Cities have traditionally operated their various agencies—utilities, healthcare, education, public safety, air quality, water and waste management—in silos, creating duplication in investment and limiting effectiveness.

In the face of population shifts and rapid urbanization, cities and local government leaders are realizing that in order to compete economically and grow sustainably, they have to integrate these functions and the data they generate and require.

Developing and maintaining a city’s digital infrastructure is becoming as important as the development and maintenance of its physical infrastructure. Like a fourth utility, the services offered across a digital infrastructure are becoming as essential and ubiquitous as water, electricity or plumbing. Jobs and investment—the lifeblood of the city—will depend on it.

Making this vision a reality requires that the many city vertical systems operate more cohesively, adopting an open data approach to gather and share information across a single über network. Cisco refers to this as Smart+ConnectedCity Infrastucture Management (CIM).

CIM is an umbrella concept that encompasses hardware, software and application components from Cisco and an ecosystem of partners to provide support for city agency activities as well as for citizen, tourism and business activities. It includes a growing portfolio of solutions to address the challenges urban leaders face today, including:

As one city official wrote in an inquiry that led to a discussion of CIM solutions for his town, “Our public works guys are doing all kinds of brainstorming about stuff they want to be able to do downtown…and it all screams network.” Crafting and maintaining a network to support all the stuff cities want to do downtown requires some special components.

We’ll talk about Smart+Connected City Wi-Fi here. Stay tuned for a deeper dive on the other CIM solutions in upcoming posts, or follow the links to read more about them now.

City Services go Mobile…Wirelessly

The way we live and work these days—often on the move around the city—depends on having Internet access. Understandably then, the foundation of the Cisco City Infrastructure Management solution is Cisco Smart+Connected City Wi-Fi.

In addition to providing ubiquitous Internet access, City Wi-Fi brings together various stakeholders to create innovative new business models:

  • City workers can benefit from being able to connect to each other, to their central systems and to connected objects via specialized apps. City planners and decision-makers need to understand how services are being used; law enforcement seeks more information on safety and security issues. City maintenance crews and first responders need to know about problems or emergencies. 
  • Citizens want to tap social media and other online resources to access and share info, find friends and services and access pertinent city information—on licenses, taxes, elections, road conditions, traffic—while on the go. 
  • Visitors want to know what’s going on in the place they’re visiting and how to get there. 
  • Businesses want to increase the visibility of their products and services to new and existing customers in a low-cost, targeted way and access suppliers.

City Wi-Fi will carry data to and from the growing number of Internet of Everything connected devices–video cameras, tablets, smartphones, wearables and other communication equipment plus sensors in almost everything, attached almost everywhere, sensing air and water quality, temperature, pressure (as in embedded parking sensors), and so on, in myriad environments across the city and beyond.

City Wi-Fi will be the electronic fabric that knits communities together and allows cities to continue to reinvent themselves smartly while still nurturing their unique cultural quintessence.

Taking Urban Services Global

City and local government leaders today are required to act locally…but they must begin thinking globally. Connectivity across a city with City Wi-Fi and the ability to tap into the Internet of Everything makes possible an entirely new approach to providing urban services. As happened previously with IT services and engineering services, urban services are now about to evolve to a Global Urban Services Industry—in which expertise can be brought together wherever the need exists. We’re estimating that this new market could yield around $2 trillion in revenues and savings over the next decade.

CIM and City Wi-Fi will certainly play a critical role in supporting the locally provided aspects of urban service. But the market—both supply and demand—unfolds on a global stage as does the competition to capture market share. 

  • Consider: An Israeli start-up that has the expertise and experience to successfully manage the water systems in cities in Chile, Singapore, and Australia.

  • Consider: Students in Songdo, South Korea receiving English-language tutoring by English teachers in the US via TelePresence…and making a decent living at it.

  • Consider: Doctors in urban hospitals in Tanzania—a country with the world’s 4th highest birthrate but no pediatric radiologist or neonatal cardiologists—receiving consultations via Telepresence with radiologists and cardiologists in Bangalore who can read high-definition diagnostics delivered by connected medical equipment over the Internet.

There are hundreds more examples…made possible by the new level of connectivity. This global approach to identifying urban service needs and fulfilling them with expertise and information, wherever it resides, is truly groundbreaking.

The new Global Urban Services Industry marketplace is an achievement that can significantly reduce costs that previously rendered service delivery—such as clean water—prohibitively expensive and extend access to many previously unserved. It can expand opportunities for those with expertise and experience in key areas—such as education and psychological services—that may be underutilized in their local markets to offer their services to citizens across a much larger world marketplace. It has the potential to change the way many people work, play and live…and to help ensure, in some cases, that they do.

For a deeper dive on the elements that support a Global Urban Services Industry Market, you can review the Internet of Everything – Delivering Citizen Services White Paper based on a study we commissioned with IDC.

Next up…

Stay tuned for more information on some specific City Infrastructure Management solutions that are already proving successful in cities across the globe.

NB: I’ll be part of a panel on “The Caring City” at the New Cities Summit that takes place in Dallas this week to discuss city healthcare challenges, opportunities and advancements. Other Cisco staff will be on hand to show how we can draw from our successes in 127 city projects around the world and bring some similar results to the City of Dallas. This event will be recorded and will be available on the New Cities Foundation website after the event.

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Anil Menon


Smart+Connected Communities and Cisco Deputy Chief Globalisation Officer