Shobhit Jain, Director of Product Innovation at HERE Technologies, shares his insights on how to succeed with public-private partnerships.
This article is in partnership with HERE Technologies.
Cities and mobility companies increasingly need to collaborate to achieve their mutual goals. Working together in this way hasn’t always been easy and several challenges remain, but pioneering cities are now demonstrating progress and providing best practice which others around the world can learn from.
Following the recent publication of HERE Technologies’ Good Collaboration Guide, which outlines strategies for succeeding with public-private partnerships, Shobhit Jain, Director of Product Innovation at HERE Technologies, shares his insights with Sarah Wray, Editor, SmartCitiesWorld.
SW: We talk more about public-private partnerships (PPPs) these days but cities have always worked with suppliers. How are PPPs different?
SJ: The difference is a partnership is not transactional; it’s more about building the relationship, less about simply pushing products. And, it’s about getting deeper in terms of the use cases and problems and addressing those in a collaborative way.
SCW: Can you share any examples which demonstrate the shift from transactional relationships to true partnerships?
SJ: Each partnership is different and they are constantly evolving along with cities but we are definitely now seeing some examples of success.
In Chicago, we are working with a not-for-profit organisation called City Tech which brings together cities, universities and technology companies to tackle urban challenges. Through this mechanism, together with the City of Chicago, we have prioritised collaborating on challenges related to kerb-side management – looking at how Chicago and other cities can better use kerbs to solve issues such as congestion, as well as exploring future opportunities to use kerbs in new ways.
We are also in discussions with Transport for New South Wales (NSW) in Australia to help them understand patterns related to commercial vehicles – both historical and in real-time – so they can cope with the explosion in e-commerce and create a better planning system to enable real-time traffic management and improve congestion.
HERE has those competencies, such as the routing capabilities for fleet management and commercial navigation, so organisations such as Transport for NSW are starting to see HERE not just as a map supplier but as a trusted partner to solve those problems.
SCW: With projects such as these in mind, what are some of your takeaways so far about successful PPPs?
SJ: Data is key – cities are mindful of private companies extracting a lot of data from public space and infrastructure. Partnerships must ensure that the value still comes back to the city, or that there’s a joint extraction which companies in the public space and private sector can also leverage. The spirit of open collaboration should be maintained.
User information and privacy are also key. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe has been a fantastic ‘North star’ for the public and private sector, enabling us to work better together with clear parameters.
Cities are mindful of private companies extracting a lot of data from public space and infrastructure.
The other aspect which is very important for private companies when they’re building their relationship with the public sector is intellectual property (IP). When multiple parties are working together, we need to have the dialogue about IP early to ensure city solutions can be taken to market and are scalable. It’s important that these discussions are not separate but are integrated into the planning cycle.
SCW: You mentioned scale, which is key for most mobility providers. How do you find that balance between gaining the scale required while meeting the unique needs of each city?
SJ: One of the biggest challenges when you’re working with cities is speed and also the political nature of it – the election cycle, etc. It’s important for private companies to have the right mindset. Each project has its own rhythm, in terms of both the milestones and longevity. Some are a marathon; others are a series of sprints. You have to understand the dynamics of each scenario.
In Chicago, for instance, a new mayor, Mayor Lightfoot, was recently elected, meaning the agenda has been updated. We really see the value of smaller sprints to meet this agenda.
We also collaborate with cities to shape future policy and regulation – by, for example, helping to identify new use cases early and working to create a path to incorporate them within regulation while also solving problems for citizens.
SCW: Are there any fundamentals that cities need to have in place for PPPs to succeed?
SJ: From an organisational perspective, a separate budget line for an innovation and technology department can help to get things done faster. Transport for NSW has a Smart Innovation Centre, for instance, for the collaborative research and development of safe and efficient emerging transport technology.
Even if you don’t have your own innovation department, cities can still tap similar benefits by working with neutral parties, such as City Tech in Chicago.
Capabilities which allow cities to use a platform to open their data are also important. As an example, Amaravati in India is a new city being built from the ground up and aiming to be a model for other smart cities in the country. One key aspect of this initiative is the marketplace approach. Amaravati has a set of APIs to connect everything, which creates the ‘plumbing’ for the smart city. They’re encouraging companies to use this as a sandbox to make an impact through open data.
Amaravati has a set of APIs to connect everything, which creates the ‘plumbing’ for the smart city.
Finally, cities need to identify five to ten clear objectives over four years, based on the local political and socio-economic environment. This is how you avoid being a hammer looking for a nail – trying to find a use case for a solution, rather than the other way around.
SCW: What future smart city trends are you keeping an eye on as an opportunity for PPPs?
I see autonomous enablement as a key driver for cities. Municipalities shouldn’t be concerned with technological perfection or waiting until we’ve reached SAE Level 4 or 5 of autonomy in vehicles. Rather, cities should use data as a stepping stone to enable machine learning for analytical data and then, over time, enable some level of autonomous decisions.
Another area is around asset management – for example, kerbside monitoring and management. It’s all about data and creating a platform for collaboration.
The third area is mobility management – using real-time information for routing and vehicle pattern analysis is extremely valuable. It goes beyond IoT to incorporate situational awareness about vehicles.