Industry Perspective: Cloud and the Smart City

Here are three important steps cities and governments can take to harness the power of the cloud to become more connected, efficient and sustainable.

by Gordon Feller, Director of Urban Innovations, Public Sector Practice Internet Business Solutions Group, Cisco / May 8, 2013

As smart city visions emerge in various local government projects, we will see a combination of new ways of thinking, designing, planning, executing and managing.

Looking internationally, Busan, South Korea, has already discovered the powerful benefits of cloud infrastructure to create a smart and connected community solution. The government partnered with companies to create a Mobile Application Center to utilize city assets and the connected network. 

And in the U.S., there are some important steps cities and governments can take to harness the power of the cloud to become more connected, efficient and sustainable. Here are three:

1. Use one intelligent, multi-service IP network.

This is the overarching mantra of a smart city — connect systems and services to improve city livability. While it can seem daunting, it’s important to remember the long-term benefits of a connected city, especially using cloud management. Some of the most promising smart city projects have shown that it’s possible to use the network to achieve some major goals of state and local government, including efficient city management, and economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Savvy government leaders are recognizing the untapped power of the network and incorporating its potential into the early stages of planning and development. Many cities have experimented with including information and communications technology (ICT) solutions through small-scale “proof of concept” projects. Since budgets are so limited, it can be difficult to adopt a purely centralized approach, which means trying new techniques and learning from the enterprise sector.

2. Build a foundation for public-private partnerships.

Government agencies and city leaders cannot create smart, connected urban communities alone. Frameworks are needed for relationships between the public and private sectors.

Winning strategies seem to be the ones that enable citizens, business leaders and policymakers to drive job growth, increase economic opportunity and provide improved citizen services. The goal is simple: enable effective partnerships by linking governments with private enterprises and citizen organizations focused on creating economically competitive, socially cohesive and environmentally clean communities. Innovative ICT solutions can be critical tools for those reinventing enterprise, government and city services. This kind of collaboration between the public and private sectors can provide successful conditions for these new business models, which ideally encourage the private sector to take a more active role in upgrading city services and infrastructure.

3. Regulations are needed to standardize the uses of ICT.

Governments regulate the three traditional utilities — water, gas and electricity — with a clear and consistent framework. But city leaders are discovering that the broadband network has become the fourth utility. Regulations are necessary to standardize the uses of ICT in both developing new urban communities and providing services to the public.

It is essential to consider design principles for smart city network regulations that can accelerate development. Governments should consider their role, and the desired outcome of regulations. Incorporating ICT requirements and standardized procedures into smart city developments will take serious consideration and planning.

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