'Smart Cities' Would Be Wise to Turn to Private Sector, Not Taxpayers

Source: Real Clear Policy | Johnny Kampis

“Smart cities” isn’t just a description of highly connected towns; it also applies to those municipalities looking to spur growth of “The Internet of Things.” To do that wisely means partnering with private enterprise and easing regulations that could inhibit internet expansion, not building local municipal networks to manage these smart cities. It also will require the Federal Communications Commission to continue to break down barriers to 5G deployment.

A promising recent development is the National Science Foundation’s US Ignite program. This is a network of more than 25 cities committed to working to accelerate smart city growth by sharing resources and tapping local resources such as private providers and academic minds.

Cox Communications is among the leading partners in the program, funding efforts in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and San Diego. Cox senior vice president John Wolfe told the Internet & Television Association in a recent story that he sees the efforts as the cities’ leaders seeking “to combine their people, talent, infrastructure, connected-devices and processes in an effort to improve the quality of life for their residents.” In short, “They want to help their city operate better.”

Phoenix leaders hosted hackathons, events in which computer programmers come together to collaborate on software projects, to develop apps to fund and develop. One of these events produced an app to help the city remind its residents when garbage bins were due to be put out as well as which materials to trash or recycle. Such apps make smart cities more efficient. And this should, in turn, save taxpayer money through lower operational costs, GovTech points out. The increased civic engagement helps cities leverage the talents of their residents.

Atlanta launched a pilot program to test smart city technologies called SmartATL. It uses a 2.3-mile corridor along North Avenue that runs through the Georgia Institute for Technology, near the headquarters of Coca-Cola. The $3 million project involves more than 100 sensors, cameras, and other devices that collect data on traffic, safety, and general efficiency.  

Brent Skorup, senior research fellow in the Technology Policy Program at Mercatus Center, noted that Atlanta is giving private business access to its network, utility poles and other infrastructure to assist in the pilot project. “Getting companies to test these things out will help,” he said of growing the smart cities initiative. “I think there’s a benefit to that type of experimentation.” 

USTelecom estimates there will be close to 100 smart cities around the world by 2025, an increase from some two dozen in 2013. That rapid growth is due to innovative broadband providers who have invested $1.5 trillion in U.S. infrastructure since 1996. “These investments have helped companies build out networks that underpin every smart city,” USTelecom pointed out. They enable “connected devices and sensors embedded in the infrastructure of municipal offices across the nation to connect in the homes of participating citizens,”

Read more here