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Smart Cities Resources: Who, What, When, Where and How?

Everyone is talking about smart cities. And yet, new public- and private-sector questions are emerging as more organizations engage with this global technology megatrend. So how can you take these opportunities to the next level? Who are the leaders within this hot Internet of Things (IoT) category? Which academic studies and white papers offer best practices and the most helpful resources to take your region to the next level? What cyber-risks are emerging? Here are answers and resources to consider.

Most large urban areas like (and want) the label “smart city,” but what does that really mean? When and where will smarter things start to happen? Who is offering the latest white papers and how can you engage with public- and private-sector organizations? Where can you go for thoughtful answers?

These are just a few of the questions that I wanted to answer as I researched the latest government technology infrastructure trends around the world. I captured some of what I have learned so far in this blog, in the hope that an initial primer will help teams around the world as they investigate best practices within smart cities.

According to Gartner, a smart city is: “An urbanized area where multiple sectors cooperate to achieve sustainable outcomes through the analysis of contextual, real-time information shared among sector-specific information and operational technology systems.”

Or, in simpler terms, smart cities use the latest technology, and especially our data explosion, to address broad questions like: How can I make neighborhoods safer? How can I accelerate economic development in my city? How can I deliver clean water to my city? How can I reduce energy use and promote green solutions? How can I promote better mobility and transportations systems in my city? Can we improve waste management (garbage removal) and other services?

This table offers a few of the items in the Internet of connected things within smart cities:



Resources Please: What Organizations & White Papers Can Help?

Beyond traditional advisory services like Gartner and Forrester, the first place that I recommend visiting to find definitions, white papers, best practices, trends and events regarding smart cities is the Smart Cities Council. The Smart Cities Council is an adviser and market accelerator. This global group promotes the move to smart, sustainable cities. The long list of partners and advisers offers a diverse mix of the leaders working in the areas of smart cities.

At the website, you will find a range of well-written white papers on topics ranging from How the Cloud is Revolutionizing the Future of Water Utility Management to Using Innovation and Technology to Improve City Services.

I was impressed with the articles, case studies and definitions listed under various responsibility areas, such as:

A different type of example comes from the US-India Business Council. It released a white paper titled: A Nation of Smart Cities. Here’s an excerpt:

India has recently committed to the development and construction of 100 Smart Cities to meet the demands of its rapidly growing and urbanizing population. This effort will include construction of new municipalities and renovation of existing cities as the rural population shifts into urban areas….

Cities are built on the three pillars of Infrastructure, Operations and People. In a Smart City, not only is each one of these pillars infused with intelligence, but more importantly the pillars work in an interconnected and integrated fashion to utilize resources efficiently….

Another helpful resource is this Safe Cities Index 2015 White Paper, which was developed by The Economist. This report covers trends from ubiquitous cameras to megacities to gated communities.

Many organizations are looking at standards regarding smart cities. Probably not surprising, IEEE has a major focus in this area. Its IEEE Smart Cities Web page offers an abundance of information on publications, conferences, articles and (of course) standards.

The European Union’s (EU’s) Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities describes the British Standards Institution new guide to standardized data. Its guide is called PAS 182:2014.

I also like this series of reports on smart cities from the Guardian UK. I recommend reading some of the excellent articles describing the good and bad flowing from smart cities around the globe.

On the vendor-specific side, IBM also offers a series of guides and resources on smarter cities that explore planning and management, infrastructure and people. Its website has some excellent case studies, along with a similar website offered by Cisco using the label: “Smart + connected communities.”

How Big Will The Smart Cities Technology Industry Be?

Whether you think the smart cities technology market will reach tens of billions or more than a trillion U.S. dollars over the next five years, there is no doubt that growth is accelerating.

IHS forecasts: “Annual investment on smart city projects will rise from the current $1 billion to $12 billion in 2025. Other smart city forecasts tend to be broader in their definitions. Navigant Research forecasts global smart city technology revenue will grow from $8.8 billion annually in 2014 to $27.5 billion in 2023, while Frost & Sullivan expects the global smart city market will be valued at $1.565 trillion in 2020.”

This National Geographic Channel documentary focuses on the details on San Diego, and how the city is investing heavily in many cutting-edge smart city technologies. It is a bit long, but offers an excellent deeper dive into the topic.

In addition, this Navigant research offers 10 trends to watch out for within smart grids. Three of these trends include:

  • Smart metering 2.0: Maximizing the bang for the advanced metering infrastructure buck
  • Smart edge: More utility solutions leverage distributed intelligence and automation
  • Smart grid as a service: Moving from hype cycle to real world product

How Significant Are Smart City Security Concerns?

One report that is getting a lot of attention is the IOActive Hacking Cities White Paper 2015, which provided ground-breaking research that was presented at the RSA Conference 2015 in San Francsico in April. This eye-opening look at smart cities by Cesar Cerrudo is titled: An Emerging US (and World) Threat: Cities Wide Open to Cyber Attacks. Here’s an opening excerpt:

In the truly smart city of the future, everything will be connected and automated. While this is not yet a reality, many cities are committing big budgets to get smarter. For instance:

  • Saudi Arabia is investing US $70 billion into smarter cities
  • In Dubai, 1,000 government services will go smart in a few years
  • Barcelona is already ranked as the world’s smartest city
  • In South Africa, a $7.4 billion smart city project just started
The white paper touches on many topics including (but not limited to):

  • Cyber Security Problems
  • Lack of Cyber Security Testing
  • Poor or Nonexistent Security
  • Encryption Issues
  • Lack of City Computer Emergency Response Teams
  • Large and Complex Attack Surfaces
  • Patch Deployment Issues
  • Insecure Legacy Systems
  • Simple Bugs with Huge Impact
  • Public Sector Issues
  • Lack of Cyber Attack Emergency Plans
  • Susceptibility to Denial of Service
  • Technology Vendors Impeding Security Research

Many magazines wrote about this recent IOActive report last month including Dark Reading.

Another specific security perspective on smart meter hacking was offered by the Krebs on Security blog way back in 2012. Brian described how smart meter hacks were costing millions of dollars. It is interesting, in light of the IOActive report, that this issue is still growing the way it is. Krebs wrote:

The feds estimate that the Puerto Rican utility’s losses from the smart meter fraud could reach $400 million annually. The FBI didn’t say which meter technology or utility was affected, but the only power company in Puerto Rico with anywhere near that volume of business is the publicly owned Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA)….

In conclusion, the smart cities business is booming all over the world. This heading is at the front lines in the Internet of Things (IoT) world, and exciting inventions are transforming urban areas globally in amazing ways.

And yet, as in other emerging and fast-growing technology areas, there are both major rewards and significant risks.     

My hope is that both government and private-sector organizations can benefit from the many excellent reports, white papers and articles referenced in this blog to strengthen your smart cities programs. My advice to to get engaged with others to strengthen smart cities programs where you live and work.

Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.