Cities around the world are facing some big and complicated problems, with few easy answers at the ready. Rising energy costs, environmental concerns, and new government initiatives have inspired a focus on sustainable IT operations. But how can cities be expected to solve these crises, while also improving citizen services and ensuring future economic success?

Advanced information and communications technology (ICT) is a great answer, but this is easier said than done. Cities frequently face logistical hurdles on the road to becoming Smart Cities. I believe the key is creating a more effective “connected transformation,” harnessing the power of cloud computing for cost reduction and the delivery of vital services.

We’ve seen this in the enterprise sector: An intelligent IP-enabled information network provides a single, multiservice infrastructure to support productivity and cost initiatives—all achieved remotely, via cloud management. Government agencies are beginning to follow this lead. The public sector, for example, is finding new ways to measure such things as power consumption, thereby controlling energy output, reducing costs, and increasing operational efficiency. For government as well, the cloud is becoming an important tool for achieving greater sustainability.

Overall, the cloud is helping to create more effective city management, and it enables the network to become:

  • Observable. Cities can monitor systems, power flows, and equipment, with no physical or location constraints.
  • Controllable. Providing remote two-way communications and data between stations, systems, and equipment will maintain effective operations.
  • Automated. Hands-off processes allow for greater cost efficiency.
  • Secure. Layers of defense throughout a cloud grid will assure service reliability, prevent outages, and protect citizens.

The result is an intelligent, integrated cloud infrastructure that is pivotal to a Smart City’s evolution. Some amazing technology advances are making it possible for complex systems to be managed—and self-managed—remotely and efficiently. A flood of recently published case studies show how, in practical terms, high connectivity is essential to a new future for buildings and cities, and to the urban economy as a whole.

New York City is already proactively bringing information to citizens through an integrated platform called City24x7. This offers local information on displays in obsolete spaces such as pay phone booths, and it is accessible anywhere, anytime, on any device. Visitors can discover top-rated restaurants and attractions. Residents can learn about local programs and services, and receive safety alerts. Travelers can save time by accessing real-time data about public transit and roads. The platform has seen astounding results already; currently City 24×7 is in the process of building up to 250 city-approved display locations. Cisco IBSG’s white paper, “Transforming the City of New York,” reveals more about how City 24×7 informs, protects, and revitalizes cities. There is also a video, “A Smart City Transformation of the City of New York.”

Cloud has become a key enabler for those seeking to transform some core aspects of modern life. This includes how schools train the next generation of workers; how companies hire and encourage innovators; and how cities change their economies. ICT has changed the publishing, education, health care, retail, manufacturing, and financial services industries, and it can now address issues that are front and center for every city and government.

The bottom line is that ICT helps leaders to address key problems by helping them to improve government efficiency and strengthen city management. In the process, it provides new ways to encourage economic growth. Cloud, as a critical component of an integrated network of technologies, enables us to think outside the traditional analog box in our quest for solutions.

The benefits are clear, but where exactly to begin? Look for the next edition of this two-part blog for suggestions on next steps toward harnessing Smart City cloud management or click here to register and reserve your copy of the complete compilation of the blog series, including this two-part blog as well as a variety of cloud resources, which will be available in May.

To read this blog in Spanish, click here.  For Portuguese, click here.


Gordon Feller

Director, Urban Innovations, Public Sector Practice Internet Business Solutions Group

Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG)