Smart cities are a myth. But cities are now finally ready to invest in new technology. No, I don’t find those two sentences contradictory. Yes, I do finally feel like the hype of smart cities is fading. And, yes, I do think the promise still holds much potential for cities. But boy have I tired of hearing smart, smart, smart, smart, smart (somehow 5 times sounded right to me, or should I say sounded “smart”).
Back in 2010 I wrote a lengthy report on the smart city opportunity for vendors. At the time my research was focused on vendors, and as the vendors were all worked up about smart cities it made sense to put some structure around the opportunity. What were the primary market drivers? What issues were cities currently facing or expecting to face in the future? Anyone who has attended a talk on smart cities knows the drill ad naseam: population explosion, urbanization, startling impact on city services (transportation, waste and water management, public safety, health, education etc.) And, I’m just as guilty. The slide at the right was from my first webinar on smart cities in 2010.
Gone are the days when the only signal a streetlight sent out was that it was time to go home on a summer evening. Many kids grew up with that rule. My mom had a cowbell, which was infinitely more embarrassing but likely more effective in calling us home. But times have changed. We now text our kids to get them home for dinner. And, street lights themselves would no longer deign to serve just that purpose.
Streetlights these days do provide light (and do that much more efficiently), but they just might be your source of Wi-Fi or of information on the weather, air quality, traffic, and parking availability, or might be the city’s source of information on you. They will also be a platform for new services that leverage all of the data the new light poles collect through their embedded sensors, or also a source of electricity to power digital signs through solar-energy. These new and improved streetlights are becoming increasingly popular as they demonstrate a clear cost-savings over their predecessors and promise the potential for revenue generation through new applications and services. That is a win-win for cities, citizens and the ecosystem of potential application and service providers out there.
We are now only a few weeks away from Mobile World Congress, historically the pre-eminent event of the mobile industry and now one of the largest global events across all industries. Last year’s even attracted almost 90,000 attendees from over 200 countries. The event draws representatives from mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, vendors, content owners and governments from across the world. Executives from all industries pay attention to products demonstrated and announcements made. While “mobile” remains in the event title, last year’s event marked a changing of the guard: The large presence of car manufacturers and the buzz around Facebook reflected that shift away from the event’s telecom roots. This year that shift will be even more pronounced as the reign of mobility gives way to the new rule of connectivity. Yes, we are mobile but the key is that while we are roaming the halls at work or the streets of a foreign city, we remain connected to the people and things we want and need to interact with.
My sister used to tell me that I wasn’t smart I was just organized. I’m not here to argue (anymore) but I have never forgotten her claim. In fact, it’s true for more than just me. It’s really what is at the heart of smart cities. It’s not about what you know but what you can do with it. The industry has been pushing “smart” on cities for a half a decade. But the most successful stories about cities cutting their cost of operations and improving the lives of their citizens are about being better organized or more efficient.
At the Schneider Electric Influencer Summit in Boston this week, Schneider execs and customers focused their smart city story on just that – getting more efficient. We all have heard the numbers: cities take up only 2% of the world’s surface but they consume 75% of the world’s energy and account for 80% of the world’s carbon emissions. As the Schneider CMO cited, “If left unchecked, our appetite for energy will grow 50% by 2040.” And there is significant room for greater efficiency. The sweet spot for Schneider in this Next Age of Change is in helping cities control their public energy consumption. While their vision – and “marketecture stack” – extends into water and other domains, they plan to establish their footprint with energy efficiency. Phew! That’s a refreshing change from vendors who want to do it all.
The government of Singapore has released its 2014 budget, which includes S$500 million (US$400 million) to help drive economic changes at small and medium-size businesses (SMBs). This spending will focus on:
Co-authored by Henning Dransfeld and Jennifer Belissent
Telefónica recently invited us to its European Analyst Day at the headquarters of Telefonica UK (O2) in Slough. Jose Luis Gamo Global Solutions CEO Multinationals started off the day with an ambitious outlook on strategy and revenue growth. He highlighted Telefónica plans to deepen customer engagements by addressing their needs for global contract consolidation, as well as demands for M2M solutions, big data and analytics and cloud services. Telefónica certainly has a lot to offer. But is Telefónica doing enough to position itself well in the evolution to markets driven by customer experience? We believe that there is potential because:
Telefónica is increasingly competitive in winning global enterprise network contracts.After the global landmark deal with DPDHL, Telefónica has added companies including Ferrovial and NSN to its customer base. Telefónica, the largest European operator by capitalization, is increasing contract values with existing customers through cross selling activities. Their ability to do so is enabled by a demonstrable focus on the following initiatives: Strengthening professional account management, increased commitment by Telefónica group to the enterprise market, as well as initiatives to improve service management, the technical architecture, customer services and the terms and conditions.
The city of Santander boasts 20,000 fixed and mobile sensors throughout the city – on buses, in parks, waste bins and in buildings. These sensors capture bus locations, humidity in the air and soil, pollution etc. They tell bus riders when their bus will arrive; they tell city park workers when to water the gardens. They also dim lights when there is no one on the street at night, and turn them on when cars or pedestrians pass. They create a complex internet of things and a rich source of data. Together with the platform enabling the aggregation, analysis and visualization of these data, they (will) provide a valuable tool at the disposal of city leaders, enterprises, developers and citizens. Today Smart Santander is a living lab (with an application pending to be part of the European Network of Living Labs).
Having launched in September 2010 with €6 million budget (primarily from the EU) and 15 partners, the project is now in its 3rd and final phase. With its sensor network, the city demonstrates the benefits of the Internet of Things across several initiatives:
Urban mobility: Sensors on buses and in taxis make it easier for citizens and tourists to find transportation; parking sensors help drivers find available places more quickly.
Water management: Sensors embedded in urban gardens detect soil humidity and enable more efficient watering; the broader water initiative envisions smart water meters in homes and buildings, and use of the sensors by Aqualia, the city’s water company.
Local governments – cities, counties, states – are investing in technology. Why? Well, a number of factors drive local governments to take a smarter approach to their administration and development: limited budgets, increasing citizen demands, competition for investment and jobs etc. Balancing competing demands on a shoestring budget isn't easy. City leaders are looking for ways to sustainably transformation city functions such as transportation, healthcare, public safety, utilities, or governance, and in aggregate the city as a whole. And, they increasingly value technology as a means to such a transformation.
Fortunately, cities do not have to undertake this journey on their own, and they don’t expect to. In fact, according to Forrester’s Forrsights Budgets and Priorities Tracker Survey, local governments are more likely to expect increases in IT technical consulting than other industries (and more than governments as a whole): 38% of local government IT budget decision-makers expected a 5-10% increase in consulting spend and 2% expected an increase of more than 10%. Local governments are turning to the experts to help them figure out what this “smart city” thing means for them.
The picture is slowly coming into focus, and it’s a good one. This time last year I scolded Orange Business Services for not presenting a comprehensive smart cities strategy – particularly after having announced smart cities as one of its strategic pillars for the year. The announcement at their 2012 analyst event was not about a strategy; it was an announcement that they were going to create a strategy, and that they had appointed someone to do that. Well, Nathalie Leboucher has been in her role for 18 months now and progress has been made. Orange has developed a portfolio of solutions – mostly based on pilots across France and in the Middle East – and has announced several key partnerships. Yet there is more to do to develop a comprehensive message demonstrating that Orange “gets it” with regard to cities and can leverage all its assets to help cities (and capitalize on the opportunity).