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 city installed 6,000 metered parking spaces on the streets—about 25 percent of the total number of spaces city-wide, and an additional 12,250 spaces in city-owned parking garages, more than 12,000 spaces of all the spaces the city.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and U.S DOT ended the pilot program in 2014 and declared it a success. Yet in the two years since, the program has not undergone any significant expansion, and the "Featured News" section on the homepage of the SFPark website has not been updated since December 2013.

As American cities slog through pilot programs and implement new technologies on a piecemeal basis, many of their European and Asian counterparts have already made substantial progress in incorporating all three of the NLC's requirements of a smart city, including the final step—"the application of information to solve public problems."

The routine process of collecting garbage is an excellent example. You may have seen so-called smart trash and recycling bins in airports on city streets that compost waste automatically. Companies like Compology are developing trash receptacles equipped with sensors that analyze their contents. When they're full, they communicate with the trash-collection companies. This prevents truck drivers from wasting time and gas by picking up half-full dumpsters. Compology reports that using intelligent trashcans can help haulers be more efficient and reduce their annual costs by up to 40 percent.

Sounds futuristic, doesn't it? That is, until you realize that the city of Amsterdam has already implemented such a program.

More than 2,000 garbage cans and dozens of public toilets in downtown Amsterdam were equipped with an RFID chip that communicates with municipal employees via a mobile app. Street cleaning teams scan the RFID chips with mobile devices to record the condition of trash and recycling containers, and log what work they've performed. That information provides municipal officials with real-time, detailed updates on every single container and whether it needs to be cleaned or serviced immediately, tomorrow or next week.

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