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A smart city is an interoperable city

Gianni Minetti, CEO, Paradox Engineering, makes the case for why interoperability is crucial in smart cities.

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This article is published in partnership with Paradox Engineering

 

Smart city projects are, by their nature, complex. So many communities have launched smart initiatives, often inspired by sustainability goals, emerging digital technologies or driven by other budgetary or political reasons.

 

However, since various stakeholders are typically involved and because every project is subject to several rounds of decision-making, approval and procurement processes, actual implementation can require more time and effort than expected.

 

Smart cities are thus a journey but it’s important to recognise that decisions taken today could impact on what a city can achieve further down the line. Specifically, when choosing which technologies to use and which vendors to work with, city managers chart the course for what the future of their community will look like.

 

When choosing which technologies to use and which vendors to work with, city managers chart the course for what the future of their community will look like.

 

Interoperability is a big issue for city innovation. The siloed approach that still exists in urban services management leads to fragmentation, complexity and increased costs, as well as missed opportunities relating to efficiency, service optimisation and quality improvement, good practice and data-sharing.

 

Why interoperability matters

 

Would you buy a laptop or a smartphone which can only connect to a proprietary network? Probably not. So why should your city implement one system to manage streetlights, a separate infrastructure for parking facilities and mobility, another one for video surveillance, yet another for public Wi-Fi, and so on?

 

If cities endorse an open approach, applications can work together in a seamlessly integrated way – and increase their collective power. Data can be smoothly exchanged at any level of the urban infrastructure, and be correlated for instance, to mitigate traffic congestion through better synchronised public transport or smarter management of car parks, or to facilitate emergency support and law enforcement through brightened street lighting in the case of a road accident or crime.

 

Would you buy a laptop or a smartphone which can only connect to a proprietary network?

 

At Paradox Engineering, as active members of the uCIFI Alliance, we are deeply committed to the development of multi-transport, multi-supplier and cost-efficient network solutions to build truly interoperable and open city infrastructures.

 

In our vision, interoperability means a city can have just one standards-based network to manage and control multiple urban applications – from street lighting, public parking and power distribution to solid waste collection, video surveillance and emergency-support services, and more – without being tied to a single vendor or legacy technology.

 

It means city managers can concentrate on the community and people’s actual needs, providing a higher quality of life with fewer resources, as well as boosting local businesses and the economy.

 

At the end of the day, it means that any choice made today does not hinder future ones but creates a foundation for innovation and growth.

 

The open road

 

At Paradox Engineering, we started talking about interoperability back in 2011 when we first introduced PE Smart Urban Network, our flagship smart city platform. The real-life experiences of many customers around the world proved that implementing a standards-based, open infrastructure is the real game-changer in smart city journeys, as it reconciles long-term urban planning with the need for thoughtful, gradual decisions, representing a future-proof investment with reduced risks.

 

Implementing a standards-based, open infrastructure is the real game-changer in smart city journeys.

 

As interoperability breaks down technical barriers in the management of urban services, it also helps to overcome the siloed approach in terms of internal culture and communication. An open platform helps different departments share and manage data, extract more value from it, and, ultimately, to create a more holistic strategy for city development.

 

Moreover, an open approach makes it far easier for businesses, educational establishments and the community to co-create their smart city. Open datasets in areas such as environment, health, housing and transport can become opportunities for local stakeholders to develop new applications for the good of citizens and visitors.

 

In the medium to longer-term, this enables cities to explore ways to monetise available urban data to feed additional revenue streams, and, above all, to support local innovative initiatives and entrepreneurship.

 

A lot of progress is being made in developing more open systems and standards. We are convinced that interoperability is the way to go to generate trust and truly foster the transformation to smart cities.

 

Creating ecosystems and getting as many communities on board as possible will help to accelerate the open movement around the world, speeding progress for everyone.

 

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