Beyond Light: Smart Lighting Illuminates More Than Streets

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. 

Read more

Data Today Keeps The Doctor Away

In scanning through my O’Reilly Data Newsletter today, I noticed A Healthy Dose of Data, an MIT Sloan case study on the data and analytics culture at Intermountain, a healthcare network that runs 22 hospitals and 185 clinics.  The study is definitely worth the read.  It reviews the history of data use at Intermountain, which began way before the “big data” craze of recent years.  In fact, it was back in the 1950s that one of the Intermountain cardiologists, Homer Warner, began to explore clinical data to understand why some heart patients experienced better outcomes than others.  He went on to become known as the “father of medical informatics – the use of computer programs to analyze patient data to determine treatment protocols,” and with colleagues designed and launched their first decision-support tool. 

The case study goes on to describe how Intermountain has cultivated a strong data and analytics culture. Over time – Rome was not built in a day, as they say – they established data maturity across the organization by investing in the capacity (new tools and technologies), developing the competencies (new skills and processes) and finally spreading the culture (awareness, understanding and best practices) of data and analytics. Their analytical approach brought results – fewer surgical infections, more effective use of antibiotics, less time in intensive care etc – contributing to lower costs, better medical outcomes, and overall patient satisfaction.

Read more

Beyond Show-Me-The-Money: Tech Jobs Require More Than Tax Incentives

 

A Mission of MercyEconomic development means different things to different people. It depends on their context.  In my early work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa development meant bringing running water to villages.  My town was the new recipient of a public water system from the Danish Aid Agency.

But broadly speaking, economic development initiatives are efforts to attract investment to a region.  For most places, it’s not about running water but about creating jobs.  And, some of the best jobs out there – in demand and high paying – are in technology or in software development more specifically.  Software is the future.  And, many cities, states and countries want to get in on the act.  Yes, many of the software development jobs will go to product development shops but they need to hire from somewhere and government leadersare hoping to bring those jobs to their constituents.

A classic strategy for attracting investment to a region is to provide tax incentives.   We’ll give you a break on your corporate taxes for a period of time if you bring your new headquarters or factory or research facility to our region.  A quick search reveals many such programs. Apparently Texas is “wide open for business” and is willing to provide tax abatements and local incentives. 

Read more

Anticipating Mobile World Congress 2015: Connectivity Trumps Mere Mobility

 

infographic-imageWe 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. 

Read more

Embrace Shared Services To Improve Outcomes–Not Only For Cost Savings

The perennial call for public sector reform has not slackened. The pain of austerity measures and the pressures for increased efficiency heighten that call.  And, the hype around “smart cities” amps up the pressure for municipal leaders faced with decisions about which problems to attack first, and which tools are most appropriate.  But most organizations are not starting from a clean slate. That’s exactly the issue. In most cases we’re talking about reform, about doing things differently, not starting from scratch. 

When we asked government leaders what their top priorities are, improving the customer experience comes in on top: 68% report the customer experience is either a high or critical priority.  But reducing costs is right up there with it. That’s the age-old do-more-with-less mantra.  And, from a technology perspective their top priority is to upgrade or replace legacy systems, which might not sound like the wiz bang “smart” technology we’ve been hearing so much about.  But it’s likely the smartest thing these governments can do; and when they do, they should do it together. 

Read more

Update On The DATA Act: Nearing Nine Months

Well, it’s now been about nine months, and time to check in on the gestation of the DATA Act.  But before we start on what’s happened since the law passed on May 9, 2014, let’s take a quick look at what it is, and what government organizations have to work with.

This bipartisan legislation – jointly sponsored by two democrats and two republicans – is an effort to modernize the way the government collects and publishes spending information – in particular by establishing standard elements and formats for the data. The new law assigns responsibility for the task, sets out a four-year timetable for implementation, and establishes a strict oversight regime to measure compliance in the adoption of the standards and the subsequent quality and timeliness of the published spending data. That oversight is the big difference between the DATA Act and the previous legislation to improve funding transparency.  This time someone is watching, and the law has teeth.

