In Copenhagen, smart street lights dim during a full moon and brighten when cyclists and walkers pass below. Video surveillance systems help keep citizens safe. Internet of Things sensors ward off water pipe leaks, while wind turbines power buildings. Fire-fighting drones stand ready.
It’s a smart city getting smarter every day, thanks to data gathered by IoT sensors.
Many government officials have heard about Copenhagen’s success and now dream of a smart city, too. According to CompTIA, one out of 10 government entities has a formal IoT initiative underway, and one out of four has a pilot project in the works.
“A Jetsons-like future seems increasingly within reach,” says Tim Herbert, senior vice president of research and market intelligence at CompTIA, in a research brief.
Smart cities offer lots of advantages, both today and in the future. Automated operational processes lead to tangible cost savings. A smart city churns out an awesome amount of data, which can be analyzed and used to make quick decisions, cutting through layers of city bureaucracy. Best of all, a smart city attracts the kind of tech-savvy millennial to live and work, thus raising the city’s profile.
Only about 1,000 of the nearly 20,000 cities and towns in the United States have some type of IoT or smart city initiative underway, CompTIA says. That’s still a lot of investment dollars in play. McKinsey predicts the global smart cities component of the IoT market will range between $930 billion to $1.7 trillion by 2025.
Copenhagen aside, U.S. cities such as Houston, New York and Columbus, Ohio, have made strides to become smart cities. Columbus, in particular, has become a poster child for the smart city. This summer, U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $40 million to Columbus as the winner of its Smart City Challenge. Now Columbus has designs on electric self-driving shuttles, vehicle-to-vehicle data and smart traffic lights that keep traffic flowing.
So why aren’t more city managers and elected officials joining the smart city movement? Technical complexity and political challenges keep many on the sidelines. CompTIA cites a laundry list of major concerns: cyber-security risks, a data privacy backlash, unforeseen regulations, lack of IoT-skilled workers, upfront investment costs, interoperability issues, elusive returns on investment, and an inability to take advantage of new data streams.
“Realistically, though, decisions regarding whether to proceed with smart cities initiatives will be contingent on outputs rather than inputs,” Herbert says. “Smart city investments will be judged by metrics such as improvement to livability, cost savings, citizen engagement, business community support, and votes at the ballot box.”
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In order to simplify things, CompTIA eyes a new solution emerging from the channel – “smart cities as a service.” Imagine a packaged solution combining integration, data, security and cloud computing in a scalable, standardized way. It would make the decision to start down the road to the smart city much easier.
“The ‘smart cities-as-a-service’ approach brings it all together into what many city planners will view as an appealing option,” Herbert says.
Tom Kaneshige is editor of Five2ndWindow, an independent news channel that is part of Internet of Things Institute covering mobile, IoT, marketing and the digital enterprise. You can reach him at [email protected].