Smart cities need to get smarter

Sure, smart grid systems are popular with green geeks, but for the populace at large – and the municipalities that serve them – the benefits of smart technology initiatives such as this aren’t all that obvious or immediate. 

As such, cities are failing to capitalize on the full potential of such initiatives, according to a new report by The Climate Group, Accenture, Arup and Horizon Digital Economy Research at The University of Nottingham (UK), which calls for standardized metrics for quantifying the benefits of smart tech initiatives, among other measures.

The report, entitled Information Marketplaces: The New Economics of Cities, holds that while cities are currently putting information and communications technology to work in an effort to improve their sustainability and efficiency, municipalities are not recognizing or measuring the full value of such initiatives, and are missing a golden opportunity to turn unused data and infrastructure into new low carbon solutions and services.

By way of example, cities currently have access to huge amounts of information regarding how many people ride which passenger buses on any given day of the week.

The report calls for such information to be made publicly available in the form of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which could result in a range of real time commuter information services, making transportation smarter for everyone. 

The report states that opening up such traditionally internal information through APIs will reduce the cost to third party developers in creating new information-based services and applications.

The report also emphasizes the importance of developing a common set of metrics that can translate the benefits of smart tech initiatives into financial and non-financial values of relevance to different stakeholders.

Such metrics would allow cities to compare the relative benefits of different projects and prioritize between them: a smart grid and a road pricing initiative for example, could achieve economies of scale by identifying how a communications backbone could be used for both applications.

* Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling