September 08, 2017

How Smart Businesses Can Help Make Smart Cities

By Special Guest
Fred Ellermeier, VP & managing director, Smart Integrated Infrastructure business, Black & Veatch

Smart cities are good for business, but finding the right funding model can be difficult. From the direct impacts of sustainable practices to the indirect benefits of new talent and economic development attracted to the area, businesses can prosper with the right program. But putting the ideal smart city programs and policies in place – and financing them – is a big challenge.

The good news is that businesses can often have a big say in how their cities use technology tobecomesmart.The secret to smart cities lies in proper master planning, finding the best technology mix, and creating the proper partnerships. Businesses can help with all three.

Supporting your smart city’s economic vision
Master planning is the first step to smart city success. A city’s ability to achieve smart status begins at the planning stage, by defining a vision that addresses both technological and economic realities and aspirations.

Now the smart city landscape is filled with one-off technological solutions brought to municipalities by well-intentioned businesses, but which then fail for any number of reasons. As a result, many cities are hesitant to bring on new technologies.

The workshop’s findings show us those businesses that want to become engaged and have their solutions adopted must clearly demonstrate how their offerings can addresskey economic drivers like productivity, inclusivity and resiliency. These drivers are increasingly referenced in smart city visions and will be critical communication points for businesses that want to help shape their city’s future.

Fitting the right peg in the right hole
Before you go much further down the road of a smart city partnership, you need to be able to clearly communicate how your solution aligns with the emerging priority technologies that smart city initiatives are evaluating.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology identifiestwo hot technologies that are making an important positive impact on a number of existing city systems. The first is big data, a catch-all term for large-scale data collection, storage, and analytics programs. The second, still very much nascent, is the Internet of Things. Together, these technologies are starting to impact how smart cities are improving their services–from transportation to emergency services, not to mention utilities like water and power.

Just because your company’s business doesn’t fit nicely into any of these buckets doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance of partnering with a smart city initiative. Integration is key; businesses should ensure that their services can integrate nicely with these emerging technologies.

Partnering right
Successful smart citiesform partnerships with key stakeholders to build the right programs, and through these partnerships businesses can ensure their voices are heard. Engineering, procurement, and construction projects can often be easily outsourced through public-private partnerships, which share the responsibility for funding between the city and private entity.

There are a few key rules for PPP success. Make sure all the stakeholders have a voice, keep the public and all your stakeholders informed, find a champion in the public entity you’re working with, educate everyone on the benefits, and get buy-in from all parties early and at all levels.

Today, public-private partnerships are making a huge difference, overcoming the legacy of siloed municipal services and integrating systems that will be better at delivering critical services, empowering communities, and elevating quality of life.

New technologies can be both beneficial and problematic for anyone adopting them,and especially for smart city initiatives. This is the innovator’s dilemma. The cure for this, however, is to have the vision in place, an active and engaged champion (many cities have hiredchief innovation officers), informed stakeholders, and an educated public.

There is room in the smart city ecosystem for both top-downvision and community-sourced innovation, and knowing where that balance point sits will help your business get the most out of its relationship with a public entity. Thanks to advanced technology, innovativefinancing, and strategic integration of criticalsystems, cities are making significant strides toward a safer, more sustainable, and more accessible future.

Fred Ellermeier is a vice president and the managing director of Black & Veatch’s Smart Integrated Infrastructure business (www.bv.com/markets/integrated-infrastructure).

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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