Why Population Growth Calls for Smart Cities

Public Technology Institute panelists discuss what constitutes a smart city and the technology needed to support them.

By 2050, 90 percent of Americans will live in a city, notes Alan Shark, executive director and CEO of Public Technology Institute. Population growth will more heavily tax resources such as water, energy and transportation systems.

As a result, it’s no surprise that smart cities will represent a $1 trillion market by 2016, with players such as Cisco, IBM, Intel and Siemens offering solutions to local government.

Smart cities encompass smart power, green buildings, smart transportation, health IT, smart traffic and more. “You start seeing that the word ‘smart’ is in front of everything that a city does,” says Shark, who moderated a panel on the topic at a PTI conference in San Diego this week.

Mary Noel Olson of IBM’s smarter analytics growth initiative says, “Our CEO’s goal is to make IBM essential to the world, and you do that by affecting where they live.”

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So where can one find smart cities? Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, research director for IDC’s smart cities strategies, acknowledges that there are no true smart cities out there yet, just an ideal, though the buzz helps generate discussion. “There are real initiatives and real things happening, though,” she notes.

Shark describes smart cities as a puzzle for which we have some of the pieces. For example, Barcelona does creative work in that area, and last summer released the City Protocol for planning smart initiatives. And Singapore has a smart cities agency.

“The key mindshift is we need to build an integrated, extensible platform on which all these solutions can play,” says Olson. Clarke says smart municipality solutions rest on technology, communications infrastructure and middleware. Predictive analytics are key to solutions, too.

CIOs must be in the planning loop with mayors or other government leaders to determine how smart city strategies mesh with the organizational mission and goals. Speakers pointed to Dubuque, Iowa’s water conservation measures and the Sacramento 311 system. Experts suggest starting small to encourage innovation and break down silos.

Clarke estimates smart cities have a 10- to 15-year horizon, but the time to begin considering aspects of them is now.

Oct 25 2012