What Is a Smart County?
Similar to a smart city, a smart county can be defined as a county that uses information and communication technologies to improve the way it operates. Smart counties use Internet of Things deveces to collect data that will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of services to provide residents with better quality of life.
“I don’t think it’s any different from a smart city, other than the fact that counties offer different services,” says Tyler Svitak, executive director at the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, an organization that works with cities and counties on smart technology solutions. “They generally are larger than cities, so a smart county has different needs.”
National Association of Counties CIO Rita Reynolds says that the word “smart” in the context of a “smart county” points to innovation, emerging technologies and data collection.
“When you think about it, what defines ‘smart’ is the use of technology that’s going to give you new data, and more data, to make informed decisions,” Reynolds says.
Philip R. McChesney, assistant CIO of Broward County, Fla., added that the term “smart” has evolved to encompass more than just technology such as sensors and IoT devices. He looks to the Digital Cities Index, developed by Economist Impact and NEC, which identifies four pillars that also consider a city’s culture, interconnectivity and sustainability.
“Smart cities used to be really tech-focused. Now it’s more customer-centric. The focus has shifted to the citizen with the tech aspect running in the background. When we think about smart counties, we focus on all our citizens and we want to ensure connectivity,” McChesney says. “As long as we facilitate a customer-centric solution, in partnership with municipalities, then we end up with a smart county.”
How Do Smart Counties Differ from Smart Cities?
Counties differ in a number of ways compared with cities when it comes to jurisdictions and services. To add to the complexity, counties differ from state to state. In Colorado, Svitak says, counties offer public health services, so funding for initiatives such as COVID-19 relief or air quality monitoring programs can go through counties because they’re tied to public health entities. Some counties have a more prominent role in supporting local water authorities and waste management centers.
Counties also generally administer elections at the local level, which makes smart device use cases involving election security more important for counties than for cities. Counties work with sheriff's departments, while cities work with police departments.