There is a lot of hype around Smart Cities, and rightly so.

While headlines such as Bill Gates’s plan to build one in Arizona are keeping the general concept in the forefront, it is useful to take a step back and define what it means to be a Smart City, and what it really takes to get there.

Smart city connections

Enabling smart cities requires rethinking traditional functional and information silos.

It requires a holistic approach bringing together data that historically has been segregated according to discrete functions.

It challenges culture and traditional operational practices as data and information is often collected and managed within jealously guarded and individually funded segments based on the traditional functions of a municipality.

Truly enabling smart cities requires a level of cooperation and integration between government, institutions, and the private sector.

Connection and sharing

The real power of smart cities lies in connection and sharing. It starts with the ability to fuse, analyze and extract value from massive amounts of data from different networks. The key is making that data actionable, by sensing the needs of citizens, and responding accordingly.

A Smart City is much more than integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) into buildings and other infrastructure; it is about creating actionable intelligence from the ones and zeros that we are generating to inform and trigger action from machines and people.

Thanks to the advent of internet protocol version 6 (IPv6), there is now a virtually inexhaustible number of IP addresses (3.4 x 1038) that has fueled an explosion of connected devices, ranging from nanoscale sensors to consumer devices. This has triggered an explosion of data.  In fact, 90% of the data generated throughout the history of mankind has been generated in the last two years.

With the proliferation of more devices, more video, and the coming 5th generation (5G) of wireless communication with promises transmission speeds 100 times greater than 4G, this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. New connected vehicles, for example, are projected to generate 1-2 terabytes of data per day.

Enter smart cities.

ATI21 predicts that the deployment of 5G communications infrastructure; edge computing that will move analytics closer to the data; and the intelligence and security enabled by the cloud will be at the core of enabling future mobility. This mobility will be shared, electric and autonomous, and will allow information-sharing between the transportation system, supply chain, power grid, first responders, entertainment, education and healthcare networks–just to name a few.

These new connections will enable levels of data fusion and analytics that will inform not only personal decisions and choices, but also machine-to-machine decisions that will dramatically improve the safe and efficient movement of people and goods, and fundamentally change the way we live, work, learn and play.

This vision of the interconnected smart city will not happen by itself and innovation and marketing alone cannot make it real.  Knowledge must be shared.  Leadership, policy and resources must be squarely aimed at breaking down powerful stovepipes, antiquated operational paradigms and cultural resistance to change if we are to realize the social and economic promise of the 21st century.

We’re going to do our part to turn this concept of Smart Cities into reality.