The price of being smart: Report notes challenges for Smart City enhancements

Source: Pittsburgh Business News on January 24, 2017 | Gina Hall

The desire for new-era connectivity continues to meet the limitation of present-day funding in many of the nation’s municipalities, according to a report due out today regarding the country’s ongoing smart-city initiatives.

The report, titled 2017 Strategic Directions: Smart City/Smart Utility Report, was produced by engineering, consulting and construction company Black & Veatch. The survey drew 700 responses from representatives of utilities, governments, smart-service providers and public safety department nationwide.

The vast majority of respondents from municipalities (94 percent) view the smart city movement as capable of bringing positive, long-term impacts to cities around the world. These “smart city” elements include modern grids, connected transportation and interactive kiosks.

“Advanced digital infrastructure provides the foundation for the processes, services and applications that will enhance citizen experiences and elevate our cities and utilities to optimal production and service levels,” wrote the authors of the report. “Understanding data — how to collect it, how to use it and how to monetize it — will also be a crucial component to unlocking the full potential of smart integrated infrastructure.”

The report dovetails with the continuing efforts of the MetroLab Network. That group, created in fall 2015, touts as its participants 35 city-university partnerships across the country focused on bringing data, analytics and innovation to city governments.

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is involved in the effort, along with the City of Pittsburgh and former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, who is senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute. The steering committee includes Debra Lam of the City of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was a finalist in the Smart City competition.

Almost 71 percent of government and municipality leaders believe remote sensing and metering will be the most important advancement for smart cities, according to the report, while 50 percent said Big Data will play a major role. More than one-third of the respondents believe autonomous vehicles will make a large impact on their cities in the near future.

Despite these interests, municipalities say they are blocked by budget constraints, limited resources and lack of expertise in bringing many of the ideas to fruition. According to the survey data, only 16 percent of municipalities can self-fund a smart city initiative. Short-term mindset and technology availability were also cited as obstacles.

Read more here