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Defining the evolution of the smart(er) city

“Who here lives in a smart city?” asked Dr. Lawrence Jones VP of Edison Electric Institute to the audience in the “Optimizing smart networks: the role of utilities in smart cities efforts” session during Oracle Industry Connect’s energy and utilities program.

Not a single hand was raised.

“Now, if I asked the mayors of your cities, would they think you live in a smart city?”

Jones continued, building the idea that, in fact, the definition of a smart city is pretty broad—some would say wide open, even. Jones added, though, that we do need to start whittling it down a bit, and that there are certain underlying features that make a city smart where we can start: information, customers, the economics of it. What is key: integration.

“Nowhere do we see tech integration as in the smart city where multiple infrastructures come together,” he said.

Manny Cancel, VP of IT and CIO of Con Edison, added this detail to Jones’ definition, “Cybersecurity has got to be baked into this.” Jones certainly agreed.

Moderator Brad Williams, VP, Industry Strategy at Oracle Utilities, brought up the subject of analytics (in response to Jones’ inclusion of information in his smart city definition).

“But analytics for what? Know the answer to that,” Jones replied. “What is it that you want to analyze? So, now, what information mix do you need.? Analytics needs to start with a solution.”

Cancel added that, while he agreed with Jones’ assessment, those problem/solution combos sometimes present themselves. (He used his own utility as an example of this, noting that they were one of the last major utilities to put in smart meters. They didn’t do it until they figured out how they could use the data. But that did happen. They did find the value.)

“In the end, rather than discussing which cities are smart, it would be easier, really, to just tell us which cities are dumb. Then I can work forward and make the dumb cities smarter,” Jones said.

Panelists did come to agreement on a few ways to make dumb cities, less dumb cities and even somewhat smart cities even smarter. They suggest starting with these six tidbits:

  1. Simplify the conversation so the municipal stakeholders aren’t overwhelmed by the conversation itself.
  2. Plan out integration. What works together already? What needs to work together in the future? How do you lay out the framework for that?
  3. Define your city’s unique problems. If you’re building a brand new city from scratch, you can put in all the “cool stuff” from the start. Retrofitting a community will have layers of issues that don’t exist with the shiny, new smart communities.
  4. Be a good consensus builder. Get all those stakeholders and community influencers on board for this journey.
  5. Think about cost and investment up front (and get regulators into the conversation).
  6. Create smaller proof-of-concept areas to show benefits to the market, and if the market sees those benefits, the market will respond.

 

Read all the insights from Oracle Industry Connect 2017:

Come join us for the next Oracle Industry Connect. Save the date for 2018: April 9-11 in NYC. 

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