Conceptually, the smart cities trend can be described as the application of technology to solve problems within cities and communities. Most citizens, businesses, and local government leadership can readily cite visible problems, such as traffic congestion or parking headaches, that could benefit from technology. While these types of use cases are a good starting point for the smart cities discussion, there is much more to the story, especially as it relates to behind-the-scenes innovations. The breadth of possibilities, and the accompanying complexities and unknowns, present as many questions as answers at this point. This latest research – based on opinions of citizens and government, provides further insight into how smart cities and communities are developing and what to expect going forward.

Elevating the understanding of smart city concepts will take time; ‘bridge technologies’ can help

Despite the growing number of smart city initiatives underway, the trend still has a ways to go before it fully resonates with stakeholders. CompTIA research indicates familiarity among citizens, especially those in smaller towns and rural areas, is low. Among segments of government, familiarity is only slightly better. The emergence of a wide-range of smart technologies for home or business use is starting to provide exposure to virtual assistants, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, robotics, and more.

Making the leap from digital to smart requires advances on many fronts

Most municipalities are on the digital continuum, meaning some level of e-government services are provided to citizens or technology used in an operational capacity. To make the leap from digital to smart, however, requires more than deploying a new mobile app and a few sensors. Rather, it typically requires a re-thinking of everything from IT architecture and broadband infrastructure, to workflows, user experience (UX), staff training and more. Smart cities must be built on smart foundations.

Data is critical to smart city success…and one of the most challenging components to get right

There are many moving parts to the data component of smart city pursuits. Given the countless examples of private sector firms wrestling with big data challenges after years of effort, it must be assumed local governments, many of which lack deep data expertise, will face many data-related hurdles.

Ensuring smart cities are cyber-safe will require resources and a commitment to shared responsibility

Across the board, businesses, government leadership, and citizens voice concern over the ever-expanding scope and severity of cybersecurity threats. As smart city initiatives move into the realm of critical infrastructure and tapping into new streams of sensitive data, the consequences of inadequate defenses become even more dire. To mitigate the risk of worse-case-scenarios, a concerted effort will be required to implement strong cybersecurity fundamentals – including cyber training, coupled with the agility required to address emerging threats.