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To Succeed at Smart City, Engage Citizens

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The Smart City Event is happening in about a month, and The Smart City Sentinel has been meeting with our speakers to get a bit of a preview of what attendees should expect from the conference.

Here, we spoke to Mark Modzelewski, VP Operations Manager, Treeline Interactive, who will be a featured speaker in the following session:

Being Smart about Smart City Requirements: It all starts with true citizen engagement. A city isn't an entrenched industry in need of a shock to the system--it's our home. Turning cities “smart” requires systematic engagement of those who are expected to live in these environments. Making a city “smarter” is not a bad idea, per se. There is enormous potential to improve our health, safety, and transportation through the use of data, computing, and the Internet. But we need to get away from this paradigm that individual improvements driven by technology are a panacea.

After years of founding, funding and managing leading start-ups in the US and Europe, Modzelewski and his dog Sunny have returned to California to help head operations at Treeline, an innovation consulting and development agency that works with leading global corporations, start-ups and incubates venture backed spinouts. He has co-founded five venture backed companies, with three successful exits including Lux Research, 349Q and Leonardo Biosystems. He helped to launch beacon company Estimote, going on to serve as COO. Modzelewski has served as an advisor to global corporations Apple, Daimler, Pixar, and GE: leading startups such as Namely, Pilot and ThredUP; as well as IoT companies NodeLab, Platform Science, Silvair, and Avimesa. He founded the NanoBusiness Alliance, the Big Data Coalition and the Water Innovation Alliance and created the first university program for entrepreneurship in the arts with Creative Futures at Tufts-SMFA and taught courses on tech entrepreneurship at RPI.

Here is a little preview of his thoughts:

Smart City Sentinel: What will be some key points you plan to hit in your session?

Mark Modzelewski: Smart cities are not very smart--they are connected.  And they are mostly connected with policies developed by under informed political leaders and aging tech dinosaurs.

However, smart cities can reach their potential if new ways of thinking and doing are deployed.

SCS: What new insights can attendees expect to take home from your session?

MM: The key insights revolve around the failures of current IoT/Smart City efforts to build a platform that offers solutions for the citizens rather than the political leaders.

I will also hit extensively on the perils of disruption and half baked startups working on IIoT and Smart Cities efforts.

And I will touch on design thinking, lean, and agile development and the utter failure of corporate IoT leaders to deploy these methods.

SCS: Can you identify a few important trends influencing your sector of the IoT which will shape the path of the industry? Why these?

MM: The key trends are clueless government leaders  who don't understand anything about tech; slow, thoughtless legacy tech companies dominating due to sales and lobbying capability in gaining traction in IIoT and Smart Cities and clueless; and well funded startups trying to disrupt IIoT and Smart Cities without a clue on how and why the current societal and business foundations exist and the many benefits of it that they are attempting to destroy. 

SCS: What are the biggest challenges facing the IoT? What are some important tools needed to overcome them?

MM: Operational and from a deployment standpoint he biggest challenges are the lack of citizen and worker focused design. Speed (or lack thereof) of development and deployment. Oppressive IoT business models.  And clueless government leaders selling out its citizens privacy and well being.

From a technical standpoint, there is a failure to create adaptable standards. The obsession with gathering data instead of using whats available intelligently.  Solutions that failure to adapt to legacy. infrastructure. And security issues aren't going to be solved by buzzwords. Very short term thinking on things like sensor deployment.

SCS: Which vertical markets have the most to gain from IoT implementation? Which are leading and which are still behind the adoption curve?

MM: Energy, agriculture and transportation are in the process of being upended by IoT.

Laggards are smart cities, infrastructure, and manufacturing.

One of the biggest issues causing delay in smart city efforts is the focus by smart city leaders (both on the corporate and government side) overly focusing on policing rather than public health and safety.

SCS: What sessions (other than yours) are you most looking forward to attending at the Expo? Why?

MM: Jim Frazer and Richard Peal's intelligent transport talks because we spun out a transportation IoT startup in January; and Kim Lundgren's talk as I remember her great work from when I lived in the Boston area.

Register now to receive a $300 discount.


Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Editorial Director

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