U.S. Cities Need the Private Sector's Help Cutting Red Tape Off Smart-City Initiatives

There are enormous growth opportunities for companies able to help cities break down barriers and establish best practices for the use of IoT technologies.
By Laetitia Gazel Anthoine

The NLC report focuses on the smart-city initiatives of Philadelphia, Penn.; San Francisco, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Charlotte, N.C.; and New Delhi, India. All meet the first of the NLC's three requirements for a smart city: implementing ICTs that generate and aggregate data.

For example, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012 signed the city's open data policy, establishing an open data platform and mandated cross-functional collaboration. That enables the city to collaborate with universities and businesses on sensor projects like the Array of Things, which aims to collect and disseminate real-time data. The city created a network of sensors mounted on street light and traffic signal poles to measure temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, ambient, sound intensity, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and surface temperature. Forty-two of these sensors were installed last year, with the goal of deploying 500 by the end of 2018.

The cities in the NLC report are not alone. New York City's LinkNYC project created a 21st-century communications network by replacing more than 7,500 pay phones with high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots equipped with a tablet and charging stations that provide fast and free public Wi-Fi access, free phone calls via the tablet's Vonage app, and device charging.

The list of cities that have laid down the necessary digital foundation for collecting and analyzing continues to grow, with no signs of slowing. Look no further than the nearly 80 impressive proposals submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge last year.

Many cities have already launched pilot programs to explore how to couple the data they're collecting with smart technologies to connect their infrastructures—everything from the water supply, sanitation, transportation and power grid—to the Internet. The trouble is, moving on from those pilot programs to city-wide rollout too often stalls when the evaluation process becomes bogged down and stuck to red tape.

Consider San Francisco's SFPark project, launched in 2011 to leverage real-time data to show up-to-the-second availability of parking spaces. The goal is to reduce traffic by helping drivers find parking spaces more quickly and reduce traffic congestion. New parking meters that accept payment by credit and debit cards or a phone app should reduce frustration (and parking tickets).

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