There are a wealth of platforms, tools and technologies available to deliver smart city functionality. In this short guide, we highlight the main points to consider and why.
We see many smart city deployments that have been procured to solve point solutions, such as managing public transport or controlling street lights. These are fine, but create small silo solutions that duplicate functionality and are difficult to interconnect, creating more work, increasing costs and limiting future expansion.
Tip: Start with a big vision involving all departments of the city, external service providers and – most importantly – the people who will live, work and play in the city. Break the delivery into smaller bite-sized services.
Think open standards
Open standards make things work. Using established, clearly documented and supported standards prevents integration headaches.
Tip: Consider something like the FIWARE Context Broker, a Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) building block that is able to collect and combine data from multiple sources into an understandable and manageable whole.
Think secure, think modular
Many of our customers are deeply concerned about the security of their data – and rightly so. It most likely contains personally identifiable information (PII) plus financial, health, welfare and a whole host of other sensitive details. There is tension between the perceived threat of unauthorised data access on a public cloud service and the desire to take advantage of cost savings. Customers tell us they want to keep their arms around their citizens’ data.
Tip: Deploying a smart city solution in secure containers, like OpenShift, gives this flexibility while also taking advantage of public cloud providers, creating something called a ‘hybrid-cloud’. Multiple containers can be easily created, moved and collapsed, as and when needed.
Think scale up and scale out
If you’re following tip 1, you’re starting small and growing quickly. Let’s say you started with your street lamp service, being able to monitor and control lights remotely and have them behave differently based on external factors, such as switching on at night when a bus pulls up at a nearby stop.
As you connect more lights, you need to scale up the service. Perhaps you next add a connection to your public transport service. The street lamps can ‘follow’ the buses or trams around their route, switching on at designated stops, staying on until all the passengers have dispersed or switching on if a vehicle stops unexpectedly.
Scaling may be reasonably linear, with predicted spikes in demand easily catered for: major sporting events and music festivals happen on a predictable cadence. However, in a climate crisis world, more cities are experiencing an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Being able to bring extra capacity online in seconds to support emergency services and other first responders is critical.
Tip: Your smart city platform relies on an underlying IT infrastructure of servers, routers, storage devices and cabling: a mixture of hardware and software. It’s important the two integrate easily and seamlessly so increased demand at the smart city layer can be adequately serviced by the underlying IT infrastructure.
Think resilience and support
As a city administrator, you are well aware of the challenges and hardship faced by citizens, businesses and colleagues should there be an interruption to one of your cities’ primary or secondary services or systems. For 24 hours a day, seven days per week, 365 days per year, switching it off and back on again is not an option.
Tip: Look for a vendor that has experience in providing the critical infrastructure in sectors that demand high availability and reliability because their business depends on it. Consider looking at sectors whose patterns match your own demands. Utility companies, airlines and banks are examples of sectors requiring resilience. The ability to automatically patch and repair, identifying and fixing without any interruption to service, is a model for how citizen services should operate.
Think, who else?
You don’t have to blaze a new trail if you don’t want to. There is a duty of care when spending taxpayers’ money to deliver the best value, which doesn’t necessarily mean the solution with the lowest upfront cost.
Tip: Ask your potential supplier for a list of references and introductions to customers who have deployed similar solutions to your criteria. Some examples for you to consider are the city of Montevideo, the city of Malaga and the city of Valencia.
by Leslie Hawthorn, Manager – Vertical Community Strategy, Red Hat Open Source Program Office, and Jim Craig, Product Manager, Red Hat Global Government
Header image source: – Adobe Stock