Read more

The DATA Act Just Might Fulfill Jeffersonian Hopes For Transparency

 “[W]e might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant’s books, so that every member of Congress, and every man of any mind in the Union, should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them.”

Thomas Jefferson to Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin, 1 April 1802

Governments have made enormous progress in improving their transparency – thus increasing accountability. While the “union” is not quite there, implementation of the DATA Act with new standards for financial reporting and data publication will move the bar forward.  In the meantime, local governments demonstrate numerous best practices. Thomas Jefferson would likely give a nod to many of the cities and states that have published checkbook-level details of their budgets. 

Checkbook NYC Demonstrates Transparency

In July of 2010 the New York City Comptroller’s Office launched Checkbook NYC, an online transparency tool that for the first time placed the City’s day-to-day spending in the public domain.  Using an intuitive dashboard approach that combines a series of graphs and user-friendly tables, Checkbook NYC provides up-to-date information about the City's financial condition.

Read more

Smart City Expo 2014: Cities Take Over The Show

Last week I participated in the 4th annual Smart City Expomy 4th Smart City Expo. I’ve always enjoyed the event as it is a well-balanced mix of technology vendors, academics across various disciplines, and government practitioners — a refreshing change from many tech industry trade shows. In the conference sessions, panels reflect that mix with academics sharing their research on urban studies, vendors promoting their wares, and government leaders discussing their pain points and efforts to address them — oh, and an occasional industry analyst sharing observations on best practices. This year, however, the exhibitors reflected a different mix.

In the first years of the Expo, the exhibition hall featured technology vendors preaching salvation through connected and intelligent city systems —classic “vendor push.” City leaders were eager to see the light, but their conversion was not so straightforward. Most city systems were not ready to be connected, and many were far from intelligent. This year, cities are ready — or significantly closer. As the CIO of Madrid acknowledged at an IBM-sponsored lunch, two years was the time needed just to transform the thinking of the city council. Now work on their technology platform, called Madrid iNTeligente (MiNT) — which addresses urban mobility, public facilities, road infrastructure, waste, and parks — is well under way. Evidence of that shift was plentiful on the exhibition floor as cities — often sponsored by economic development and investment boards or vendor partners — demonstrated their progress in:

Read more

Exploring The Data Economy Opportunity: Some Do's and Don'ts

An inquiry call from a digital strategy agency advising a client of theirs on data commercialization generated a lively discussion on strategies for taking data to market.  With few best practices out there, the emerging opportunity just might feel like space exploration – going boldly where no man has gone before.  The question is increasingly common. "We know we have data that would be of use to others but how do we know?  And, which use cases should we pursue?" In It's Time To Take Your Data To Market published earlier this fall, my colleagues and I provided some guideance on identifying and commercializing that "Picasso in the attic."  But the ideas around how to go-to-market continue to evolve. 

In answer to the inquiry questions asked the other day, my advice was pretty simple: Don’t try to anticipate all possible uses of the data.  Get started by making selected data sets available for people to play with, see what it can do, and talk about it to spread the word.  However, there are some specific use cases that can kick-start the process. 

Look to your existing customers.

The grass is not always greener, and your existing clients might just provide some fertile ground.  A couple thoughts on ways your existing customers could use new data sources:

Read more

Age Of The Citizen: Empowered Citizens Drive Change In Government

When I was in high school – and admittedly that was quite a while ago — my neighbor quit his job as an insurance salesman to go into the car phone business. My mother couldn’t understand why someone would give up a good, stable job to sell something that she couldn’t imagine anyone ever using. Who would use a car phone? Why would anyone talk on the phone in a car? 

Fast forward a few years… (OK, a few more than a few)… and most of us can’t imagine not having our phone with us. We use our phone everywhere… And, yes, according to Forrester’s 2013 Consumer Technographics survey, 68% of US online adults use their phone in the car, and 48% even use their phone from the bathroom. Who’s guilty?! As for my mother, she has still never used an ATM card at a bank and still writes checks for cash at the grocery store, but she DOES have a cell phone and just might have used it in the car once or twice.

Read more