It wasn’t so long ago when a city’s technology was considered “smart” if streets had synchronized traffic lights. Much has changed since then – smart streetlight sensors collect and transmit data on everything from traffic flow, weather, and can even record video. Smart infrastructure technology includes water leakage detection to prevent extraneous water waste. Smart energy grids can send unused energy from solar-powered buildings and provide it to electric vehicles in the surrounding area via charging stations. 

In short, smart city technology is getting ready to dominate the new decade and change what it means to be a modern city.

What is a modern “smart city?”

A modern smart city is characterized by the use of intelligent solutions to optimize responsive governance for engaging citizens, streamline redundant tasks and enhance the quality and performance of public services such as energy, transportation and utilities. Municipalities must ensure that in the rush to make their cities technologically efficient and smart, they keep focused on the most important piece of the equation – engaging the end-user. Citizens now expect the cities they live in to plug seamlessly into their daily lives and respond intuitively to their every need; just like how two-day shipping made online shopping more convenient, online payments and renewals for government services have made things easier for citizens. Citizens who feel their voices are heard and their needs are met will be more satisfied with their local government services and more engaged with their community.

How does engaging citizens help with a smart city initiative?

Citizens should be provided with a reliable source of real-time information without public employees having to take time away from the day-to-day functions of government. Providing this data to citizens – such as information about energy usage in smart meters and traffic flow of driverless vehicles – allows municipalities to deliver on their mandates of transparency. Not only does this enhance the public’s awareness of ongoing projects, but it gives citizens an overall feeling of involvement. With the right technology platform, municipalities can provide the data in an easy-to-read, consumable fashion which helps further their mission of providing the best service to their citizens. The utilization of that data inevitably leads to greater innovation.   

Fusing citizen engagement with smart city initiatives:

Local governments decide which smart city technologies will be implemented in their cities. But the citizens who incorporate the technology into their daily routines will be the ultimate decider of whether or not the implementation is considered successful. When choosing which smart city technology to adopt, municipalities and city decision makers should make sure the following features are prioritized for maximum citizen engagement:

  • Self-service: Self-service and a “do-it-yourself” outlook will be the most important feature of the new smart city. Citizens will want to have 24/7 access to information and all crucial city services, like licenses, permits, etc., including after hours and on weekends. Automation of routine city services, such as license renewals and permitting requests, will allow smart city technology to perform services for citizens while freeing up municipalities to focus on more time-intensive tasks.  
  • Agility: Smart city technology of the future should be extremely responsive to the needs of its users, and it can do so by being able to quickly scale up to service all of an agency’s citizens. Utilizing the data collected from new technology initiatives – instead of letting the data sit in a server unattended – will help municipalities make services much more efficient through better resource management, the ability to forecast needs and a clearer understanding of demands and usage.
  • Connectivity : It is important that newly implemented smart city applications will be able to connect not just with other smart city tech, but with the people using them. If applications fail to seamlessly integrate into a citizen’s life – much like their consumer technology already does – the smart city initiative has a much higher chance of failure.

Technology will continue to rapidly advance in the coming years, as will a municipality’s opportunity to utilize technology to address pain points experienced by their citizens. However, because smart city technology can be expensive and time-consuming to implement, local governments cannot afford to miss the mark when introducing these new technologies to their citizens. By placing a sharp focus on maximizing citizen engagement when adopting smart city initiatives, communities are in a much better position to seize the opportunities presented by technological advancement and modernization.