The evolution of Smart Cities: big data, digital transportation, and smart policies

The evolution of Smart Cities: big data, digital transportation, and smart policies

The smart cities movement continues to mature, with the realization that a more human-centric approach must take center stage. This was especially notable in Denver, Colorado during the recent Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo where the role of big data, digital transportation, and smarter policies focused on ensuring better outcomes for “citizens first”—the new mantra as the private and public sector align more closely in vision and purpose. And as they do, they are finding that the bridge now connecting them is making once unimaginable opportunities possible.

Big data vs. smart data

One key takeaway from the event was the challenge communities face in dealing with the amount of data being produced. Even for a small city it can be overwhelming. And too much raw data means an increasingly clogged pipeline resulting in missed opportunities to leverage your data to the max. So there is a real need for an effective and efficient way to take big data and refine it into smart data. This is quickly becoming a core infrastructure issue for most every city, smart or otherwise.

By its nature, data is dynamic, and we should transport and use it dynamically, while still keeping it scalable, resilient, and secure. Maximizing the use of data also means seeking stronger and more creative relationships with utilities, key infrastructure providers, and industry. Plus, we must develop long-term partnerships between the private and public sector to spur long-term innovation.

If big data is the new oil, what’s your pipeline?

A key part of big data that is often overlooked is the pipeline. Remember, if big data is indeed the new oil, how do you transport it? More importantly, can your pipeline handle the pressure, and do you have the refinery capacity to make it worth your while? And what about distribution of the refined product? All serious questions that are often overlooked as we race to harvest data. But they need be answered before we begin.

Smart Transportation and Urban Transit

Digital transportation also took center stage as stakeholders from private industry and government opened up on current issues. This included the need for private industry to take the lead in smart transportation and urban transit, since they excel in developing creative approaches that can leverage existing technologies in a cost effective way. The private sector can also be more effective in establishing industry standards for integration and deployment of smart cities technologies and processes. Plus, they are key drivers of best practices that can help communities avoid the mistakes of others.

In this scenario, government agencies could focus more on protecting the public interest, including health and safety issues, via a regulatory role similar to the FAA’s oversight of air travel. But until then, there was general consensus that foundational standards for digital transportation still need firming up before it will all work as intended.

Do smart cities need smart policies?

As expected, the event focused primarily on technology. However, this year’s event did see a heightened awareness of the need for a more human scale, or human-centric, approach to smart cities methodologies. Much of this can be driven by smart policies that help guide responses to health and safety issues, data privacy, and quality of life. Such policies can, by their nature, help increase a community’s resilience as well.




-Kenn Dodson
 April 11, 2019