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A tale of twenty-two cities: getting smart, safe, and sustainable

Twitter: @mjadoul

Introducing the Smart City Playbook


In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote a novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” about London and Paris in the 2nd half of the 18th century. Although the work gives a pretty negative image of both cities in those days, comparing the strengths of different municipalities is often a good way to obtain understanding of what it is like to live and work in these cities.

Machina Research, a leading provider of market intelligence and strategic insight on the Internet of Things, just published a Nokia-sponsored report: “The Smart City Playbook.” This comprehensive document, which is based upon a series of interviews with city project executives, aims to provide smart city stakeholders with relevant insights on strategies, solutions and pitfalls to be avoided in the process of becoming smarter cities.

While Dickens’s novel takes the French revolution as a point of departure and compares only 2 cities, Machina Research has taken the Internet of Things revolution as the recurring theme, examining 22 cities worldwide.

There are many drivers for making urban areas “smart(er),” and no two implementation paths are the same. Municipalities around the globe are deploying a broad variety of innovative services and applications to streamline their own operations and to change the urban experience for city dwellers and travelers. In an attempt to bring some order to the smart city universe, Machina Research has grouped their projects and activities under the headings “smart,” “safe,” and “sustainable.”

  • Smart applies to applications that aim at improving the quality of life for citizens, bolstering innovation, social and economic development, and making cities more attractive places to live and do business. Smart use cases cited by the report come from Dubai, Paris, and Singapore.
  • Safe describes applications aimed at helping to prevent, or minimize the risks and impact of, adverse events including crime, accidents, environmental pollution and natural disasters. Examples of safe city profiles identified by Machine Research include Mexico City, New York, and Shanghai.
  • Sustainable addresses applications intended to reduce the environmental impact (especially energy consumption and carbon emissions) of the municipality’s own operations and the activities of business which operate within its jurisdiction and citizens who live there. Look for sustainable city examples at what’s being done in Pune, San Francisco, or Vienna.

No two routes the same

An interesting observation from the report is that cities tend to follow different routes and models of travel towards their objectives:

  • An application-driven trajectory, in which ‘anchor cities’ roll-out one or more stand-alone (‘siloed’) applications – based upon current needs, resources, and priorities – and then think about how they might be extended and/or integrated with each other. A typical example of a city following this route is Barcelona: the city kicked off its Smart City Strategy in 2011, with well over 100 applications in the loop, but began development of its ‘city OS’ – a single platform through which it could manage all applications – only 4 years later.
  • An infrastructure-first approach, where ‘platform cities’ put a city-wide network infrastructure, and/or a common platform for different applications in place first, and then sort out which new applications can be deployed on, or existing services integrated with it. Take Jeddah for example, that started fulfilling their infrastructure needs by expanding the availability of broadband across the municipality.
  • A ‘beta city’ route, in which the city experiments with multiple applications without a detailed plan for how to bring these pilots to full operational deployment. Such beta cities, like Bristol, are often implemented as ‘living labs’, that prioritize hands-on experience over short-term or medium-term tangible benefits.

In all cases, coordination of smart initiatives requires forethought and leadership, and smart city stakeholders need to make the benefits of their initiatives visible to the citizens.

At Nokia, we partner with cities around the world to help them realize new possibilities for people today and for generations to come, with a combination of visionary thinking and shared, secure and scalable technology solutions. Take, for example, our recent announcement about Nokia joining the Bristol Is Open initiative that is creating a dynamic test bed to develop an open programmable city and explore how integrated technology solutions can benefit citizens – from helping solve problems such as traffic congestion, air pollution and assisted living for the elderly to trials of self-driving cars.

You may download your copy of the Machina Research Smart City Playbook now! And be sure to tune in to our IDG webcast with Machina Research where we present the findings of the report.

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #IoT #smartcities #programmableworld

Marc Jadoul

About Marc Jadoul

Marc Jadoul is Strategic Marketing Director at Nokia. A computer scientist by education, and technology evangelist, storyteller, speaker, and blogger by vocation.

Author/co-author of 200+ papers, magazine articles and conference presentations, and a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events, Marc is an advocate of Albert Einstein’s dictum “if you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”

Tweet me at @mjadoul

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