Fredrik Beckman

SENSATIVE AB – Marketing Manager

Public authorities often struggle to derive the full potential of digital technologies because of the complexities of coordinating multiple organizations and systems. A lack of standardization creates problems with sharing and using data to identify needs, shape new solutions and improve public services. What’s more, if cities are locked into particular technologies or vendors, it can stifle innovation and slow down the progress of digital transformation.

IoT: the critical enabler

Collaboration and innovation lie at the heart of the vision of a smart city, which uses digital tools and data to enhance quality of life for residents, business and visitors. Sustainability is key to a modern high-functioning smart city, with streamlining of city functions and the supply of services matched very closely to real-time demand.To achieve this vision, cities must collect and manage data in completely new ways. The critical enabler for this is the Internet of Things (IoT), where everything and everyone, can be connected and real-time data can be collected and shared with everyone. Yet, the reality is that while the technologies that make up the IoT all exist today, there are several challenges for cities to overcome on their evolution to becoming truly smart cities.

Risking potential benefits

Today there are many connected things in cities. Sensors detect traffic flows; CCTVs capture visual data to monitor people and events for public safety; waste bins can send alerts to centralized collection services when they are full. All this rich information is collected in a highly secure way and processed to deliver a service.The problem for many cities is that all these systems — although they function in very similar ways — are operating as silos that do not share infrastructure or data. According to McKinsey, without interoperability between systems, at least 40% of the potential benefits of the IoT cannot be realized. This is where a “City-as-a-Platform” solution can make all the difference, by providing the ability for systems, people and organizations across the city to easily share, store and manage data.

Common standards

A City-as-a-Platform is a common platform for the day-to-day life of a city, just as
a smartphone is for an individual citizen. It provides a common set of security mechanisms across the city’s various operating systems. There are standardized data models (let’s call that the “language” that the sensor speaks) and common APIs so that systems can talk to each other.With these common standards, it’s much easier to add a new sensor, organization or service, and data can be joined up and aggregated in a host of different ways to produce new insights and drive new innovations that are perhaps unimaginable today. Different agencies, organizations and individuals can compare and share data in creative ways to collaborate on delivering better, more sustainable and more efficient services for people and businesses. What’s more, when different cities use the same platform, data and solutions can be shared between cities.

Organizational and cultural

Technically this level of functionality and integration is not difficult to achieve. Rather,
the challenges for cities are organizational — how can cities organize themselves to be able to share and use data? — and cultural — how can public authorities and their partners be incentivized to do so?In the digital age, data is the new raw material for the creation and delivery of effective services and experiences. Creating a digital infrastructure is surely a priority for cities, as is the drive to embrace digital transformation so that city authorities can realize its full value.


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