Smart city success requires road maps, not free association

Municipal governments overwhelmed with the endless choices for smart city projects need to take a breath and plan ahead.

This is the advice from Tormod Larsen, CTO of ExteNet. His Illinois-based company provides mobile connectivity via distributed networks.

He says that cities are being confounded the over-abundance of grandiose smart city projects to choose from.

“Part of the challenge is the cities basically go out and they want to do everything,” said Larsen. “They want a network that does gunshot detection, they want free Wi-Fi, they want meter reading, they want environmental sensors, they want information screens and they want all these different things and they want it for free.”

He says the key is for cities to begin by developing a road map of desired services and then prioritize them as to which will come online earlier and which later.

This enables cities to plan out and build network infrastructure that can achieve the long-term smart city vision, even if some components are targeted for years in the future.

“If you have the network in place, then you at least have a base to build on,” said Larsen. “If you don’t have a network, then it’s a pipe dream.”

“If you’re only focusing on different types of services and don’t take a step back and say ‘ok let me first get the network in place that has the capability of support some of these high priority services’ – and know that’s the backbone, the fundament of making it happen – you have a hard time getting off the ground,” he adds.

Changing the mindset

Besides the early infrastructure planning, cities also need to also reconfigure the mindset of city planning departments towards smart city technology. Specifically, he says it is important for municipal officials to focus on agile development and not stick to the old fashioned way of doing things.

“Sometimes the biggest obstacles we have to being able to build fiber or attach equipment on a pole or a streetlamp, either for a general service perspective or from a connectivity perspective, is the municipality itself,” said Larsen. “We’re hopeful they start seeing the value and the need in having a connected city or the connectivity of IoT, and that that might change.”

“Where we come in today, a lot of municipalities say the only value you bring us is how much you’re willing to pay us…rather than understanding we’re coming in to offer services to the population and the city,” he says.

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