City Innovation: focus on outcomes!


Posted on: September 20, 2018 by Albert Seubers

Are IT departments leading innovation in cities?

In my previous four blogs, I have been exploring outcome-based procurement, how this can reduce costs and improve citizen-centric services, and why data plays a major role in this. So, does this data-led approach mean that the city IT department should take a leading role in every procurement process? Perhaps it should – because all connected objects in a city need to be monitored and secured and the data that is captured needs to be stored and engineered to support multiple use cases.

Yet for most of the objects procured by cities today, there are local standards governing use of technology. Are these local standards blocking innovation or can a city change to other technologies easily if the specified outcomes offer greater benefits? And will Information Technology compete with Operational Technology when it comes to innovation in cities?

Let’s take a look at traffic management. Traffic control systems are technically specified according to local standards by the department responsible for traffic control. However, to deliver a broader outcome-based, data-led strategy, it might make much more sense to select an alternative traffic control technology that does not align with local standards. What would prevail in this case? The data-led innovative approach pursued by the IT department or the local technology standards that guide the department responsible for traffic control?

Traffic controllers that are connected to the cloud make it possible to optimize traffic flow based on data analysis of current and historical traffic flows. These controllers can communicate with vehicles to allow priority or conditional priority to traffic without blocking an entire intersection. They can even communicate with smartphone apps used by cyclists or pedestrians who need more time to cross the intersection. A single system using new controller technology combined with data analytics in the cloud will even out traffic flow, reduce disruptive impacts from EMS vehicles, guide trucks and buses through the city – reducing stationary traffic and therefore cutting emissions and saving fuel, and better safeguard vulnerable people on the roads.

As evidence that this type of connected solution is the right way forward, the following results have emerged from research started in the City of Copenhagen, which was bold enough to change to a more innovative approach as their aim is to be CO2 neutral by 2025.

Studies show that urban traffic is responsible for 40% CO2 emissions.

Optimizing traffic flow has significant impact through reducing number of stops by 17%.

Which reflects a reduction of by 7%, reduced delay off-peak by 18% and during peak by 8%, optimizing traffic efficiency by 14%.

These are surely the outcomes that cities are aiming for. We need standards but to make change possible, standards for connecting and controlling systems should never block innovation. Please watch this video to get an idea of what one single system can do for your city.

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About Albert Seubers

Director Global Strategy IT in Cities
Albert H Seubers (1959) graduated at Agricultural University Wageningen in 1985. Ever since he worked in IT consultancy focused on governmental topics. He worked for Dutch Telecom implementing the first fiber networks in Netherlands, for CMG as director in the Public Sector Service group, for HP as Public Sector executive before he joined Atos. Since 2011 he is Director Global Strategy IT in Cities for Atos. The Atos MyCity program focusses on the virtuous circle of managing a city on all aspects as safety, citizen services, employment, education, social and health care, transport and traffic, sustainability and governance and economics. Engaging citizens and business communities to create and maintain a sustainable, safe and prosperous city is the key message in Atos MyCity. In his role he works with cities all over the world to help them define their strategy often referred to as a Smart City Strategy or find solutions to support their strategy. Albert is a strong believer in the fact that data is enabler for successfully creating the city of the future.

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