At every level of government, constituents handle more daily tasks than ever with their smartphones. Along with this increased mobility comes new opportunities for city and municipal agencies to create seamless connections with local services.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a smart city is “an innovative city that uses information and communications technologies (ICTs) and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects.”
How the cloud enables mobility
“Critical to many of the technology trends related to smart cities,” says Dr. Rodger Lea, writing for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), “is the underlying communications infrastructure that enables smart cities to connect infrastructure, devices, and people, and gather data and deliver services to myriad endpoints.”
Cloud computing in particular, he notes, “has had a significant influence on the development of smart cities, affecting the way cities manage and deliver services and enabling a broader set of players to enter the smart city market.”
In fact, the cloud is the foundation for the smart city’s ecosystem. Be they public or private sector, cloud services provide the ability for all stakeholders – constituents, visitors, employees, third-party private companies – to communicate and share data easily. Simply put, cloud communications is the infrastructure that connects all types of mobile devices and applications needed for the smart city.
Considering going cloud, but not sure which type is right for your business? Then check out our cloud infographic here. >
How to build a smart city
As you plan your move into more efficient, more responsive government, these five technologies should lead your list:
Cloud communications. The cloud’s flexibility allows you to control both costs and data. Governments can save money when they deploy a hosted solution because there’s no hardware to buy or maintain. They can also take advantage of new services and easily scale without involving their IT team. In addition, municipalities can choose how they want to store their data – on their own servers or in a secure cloud environment. And they also have the option of using their own data center to protect sensitive data while making communications tools – such as video conferencing – available from a public cloud, which offers more capacity to handle demand spikes. This flexibility reduces costs and increased security
Mobility. Citizens aren’t the only ones who are on the go. Since officials are often away from city hall, mobile features are a must for responsive government. For example, call routing enables employees to answer questions on their mobile device no matter where they are. With collaboration tools such as video conferencing and screen sharing, they can join meetings and share documents remotely.
Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing. Connecting physical devices – like street lamps, CCTV or subway cars – via the internet allows cities to collect real-time data and use it to increase efficiencies and lower costs.
Edge computing (via the cloud) is the term used to describe the collection of this IoT data, as well as the use of it close to the physical infrastructure being monitored. For example, data collected from a building’s sensors can change the temperature and lighting as use shifts during the day.
Harnessing IoT requires the processing of huge amounts of data. With the cloud, points out Lea, “cities are now able to access and use massive computing resources that were too expensive to own and manage only a few years ago.”
API Integration. The ability to share data between government, citizens and private organizations is made possible through the use of APIs. By integrating government applications into the communications infrastructure, citizens can use their smartphones to pay for services, fees and even taxes, all while lowering government operating expenses.
Integrated CRM. Look for a cloud communications solution that combines citizens’ records and information so that your government’s staff can deliver personalized service when constituents call. Communications via chat, SMS and self-service via the government’s website save time and lower costs.
Also, incorporate social media so that public employees can monitor and respond more quickly to citizens’ needs. For example, that massive pothole on South Street needs to be repaired sooner rather than later. But this doesn’t require blowing your budget. Choose only the features that best serve your constituents and grow as you need to.
You don’t have to be an international metropolis to be a smart city. Municipalities big and small are adopting new technologies that streamline citizen interactions, improve performance and save money. Cloud communications supports greater mobility and is at the center of this revolution. It enables governments to improve services and quality of life at lower costs.