeaways from the panel:

What is a smart city?

“At the end of the day, it’s about improving service delivery,” says Erik Caldwell, Director of Economic Development at the City of San Diego. The question is how to leverage the right technology to make it continually smarter to better our society.

Jessie Adcock, Chief Technology Officer at the City of Vancouver adds that the definition of a Smart City has shifted over the years. “No longer is it just a class of technology. Rather, it’s a redefinition of the relationships between the private and public sector.” This new understanding has created new business models that enable cities to work with technology vendors as partners, rather than just buyers.

Sustainability goals

Both San Diego and Vancouver have some ambitious sustainability targets. San Diego is working towards a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2035, while Vancouver aims to be 100% renewable by 2050.

“We also have a ‘greenest city’ goal by 2020, and we’re getting close,” says Jessie Adcock. “But it’s the combination of digital strategies, like our healthy city, creative city, and green city initiatives that all work together to create a clean, happy society that is supported by technology.”

With this in mind, there is opportunity for technology vendors to work with cities in the sustainability space to help achieve these goals.

Working with technology vendors: challenges and opportunities

To facilitate better collaboration on building smart city solutions, there’s opportunity to grow partnerships between government, the innovation community and academia. Erik Caldwell calls this the triple helix, or the secret sauce to succeeding in this space.

“As cities, we rely on companies and innovators to educate us on what solutions could look like. If you’re a technology vendor, don’t be afraid to ask what the pain points are. Then build a solution around what you hear,” says Erik Caldwell.

One major challenge many cities face in working with vendors is a long procurement process. “Rather than waiting for a system to approach end of life and going through a traditional procurement, cities should be looking at investment horizons that are much longer than what we’ve seen traditionally,” says Jessie Adcock. That way, cities can plan 5-10 years out what architecture they need, and start working with vendors early-on. So how do you mitigate a long procurement cycle? Providing open data can help.

One great example is in Vancouver, where a company was born out of open data. The city released information on garbage pickup schedules, offering up the data as an invitation for possible solutions. One company created an app that allows citizens to get notifications of when to put out their garbage. Since then, they’ve been working actively with the city to refine the app and have issued over 1,000 notifications to citizens.

Apply to be a part of the Wavefront Smart City showcase. Are you a technology vendor who provides solutions in the smart city space? Let us know through the contact form to submit an application and be featured in the directory.

Want to be in the know about more upcoming Wavefront events? Check out our Events calendar.

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