How Dublin Became a Smart City, Part Two

This series examines how wooing major tech firms and supporting academic researchers is helping to transform the Irish capital.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

It's still early days for the Pervasive Nation program, but there could be many projects within Dublin, from trash collection to bicycle-sharing schemes to building energy or security applications, in which the network it develops will be utilized.

McDonald says that IoT technologies have wide applicability in a fundamental task of city governments: trying to monitor distributed systems on a large scale and then seeking ways to improve or fix those systems. "So anything that can automate that approach for a city is extremely valuable," he states.

Smart-City Lessons Learned
Jamie Cudden, the manager of Smart Dublin, a city-wide effort to coordinate and amplify smart-city projects being developed throughout Dublin, says that by opening itself up to a good deal of experimentation and testbed activity related to smart-city projects, Dublin is also learning valuable lessons about the potential and limits of technology to address urban issues—and those of working with the private sector as well.

"I think [it has taken] a couple iterations of smart-city projects," Cudden says, "but now cities are taking a more bottom-up approach, looking to engage startups and small and medium enterprises. And we're being better about procuring and selecting technology, to avoid being locked in to specific providers."

The first thing, Cudden notes, is to acknowledge that cities are big organizations. "It takes time to get people thinking in different ways [about how to run a city]," he says. "We're still at early stages." What's more, he adds, it is important for city governments and technology providers alike to have conversations across departments and agencies, because doing so might lead multiple departments to find value from a single technological approach to solving a problem.

Finally, Cudden says, it is vital for cities to remain focused on those problems, and to avoid the temptation to use technology for the sake of doing so. "You can quickly go wrong and lose efficiency instead of gain it," he states.

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