Why You Want a Smart City Now
It’s not about the city creating apps; it’s about citizens creating apps to make the city a better place for all.
There’s a nuance to the source of the application economy’s magic that many overlook. It’s not about the app store, not about the ability to easily find and download an app for anything. It’s about the creation process. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can create an application using the world’s internet infrastructure as the starting point.
It is only since this mobile platform revolution that the business world and technology community been able to escape the “well, that’s the way the computer works” mentality, and enter the experience economy. For those in the business world, remember being told, “No, you can’t do that … it’s a security risk.” Back then, calling “security risk” would shut down an entire conversation.
Now, the pressure is on to say yes. Security teams, compliance teams and more now must default to, “How can we do this securely?” rather than, “That’s a security risk”.
The Smart City Revolution
There are billions of mobile computers in people’s pockets. That means there is an army of incredibly talented developers creating experiences. It’s into this that smart cities are going to emerge as the next platform for creative types to integrate into the mobile economy.
The short-term benefit of automation, or reduced cost of data collection, or more data, is just setting the stage. The real benefit comes when industries are able to do things that are different from the past because of the smartness embedded in the infrastructure. These ideas will not necessarily come from the people who are lighting up the city, but from others who experience the city and want to make it a better place.
Some of these people could be seen and heard at a recent event in NYC about the developer economy. There’s a huge interest across industries in the opportunity to improve the quality of life through digital transformation.
To enable these thinkers to create, cities need to think about enabling rather than creating. The city becomes a platform for creating, and it’s the platform that enables innovation.
What Smart-City Platforms Need
When creating a smart city, there are three things to keep in mind:
- Security must be embedded in the infrastructure. It can’t be a layer on top of the applications.
- Identity is crucial, but there’s a more sensitive ‘cultural’ issue around governments and identity than there is a technical one.
- Think about the modalities and how you can enable new forms of interactions using the data captured; notifications are a great start.
Smart-city platforms should follow the model for creating a modern software factory for innovation. This model incorporates security, compliance and quality and would ensure that the smart-city platform is used “properly.” Done well, the people who need to know how it’s being used have all the insight they need. They can use what they learn about usage patterns to cultivate it to meaningfully impact people’s lives.
It’s not about solving a single problem, or multiple single problems, rather it’s about creating a platform where problems can be solved quickly, securely and with a quality that delights.
How Smart Cities Innovate
In New York, some of the subways have sensors and commuters can see how long they have to wait in the station. This kind of information is available elsewhere in the world. So, what’s interesting about the French tracking buses?
What’s interesting isn’t just tracking buses. The really exciting angle is about making bus data available for people who want to create new commuting experiences.
Individuals who have a multi-hop commute would use schedules, current traffic conditions and expected traffic patterns based on history, and commuters could get an alert of the best bus to catch to minimize the commute across multiple hops and the waits between hops.
The city itself might not create such an app, but the smart-city platform creates the opportunity for the app to be created. Such an app might be best created by the person who experiences the commute (and knows the tricks), rather than someone who sits in an office imagining what such a commute is like.
Imagine an app that tells you which route to a tunnel has the least traffic, or which way to walk home from a bar with the best lighting. These apps may not be created by the city, but the ability to create them, the ability to programmatically access city information is going to dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone.