In the latest SmartCitiesWorld podcast, Sarah Wray, Editor, SmartCitiesWorld, talks to Barbara Kreissler, Director of Professional Lighting in the Global Public and Government Affairs department at Signify (formerly Philips Lighting).
This podcast is in association with Interact by Signify.
Barbara Kreissler, Director of Professional Lighting in the Global Public and Government Affairs department at Signify, is responsible for managing public-private partnerships with a focus on energy, climate change and smart city programmes.
She aims to help cities, states and regions transition to energy-efficient, IoT-enabled LED lighting systems and services.
Below are some highlights from the discussion. For more detail or to listen on the go, download or stream the podcast.
SCW: What key trends are you seeing at the moment through your work with cities, regions and states?
BK: One thing is clear – awareness of smart cities has grown exponentially over the last few years and governments now realise the positive effects that smart cities can have on their citizens, and the opportunities that come with that.
Having said that, what I’ve also seen this last year is also a bit of a reality check. Cities are realising that smart city development is not the silver bullet that is going to solve all their challenges and issues.
Cities are realising that smart city development is not the silver bullet that is going to solve all their challenges and issues.
That’s a good thing because now we are having more realistic conversations with cities about what a smart city can do and where the limitations are.
SCW: The headline finding from our Smart Cities: Beyond the Hype research report, in partnership with Interact by Signify, was that the majority of cities don’t have an integrated or overarching strategy for their smart city. Do you have any thoughts on why this might be?
Managing a city is a huge juggling act. On the one hand, administrators are expected to create these vibrant, safe spaces and improve people’s lives and also compete with other cities when it comes to attractiveness, smartness and liveability.
On the other, cities are facing ever-diminishing budgets so they often respond to the most urgent needs, rather than looking more strategically and holistically into a long-term vision about how they want to develop the city.
[Another issue is that] cities often work in silos, and city departments don’t generally work that well together – often these departments are competing for the same funding.
SCW: How can cities move beyond these challenges?
BK: To roll out a smart city that touches all of the city’s infrastructure, these departments will need to work together. Otherwise, the decisions they’re making now could be quite costly and inefficient in the years to come.
That’s not an easy task but there are several examples of cities that have successfully overcome this obstacle.
First and foremost, the city needs to have a vision.
First and foremost, the city needs to have a vision. The leadership must have a good understanding of what they would like to achieve, and that often goes way beyond an election cycle.
The city also needs a dedicated team of employees that can manage this innovation process and build consensus among a wide range of stakeholders.
What cities are learning more and more is that no single service provider will be able to offer everything; it’s really about creating an ecosystem of different stakeholders, including administrators, technology providers and citizens groups.
This ecosystem needs to operate with open APIs to allow integration with other systems. These smart city applications evolve so rapidly that cities need to build an infrastructure that is open and ready to integrate new verticals and applications.
Cities must prepare now for applications that might not have even been [thought of] yet, but which will be developed in the future. The key words are collaboration, openness and integration.
SCW: As you mentioned, funding is still an ongoing issue and this was confirmed in our Beyond the Hype research. Do you see any shifts in this area?
BK: There are several innovative financing models out there, including public-private partnerships (PPPs), where cities and companies share the risk and the reward of smart city projects.
There are ‘pay as you save’ models too – in lighting, for instance, the city could repay the costs with the energy savings from the lighting upgrade.
There are several innovative financing models out there.
Other solutions include ‘light as a service’, where [the solution provider] retains ownership of the lighting equipment and the customer leases it.
Return on investment and therefore payback times are much quicker in lighting, compared to other verticals.
SCW: Another finding from our research was that 76 per cent of respondents say smart cities don’t exist yet. What are your thoughts?
BK: The term smart cities has become a buzzword. If you ask 100 different people on the street what smart cities mean to them, you’ll get 100 different answers. It’s a subjective concept.
Ultimately, a smart city is about transforming data into information that can be used to make smart decisions and improve citizens’ lives.
We need to remember that technology is just an enabler; it’s not an end in itself. Smart cities remains an evolving concept. It’s constantly changing so there will never be an end to a smart city development.
The important thing is that the smart city delivers benefits to a broad part of the population.
Listen to the full podcast for Barbara’s further insights on citizen engagement, privacy in smart cities and data standards.