Feb 18 2015

Key IoT Investments for Building Smart Cities

A new IDC report provides a planning framework for states and cities to benefit from rapid advances in the Internet of Things.

State and local governments can’t afford to turn a blind eye to the world of connected devices, sensors and digital data.

Research firm IDC predicts that by 2018 “cities and metropolitan areas will represent at least 25 percent of government spending on deploying, managing and realizing the business value of the Internet of Things. At this point, mostly large cities are deploying point IoT solutions, but this will change as midsize cities realize benefits.”

In a new report released last week, IDC PlanScape: The Essentials of Internet of Things Investment for Smart Cities, IDC provides a planning framework for states and cities to benefit from rapid advances in IoT. The report outlines the key stakeholders that should be involved in IoT initiatives, the roles and responsibilities for promoting successful IoT projects, and use cases in cities such as Chicago; Oakland, Calif.; and Boston.

"The Internet of Things is an emerging reality, and U.S. cities and states cannot avoid the ramifications of new IP-enabled and connected devices and their potential impact on the delivery of government services and on the quality of life of citizens," Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, director of IDC’s Smart Cities Strategies program, said in the report.

Understanding how other cities are embracing IoT and the results they’ve achieved is crucial to launching successful IoT projects. In multiple cities, including Oakland and Chicago, public safety officials use acoustic sensors to detect gunshot fire. The benefits: faster response times and better scheduling of patrols in high-crime areas. These cities now have access to new data and insights that trump assumptions about gun activity in certain neighborhoods.

As the report notes, IoT gives cities access to better and faster information. In Singapore, the city relies on bus sensors to “capture real-time traffic conditions, improved predictions of best routes and scheduling for greater fuel efficiency [and] improved communication with passengers."

StateTech has reported on the ABQ RIDE app in Albuquerque, N.M., which tells users where their bus is within about 30 seconds. GPS data on the buses are relayed back to the central app. Someone standing on a cold street corner may perceive the bus as being late when, in fact, it is around the corner at a red light. The app provides them with accurate information.

IoT Raises Privacy and Security Concerns

As access to data increases, so do concerns about security and privacy. “Real-time transmission of this data and its security is a serious consideration,” according to the report. A lot of the public safety information is tagged with geolocation data and could pose a risk to officers in the field if that information falls into the wrong hands.

Then there’s the issue of privacy. Parking meters in Harrisburg, Pa., allow drivers to use a 15-minute grace period when running into nearby businesses, but they must enter their license plate number into the system. In the future, more drivers may be required to provide this kind of information to park. “[There] will, over time and with the increase of IoT solutions, be an increasing tension between convenience and privacy and accessing government services and privacy.”

Building a Strong Team

Assembling the right team to tackle IoT issues such as these is critical. IDC identifies several lead, managerial and support roles that cities must identify.

CIO: This executive should serve as an innovator and change agent, who sets strategic direction and aligns and motivates people.

Department head (i.e., chief of police): This leader must establish the budget, align internal department resources and inspire employees.

Functional IT director (i.e., patrol unit/traffic investigations): As a manager, the IT director must oversee and execute projects, be responsible for accountability, and develop and meet key performance indicators and metrics.

Functional IT support staff: These employees carry out the tasks required for each project.

IT department open-data lead: This individual determines the issues, moderates the impact of the project and makes sure that timely feedback is provided.


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