A Smart City is not a Siloed City

Johan Diels

By the year 2030, 75 percent of the world population will live in urban areas. Taking into account that these numbers are expected to grow from the current 7.3 billion to 10 billion in 2050, this puts a lot of pressure on the sustainability of our cities. While Europe’s urban areas are not growing as fast as the megacities in India, China or the Middle East, local governments will need to take care that the quality of life in our major hubs does not deteriorate. That’s why the interest in Smart Cities is currently so high.

The digital revolution is handing us the tools we need to drastically improve the way we live and work. Smart Cities touch many domains, from mobility and safety, to public health, housing, education and waste management. A number of emerging technologies will have an enormous impact on each of these domains. Just think of what connected cars and driverless vehicles will mean not only to mobility and transport fluidity in towns, but also to urban planning and architecture. Imagine a city without parking spaces.

Local authorities recognize the power that information technology has to make their cities more attractive to citizens. Throughout Europe, we currently see many proof of concepts (POCs) for Smart Cities, and many have promising results, such as in the field of mobility (parking spaces with sensors) or public safety (CCTV). However, what we notice is that many of these projects are stand-alone and do not connect with each other at a higher level. Each of these solutions only solves one single problem and is only one piece in the bigger puzzle of the Smart City. We strongly believe that the true power of smart cities lies in bringing all of these projects together and turning all the data captured into a dashboard that effectively allows local functionaries to make the right – smart – decisions.

Connecting air pollution to parking prices

Let me give you an example of a project in which we participated. In the Czech capital Prague, the pricing of public parking spaces is flexible and relates to the quality of the air in certain areas. If there is too much pollution in a certain area, prices for parking spaces go up, which works as a deterrent to driving in that part of town. At the same time, pricing goes down in areas with cleaner air. This way, Prague is turning their smart city into a healthy city. Simac has helped build out these solutions, based on Cisco Kinetic for Cities, a platform that delivers tools and guidelines for creating a smart city framework. The platform comes with a set of open APIs that allowed us to connect different systems and build custom solutions. Every city has its own character, so a Smart City solution must adapt to that, hence the importance of having the expertise in developing on a platform such as Cisco Kinetic for Cities.

The bigger picture

By bringing together all the data that different projects capture, local policy makers can visualize the data streams and make the right decisions based on comprehensive data sets. The true value of a Smart City project lies in bundling all the vertical solutions and projects in a unified view that offers insight into the interactions of lighting, traffic, parking, waste management, Wifi deployment, etc.

Should local government stop doing pilots that only focus on one problem? Certainly not. Results from these proofs of concept are very valuable. However, these POCs must be designed from the start with a holistic view of how they fit into the bigger picture and the overall platform where everything needs to connect.

Smart Cities are a great idea. The best way to make their vision come true is by taking a broad view and not opting for silos. A siloed city can never be a Smart City.

Smart City Simac ICT Belgium