There are many definitions of smart Cities and there will be more to come. At the same time, most agree that a smart city (or suburb or community) is not a static, defined state but more of a journey. We certainly see a smart city that way. In fact, we see it as a series of IoT-enabled projects that develop or unfold over time: smart city evolution.
Many initiatives today are phase 1. A project that sees sensors being added to existing business activities to improve efficiency fits here. A good example is a smart bin project, a waste management operation looking to improve efficiency. Sensors are deployed to advise the waste removal truck when to make the journey to empty the bin.
The same can be said for a smart lighting project. Those responsible for energy efficiency may deploy LED lights with sensors for remote control and monitoring.
In these examples, a single department makes a siloed decision for its own internal reasons. Today, most smart city projects are in phase 1.
These projects occur when a siloed project (phase 1) recognises the potential of combining information from another department or silo to do something more innovative.
An example of this could be combining waste bin monitoring with smart lighting to offer a new service, leveraging both data sets.
In phase 3, phase 2 lateral thinking now gets taken to the next level. Data starts to be gathered from a range of sources across the business and used for new business models that do not easily fit into any traditional silo.
By now the overall business is being strategically guided by increasingly real time data sources across the business.
To date we have seen very few examples around the world of mature phase 3 or 4 initiatives. However, this is where value starts to accelerate and to apply to all stakeholders.
Phase 4 will also see Artificial Intelligence come to the fore. Consider the situation when two or more siloed departments embark on phase 1 projects and choose an IoT platform to gather, store, secure and process the data.
As phase 2 emerges, each department wants to retain its platform for broader use across the business. Several platforms may have been purchased, one in each silo – the resulting internal competition to arrive at the “winning” platform costs time and money.
This is one reason why it’s so important to consider IoT platforms and the implications of data sharing, and indeed interoperability, as early as possible in the journey. It’s also vital to recognise that phase 1 is when you should really be thinking about platforms and interoperability for the business – not just the silo.