I love the concept of a smart city — a city that uses data collected in an automated fashion to make good decisions, which will:

  • Improve the quality of life of its people 
  • Improve the efficiency of the council 
  • Enable the council to better engage with the community and respond nimbly to changing needs. 

Creating smart cities and smart communities is a compelling idea, but the notion is losing value as the investments made by the community are not achieving their goals.

Sick of the hype

I've spoken to a number of councils who are sick of the hype. They love the concept, and the marketplace has served many ways to collect data, but it hasn’t provided a way to produce actions or join up all the data collected to make good decisions.

The technology that's now available allows councils to collect data on traffic movements, pedestrian movements, water and air quality, length of grass, rubbish status, etc. However, these are not joined up and don't provide the 'big data' insights other industries serve up. Councils are seeing added value to council operations but they're not delivering to the full potential.

The problem with smart city solutions is that they're leveraging all the new technology but ignoring the traditional data that a council holds. This includes property, licencing, permits, assets, work orders, capital projects, maintenance projects, waste removal, infringements, animal licencing, zoning, etc. This information is the static data that will make the environmental data usable by creating a joined-up set of data.

Need for open enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems

The reason all this valuable data is ignored is due to the fact that the ERP solutions used by councils are not open and can't always connect to the latest technology available. They do have connectivity through some application programming interfaces (APIs), which are parts of a program that allows third parties to access, but these are small in numbers and not well documented.

We need to create ERP systems as the central brain of a council. The ERP stores the core data in much the same way our brain stores information. The IoT sensors, as well as other connected solutions, are like nerves, which transmit useful data to the brain. The brain can then analyse and interpret this information to take action, make decisions, and communicate with the right stakeholders.

Smart city concepts need to get back on track. We need to stop trying to work around the lack of connectivity to the core data of the council. The open technology (native cloud) is available now and there are companies already investing in this technology. So, let’s address the issue head-on and start achieving the type of results new technology can provide and join up all the data collected by councils to reach those community goals. Then we can fix the problems and smart cities will stop being just about the hype and become reality.

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