City leaders around the world are working to improve the quality of life and increase the number of useful services for their citizens, businesses, and visitors. Smart city initiatives are gaining attention in several countries, as administrators, industry, and citizens are working together to enhance their communities, cities, regions, and nations. After more than ten years of smart city hype, innovative projects have emerged, but few have provided a disruptive impact on the city system itself. Because every city is different, few of the existing models apply universally. An effective response requires leaders to consider a series of prerequisites:

  • Consider the local culture and the people
  • Prioritize basic needs and requests
  • Work at overcoming silos and encourage collaboration across departments 
  • Consider each “smart” initiative as an integral part of an overall city system

A smart city reflects a number of aspirations: efficiency, resiliency, connectedness, innovation, and sustainability. Although the definition of a smart city varies, we can understand its mission: harmonious, sustainable, and inclusive development of urban areas.

Smart Cities on the Rise
Any city that collects data, transforms it into information, and uses the latest information to make decisions in or near real-time to provide better services to citizens, improve operations, and lower cost can be deemed as a smart city. For example, a smart city might lower congestion on its streets and lower pollution by optimizing transportation infrastructure and assets. It might reduce energy consumption by deploying a range of real-time analysis sensors to optimize the use of luminaires to provide just-in-time or incident-based illumination. It might provide faster responses to public safety incidents via real-time capture and analysis of sensor and surveillance data. The power to transform city operations and services through technology is only limited by imagination and economics.

Smart cities are well placed to take advantage of an increasing range of solutions that promise to deliver improvements in mobility, safety, energy, health, education, logistics, and government services.

Why is data important? Because data, when transformed into information, provide insights into what is working well, what is not working, or what needs to be changed to meet the objectives of the city government.

Data can be gathered using many methods. For instance, data can be collected by deploying sensors, by extracting data from existing systems, and by the collection from external data feeds. Cities can also rely on citizens as sensors and collect data from them as well as through open data sources, such as weather data and mapping data. By gathering, storing, and analyzing data, cities gain insights and can take appropriate actions by using a data-driven decision-making process.

Large-Scale Computing and Data Analytics Infrastructure
To meet the demands of smart city solutions, cities need to plan for scaling IT resources securely, cost effectivity, and as needed. Cloud computing can help by allowing cities to create new services rapidly while also optimizing existing resources. Following are some areas in which cloud computing can help:

  1. Agility: Cities can move fast on pilots and evaluate multiple solutions at minimal cost. This helps lower risk when projects are scaled beyond pilots and into city-wide implementations.
  2. Lower Total Cost of Ownership: By leveraging cloud computing, projects can be initiated with zero capital expenditure (for services like computing, storage, and data analytics), and pay for only what you use. According to the International Data Center, AWS delivered a 64.3% savings when compared with deploying the same resources on-premises or in hosted environments. The findings also showed a 560% ROI over five years and 81.7% less downtime.
  3. Better Security and Compliance: Cloud security at AWS is the highest priority. AWS customers benefit from a data center and network architecture built to meet the requirements of the most security-sensitive organizations around the world.
  4. “Ready to Deploy” Solutions: Cities are able to leverage a wide range of off-the-shelf solutions available on AWS by launching them directly from AWS Marketplace with just a few clicks.

The Evolution of Smart City Solutions
Four major trends emerge by examining how cities are moving forward with implementing smart city solutions, especially in the area of data collection, analysis, and citizen interface – IoT, people as mobile sensors, voice assistants, and AI technologies.

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