Smart cities are the newest pipeline for private-to-public technology. Corporations now see the value of leveraging municipal partnerships to either test new solutions or act as large-scale platforms for tools that have performed well in controlled environments.
Business Insider notes Panasonic is putting big money into a smart city development near Denver and has already rolled out free Wi-Fi, LED street lights, pollution sensors, and a solar-powered microgrid. This is just the beginning of a new communication technology application, allowing organizations to leverage real-time offerings to support the increasingly critical link between innovative companies and intelligent cities.
The New Metropolis?
So what does a smart city look like? Multiple technologies are now essential to earn this moniker, including:
- Smart Energy: Smart energy technology and monitoring systems are a must in smart cities. This includes low-power LEDs, solar grids, and the ability to monitor power consumption, outages, and emerging issues in real time.
- Intelligent Transportation: From parking to public transportation, the movement of citizens throughout a city is always a sticking point for municipal authorities. Tools that enable commuters to track buses en route, find empty parking spots in real time, and pay fines online both eliminate frustration and improve overall efficiency.
- Improved Mobility: Both users and data must be able to seamlessly transition from one service or application to another. For example, users who begin filling out municipal forms on their mobile device during their commute should be able to pick up where they left off using home computers or public workstations. Relevant data regarding population, traffic flows, and energy usage should be easily communicated between all city departments.
- IoT Support: There's no denying the impact of IoT devices. For smart cities, this means reliable links with citizen technology along with widespread sensor use — traffic flows, temperature changes, and energy consumption must all be recorded in real time.
Of course, smart cities aren't without their potential problems. First and foremost, there's the dilemma of ownership: Are municipal governments or private enterprises the true masters of infrastructure, power, and wireless communication? Enthusiasm for smart technology, however, combined with increasing government regulation across this vertical should help address these issues. Regardless, expect the pace of adoption to increase as citizens see the direct benefit of improved access and usability.
A New Corporate Communication Technology Application
Communications technology took center stage at CES 2018, as noted by ZDNet, with both companies and consumers expressing excitement about the prospect of 5G connections. Already, enterprise use of 4G and LTE technology has made its way into smart cities; consider the recent implementation of Wi-Fi across New York's historically unserviced underground subway system, and the rising number of mobile apps now offered by infrastructure mainstays such as power and water providers.
Smart cities have also taken a page from the corporate unified communications book, with a focus on connecting the consumer experience across devices and locations — without compromising performance. In many cases, this forces cities to confront the challenges of legacy systems and historic preference to eschew new technology offerings. With tech-savvy citizens expecting the same responsiveness from governments and private enterprise alike, aging solutions are no longer serviceable.
The future of communication technology application in smart cities isn't clear-cut; municipalities and enterprises alike are just starting to discover what delivers the best value for citizens while simultaneously improving ROI. Some new developments fall outside typical use cases, such as the recent grant from the National Science Foundation for Florida Atlantic University College researchers to develop an undersea wireless communications network. This development could offer real value for oceanside and even lake-adjacent cities, though likely not in the immediate future.
More practical applications of enterprise communications for smart cities include evolving APIs. Twitter recently rolled out a new API to power enterprise customer service and chatbots. For smart cities, these same bots could be used to connect with citizens and deliver real-time, location-based data about current municipal conditions.
There's also a move toward decentralized artificial intelligence markets, which Forbes predicts should speed the development of niche services and solutions while eliminating the possibility of enterprise monopolies. This is good news for both organizations and smart cities since open-source technology invariably leads to new developments and innovative applications.
Cities are getting smarter and now depend on enterprise-grade communications technology to empower citizens and manage big data. As corporate communication technology adoption continues to grow, expect increasing spillover into the municipal market as public and private industries leverage the benefits of solutions at scale.
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