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    The Advantages and Challenges of the Smart City

    November 20, 2015

    By Per Bauer

    Smart cities are on the rise, bringing with them both challenges and opportunities for IT teams. 

    What is a smart city?

    According to Gartner, a smart city is “an urbanized area where multiple sectors cooperate to achieve sustainable outcomes through the analysis of contextual real-time information sharing among sector-specific information and operational technology.”

    Translation: a smart city is a city gaining information through the use of technology. 

    Around the world, smart cities are starting to use wireless technology to collect data that will help governments make smarter policy decisions, according to National Geographic.

    Santander, Spain, has installed 12,000 IBM sensors across their city streets. Chicago is outfitting its lampposts with environmental sensors. Dublin—intent on establishing itself as a leader in the tech world—has partnered with Intel to line its streets with sensors to collect data on everything from air quality to noise levels.

    As Cradlepoint notes, a city’s sheer size and scope present limitless possibilities for the types of data that could be collected through wireless technology.

    Opportunities: Environment, Transportation, and Everything in Between

    Dublin plans to focus on collecting environmental data at first, but hopes to expand the usefulness of the technology in the future.

    Sensors could track which streets have been plowed after a blizzard, monitor the strength and integrity of public infrastructure (like buildings and bridges), or provide real-time updates on building temperatures to reduce emissions.

    Data collected from roads and intersections could improve traffic conditions or even help dispatchers identify accidents for quicker emergency responses.

    With these tools, there are nearly endless options for what pervasive wireless technology in cities around the world could accomplish.

    Some are concerned that governments could become more like Big Brother, with digital eyes peeking around every corner. Others question whether the information collected will actually be good for the common citizen’s day-to-day life. But it's also important to consider how cities plan to maintain the IT infrastructure of such massive networks.

    Challenges: Smart Cities Need Smart People

    This wireless technology can’t operate on its own, and the advent of smarter cities could revolutionize the IT world—if we’re ready for it.

    Smarter cities will present countless questions, concerns, and exciting possibilities that haven’t even been considered yet. The scale of a city, compared with that of a single business, will require resource management on an entirely new level. All the individual pieces of a smart city system will need to be integrated and accessible.

    Smart cities will also open up more opportunities for the cloud, and capacity management concerns will increase along with them.

    With so many crucial systems sending data, the failure of even one of them could be catastrophic. Consider systems of public transit that rely on IoT sensors, for example. Downtime is no longer an acceptable consequence of data overload when lives hang in the balance.

    The evolution of smarter cities presents many opportunities and challenges for both local governments and IT professionals. As cities become more reliant than ever on technology, IT professionals will be exponentially more important.

    How to Turn Your Smart City Challenge into an Opportunity

    Is your IT department up to the challenge of the smart city? 

    Many of the same IT concerns a business faces, like service optimization maturity and capacity management, will arise in smart cities. But in order to function properly, you’ll need to scale your responses to these issues to meet much higher demands.

    Your IT team needs to provide the resources necessary to keep systems—whether they’re servers or cities—running smoothly.

    Find out if your IT organization has the maturity to succeed as a smart city. 

    Take the assessment

    (Main image credit: Charles Smith/flickr)