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From Social to Smart: Connected Communities Are Plugging in to Innovation

While it’s cool to offer cutting-edge connected technologies, the ultimate goal is to make communities safer and more energy efficient, to improve service delivery, and so on.

When government agencies innovate on social media, it usually means they use a social platform in a new way or take a unique approach to content. I’d like to look at the concept of city government innovation at the biggest picture level: the evolution of the “smart city.”

The smart city is becoming less and less of a dream for what cities of the future could be like as innovative government agencies across the country are laying the groundwork for connected communities. Cities don’t strive to be innovative on social media solely to be trendy — they do it to better serve citizens in some way. Similarly, cities strive toward smart city innovation for a higher purpose as well. While it’s cool to offer cutting-edge connected technologies, the ultimate goal is to make communities safer and more energy efficient, to improve service delivery, and so on.

Forging Partnerships

For governments to endeavor to create an entire smart infrastructure with only internal resources would be a massive feat, so innovative cities are partnering with major technology companies to plan, test and reiterate the cities of the future. For instance, Panasonic partnered with the city of Denver over the past year, and more recently the Colorado Department of Transportation, to bring the concept of smart cities and smart highways to reality.

Smart cities start with smart infrastructure, such as transportation. For instance, a smart highway system would incorporate camera and sensor technology in order to connect vehicles to other vehicles and to the master infrastructure system. Vehicles would automatically sense and avoid crashes, streetlights would dim to save energy when the roadway is clear, and ultimately the safety of our roadways would be dramatically improved.

Investing in People and Technology

Every January, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is the largest showcase of future smart technologies in the world. This year, government agencies were noticeably part of the event, as exhibitors featured connected technologies that illustrated the benefits of smart communities. I was excited to have a backstage pass to view these innovations up close.

Government agencies benefit by continually investing in their people and technology. Many do this by creating innovation teams, then make an environment where they are encouraged to learn and explore how technology can solve problems. Brett White is involved in the effort behind West Hollywood, Calif.’s unique social media presence and is also a part of his agency’s Innovation Catalyst Group. The city has been sending members to CES for the past several years, and as White said, “We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve city life; promote efficiency and effectiveness in government; and support our local innovation economy. And that includes the use of smart technologies.”

Ask yourself whether your city is constantly innovating. If the answer is no, do your citizens a favor and start investing in your people and your technology to lay the groundwork for a smart city of the (very near) future.

Kristy Dalton is known as "GovGirl" in the government technology industry. She has been called on as an industry influencer and has a passion for social media, technology and digital strategy. Kristy is the founder & CEO of Government Social Media.
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