Though cities are still piloting and testing various smart city technologies, no city, yet, has led the first city wide deployment to generate this ubiquitous real-time data so outcome-based applications can start benefiting their citizens.
Despite the obvious hunger for breakthroughs, it is very clear that hurdles stand in the way of greater industry adoption. For instance:
- Cities’ resources are limited, and the number of single-use sensors out there requiring city staff to research, fund, procure and manage them (e.g., in parking or environmental applications) is limiting the ROI and size of smart city projects today.
- Cities have some data but not at the scale they need. Worse yet, some are still using analog means of data collection, hiring expensive consultants, or deploying less-effective battery-powered devices that end up damaged or obsolete.
- Aesthetics can be an issue. With the easy access to power and the height advantage of utility poles and street lighting, everyone is clamoring for sensor placement there. If cities grant that access, these poles can become an ugly mess of sensors and exposed wires, hurting city efforts to beautify landscapes.
- Many of the sensors in the market are just collecting data for single-use cases. They can’t be upgraded with new analytics over the air, and they aren’t able to communicate with neighboring nodes or perform multi-sensor fusion. Municipalities should look for solutions that solve these issues, so they have future-proofed smart cities.
The challenges are large, but at the same time the opportunity cost is enormous. These new technologies, when executed well, offer benefits that are unprecedented in the history of the city, and these hurdles are preventing cities from collecting those benefits. What this means is that there’s a clear need for cities to efficiently build their digital infrastructure to capture the ubiquitous real-time data to enable this transformation.
Once cities start deploying solutions on a larger scale, the data will be able to revolutionize how people engage with each other within the context of their towns, communities, neighborhoods and blocks.