Smart cities held back by lack of visionary leadership

Smart city programmes around the world are being held back by a lack of money, infrastructure and visionary leadership, according to a new report.

The study by Philips Lighting and SmartCitiesWorld names Singapore, London and Barcelona as the top smart cities in the world.

It is based on a survey of more than 150 key planners from around the world and ‘visionary leadership’ was named as the most important factor in delivering a smart city programme.

The report also highlights the impact that ‘enlightened leaders’ can have, especially if they are inclusive and encourage collaboration between different public sector agencies.

It adds the potential rewards for cities that implement smart city programmes are ‘high’.

According to the report, Barcelona has created around 47,000 new jobs by implementing an Internet of Things and generated an extra €36.5bn through smart parking.

But the report also found one in 10 civic authorities does not have the capacity to look at developing a smart city programme.

The survey also found the most common factors holding councils back from developing these programmes are budgets (23%), infrastructure (19%).

The report also suggests that projects that deliver short-term gains as well as providing infrastructure for the long-term can overcome many of these issues.

It cites the example of the telco-integrated street lighting in San Jose and smart LED streetlights in Los Angeles, which deliver annual cost savings of $9m and will repay the upfront cost within seven years.

Indeed, the report reveals that it is not uncommon for a city to spend half of its energy budget on street lighting.

It adds that implementing smart lighting technology not only reduces energy consumption, it has also been seen to lower crime rates, support local businesses as well as create a more aesthetically pleasing environment for city dwellers. This is in addition to the cost and environmental benefits.

The Internet of Things

The report also discusses the key role that the burgeoning Internet of Things has to play on smart city success.

Revolutionising the collection of data (35%), revolutionising communication for accurate service delivery (15%) and managing the strain on urban resources (13%) were ranked as the top three areas where it would be most effective in cities.

However, the report notes the implementation of new technologies and smart city programmes will vary from city to city.

‘City authorities face complex and challenging choices concerning infrastructure, balancing the need to maintain existing services while investing in improvements, managing population growth and enhancing sustainability – all within tight budget constraints,’ said Jacques Letzelter, segment manager at Philips Lighting.

The firm’s alliance specialist, Andrew Knobloch, added for cities to truly benefit from the smart cities agenda, a ‘change in mindset is required’ where ‘local authorities plan longer and across multiple departments’.

‘We must think of city-wide systems as one ecosystem working together. At the same time, we all – technologists, local governments, businesses, environmentalists and the general public – must help to build the investment case to enable cities to successfully implement smart city programs,’ he added.

You can read the full report here.

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone


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