The urbanizing of first-world and developing countries has created a unique need for cities to become smarter and better-connected. This desire, along with a recent flurry of technological advances, has given birth to a concept known as the "smart city"—where networked infrastructure and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are leveraged to improve social, cultural and economic development.
Stakeholders are highly motivated to undertake smart city projects for three main reasons:
- Improving the overall quality of life for citizens
Governments in Zurich, Switzerland, Chattanooga, Tennessee and several other cities have already begun connecting their city, and have found terrific results.
With the concept of the smart city gaining worldwide appeal, Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) (ALU) recently undertook a market research study to better understand the players, the processes and the focus of these initiatives. The company's Market and Consumer Insight (MCI) team looked particularly at the role of service providers and how they can create unique value for stakeholders.
The results of the "Getting Smart About Smart Cities" study were illuminating. After looking at dozens of smart city projects, ALU outlined a few major themes:
- Smart cities can improve a public and private services including education, healthcare, public safety, transportation and utilities.
- Creating green smart cities or refurbishing existing cities into smarter ones is not possible without government backing or involvement. Private companies and partners can play a major role in smart city initiatives, but government officials must be key drivers and decision makers.
- Despite holding key assets, service providers have yet to take a strong enough role in these projects. Smart cities are a viable business opportunity for service providers, who need to build partnerships with other players in the value chain to find success.
"And finally, we found that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play a major role in the development of smart cities projects, but ICT is seldom seen as a separate segment with its own designated budget," Alcatel's Louis Witters noted in a blog post. "ICT is typically part of other functional areas, such as transportation, energy saving, or waste management."
Witters and the rest of the MCI team stress that service providers can position themselves as key ICT providers in smart city value chains. Service providers can offer:
- A trusted brand
- Sophisticated authentication and billing capabilities
- Data center scale
- Real-time customer insights and technology expertise
- Mass-market customer care and self-service capabilities
Alcatel-Lucent gleaned much of its insight from on-premise studies in cities that have used next-generation infrastructure to connect their residents. MCI's Debbie Fischer documented recent trips to two of the world's smartest cities to hear how a fully-connected infrastructure has changed the lives of residents.
The "smart" architecture that defines the city of Chattanooga has drastically improved the quality of life of local citizens. Fischer put together a list of the top stories and visions that she heard while visiting the city.
- A LEED-conscious architect who can imagine a host of new energy development applications and businesses creating more sustainable architectural designs and proving the value of eco-sustainable living.
- A busy mother who hopes to hold parent/teacher conferences over the Web so that she can continue to watch her other children.
- Stories of a number of businesses that call Chattanooga because of the advantages of near-ubiquitous high-speed Internet.
Check out the YouTube (News - Alert) clip below for a more in-depth look at the smart city of Chattanooga.
Fischer heard much of the same in Switzerland's famous city, where she was greeted with the phrase "I have everything I need" on numerous occasions. Alcatel's customer, EWZ, provides citizens with ubiquitous Web access, while the Swiss Railway and city planners have created travel apps that help eliminate traffic and congestion.
Zurich citizens have many grand ideas for their smart city including several eco-sustainability initiatives and healthcare projects like connecting pharmacies with patients and doctors.
The MCI team has been busy researching projects both looking at data and obtaining first-hand knowledge from initiatives such as its recent trip to India to look at the phenomena of neo-urbanization and the role ICT is playing. How and why will/can service providers be key players in smart city initiatives is a fascinating subject, and bookmarking the MCI home page is an excellent way to keep up-to-date on news and insights from around the world.
Edited by Peter Bernstein