The Forum's Point of View on Smart City Technology

In a recent telecomtv.com post, Martyn Warwick, expands on his headline Majority of US municipalities now investing in smart city technology.  He cites from the TechRepublic, that there are six key technologies to make a city smart, including: Smart Energy, Smart Transportation, Smart Data, Smart Infrastructure, Smart Mobility and Smart IOT Devices.  Martyn’s conclusions on the infrastructure required to harness these technologies are on point.  A question one might ask is -- to what end are cities seeking to employ the technology and advances?  After all, isn’t the goal to provide real time accurate data about systems operations, to be able to process the data, and to be able to make meaningful changes based on the analytics of this data? 

No one will argue that these questions should not be answered with an affirmative “yes” in each instance, but we cannot ignore the practical implications, such as what do these “smart” enhancements do to improve poverty and empowerment, health and welfare, conditions for the aging, environmental conditions and affordable and sustainable power solutions?  In short, by focusing on an outcomes based approach the smart technologies have greater context.  We want our elderly to have a sense of community and belonging.  We can bring this to them through secure connectivity on platforms that drive social engagement, community resources and access to medical and wellness care. 

We want our communities to provide a safe and convenient connected habitat for schooling where children can safely engage in education, sports and after school protocols for advance learning.  We can bring this to them through secure networks and greater connectivity and affordable housing solutions that are intelligent.  We want our environment to be clean, sustainable and driven by smart conduits.  We can bring this to the environment by examining smart metering and alternative, safe and clean sources of dispatchable power.  In order for all of this to work, however, our States need explore the economic drivers of change, including not just the tax credit system but, in addition, the mechanisms by which payments in these systems are made.  The States cannot ask for these innovations and then “slow roll” payments to the innovators which is epidemic in current state tax credit payment systems.  So, Martyn has reminded me that that it is not just about smart technology, but rather smart systems coupled with economic drivers.  I again applaud the Pioneers, and seek greater effort from State governments.

-- John Shire is Partner in the Corporate Department of the Washington, D.C. office of Seyfarth Shaw and is the head of the Impact Investment practice.

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