2012
09.24

What makes a city “smart?” We hear a lot about smarter cities these days, as communities embrace connected technology within many of their systems and services. But when is it appropriate to label a place with the moniker “smart city?” It seems earning this distinction should require more than simply having a connected wastewater system or transportation system. It should refer to a more integrated connectivity solution that joins multiple applications together.

The idea of the smart city will be discussed in detail at an upcoming conference in Paris, held November 6-8. Called the CARTES Exhibition, the conference focuses on specific ways cities are implementing connected technology, showcasing a range of actual solutions. CARTES defines a smart city as a place where “all parts of its infrastructure and government services are digitally connected and optimized.” This is a high bar to reach, but cities are working toward this model.

This level of connectivity affects not only citizens, but business and industry, government, and infrastructure. At CARTES, the intelligent infrastructure will be broken into three technology areas: sensors, the cloud, and smart interfaces. Wireless networks are a major enabling technology to make everything work together.

Conferences like this one are a great way to advance the discussion of smart cities and what the terminology means. It’s encouraging to see communities showcasing solutions that have worked, allowing other cities to perhaps borrow the idea, or build on it. For instance, at CARTES, NXP will demonstrate a traffic-management system that uses an on-board telematics unit. The goal is to make transportation more efficient by collecting realtime traffic data and relaying it to a back office. The technology is being tested right now in Singapore.

One of the most interesting facts about smart-city technology is simply that it’s available. The systems are here right now, ready to go. But cities understandably need to do a lot of research to decide what exact implementation is right for them. They also need to know how to get citizen and government buy-in, which is a critical part of the process that can make or break a new technology. If citizens don’t understand what a system does or how it benefits them, they may balk at the costs involved and hold up progress.

That’s why conferences like CARTES are important. They provide a venue for cities to exchange information and shine light on new solutions. I’m glad to know people will be talking about smart cities in November, and I look forward to the day when my own city can claim to be smart.

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