A common infrastructure to enable all the possibilities of a connected city is a very smart thing, but even with the broadband internet, sensor networks, and the Internet of Things (IoT) platforms in place, that’s only half the story.
The other half is the acceptance and engagement of your citizens. Citizens are key to creating a smart city IoT that can improve the well-being of its population and reinvent itself as needs change. The following IoT standards and best practices help initiate, optimize and evaluate initiatives to involve end users.
Launch digital equality initiatives
Assuring everyone has familiarity and access to broadband technologies isn’t just ethical, it’s a practical consideration. The digitally excluded often strain a city’s social services, criminal justice, and acute healthcare spending. Public-access computers and basic technology classes are only the first steps.
- Literacy and numeracy – consider workarounds that allow the digitally illiterate to access online services and training while preserving their dignity. For example, lower the reading levels of city and community website content and use colors and images to guide users.
- Relevance – offer online information and services on topics important to people in their daily lives, including schools, careers, taxes, recreation, transit, and health. Where there is strongly religious, ethnic or cultural identification, bring houses of worship and social organizations online.
Enlist local participation in technology and field trials
Surveys and group sessions provide valuable input. Are end users adept and comfortable in field trials? Does your project scale and satisfy the demands of a growing population? Collecting and analyzing survey data can then be used to guide decision making that best reflects the needs of end users.
As an example, let’s look at the changes made at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) earlier this year. A CES2017 pre-event survey of nearly 200,000 attendees identified concerns with commuting to and from the convention center. In response, the city of Las Vegas and the Consumer Electronics Association partnered with badge provider ITN International to field test and implement a chip-enhanced ID badge, powered by NXP Semiconductors. Trial participants could pre-purchase a Las Vegas Monorail pass, pre-loaded along with credentials at CES2017 badge pick-up, or use AppXplorer to add the monorail pass later with equal convenience and efficiency.
Using social media and other channels is a low-cost way to reach previously disengaged populations, garner feedback, and evaluate public opinion to make better-informed decisions about services. Citizen engagement played a key role in Chattanooga’s move to revitalize its economy with a high-speed broadband infrastructure. Bi-weekly “intentional conversations” among citizens, real estate developers and its local energy utility and internet provider analyzed the smart city initiative. Community outreach by utility reps communicated smart grid plans and gauged reactions to “triple play” internet services and whether the city should even pursue the project. A contest on how to best use the deployed technology yielded quality proposals that were then presented for community evaluation.
As municipalities and their technology partners create smart cities, technology will reign king. The demand for reliable and secure networks will be of the essence as will advanced and intuitive applications. Yet, without citizens to use and engage with the technology, the smart city cannot reach its full potential.