Excerpt from Smart City Dive, Jan 2018 by Krisin Muselin
“It is fair to consider whether the futuristic visions of hyper-connectivity and advanced livability, enabled by accessibility to vast streams of data, can withstand the very real concerns that municipalities cannot afford the technologies behind smart city projects,” wrote Fred Ellermeier, vice president and managing director of Connected Communities for Black & Veatch, a global engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) and consulting company.
1. Smart city initiatives will be driven by transit and electric utility opportunities
From bike-share services to autonomous shuttles and microtransit, many cities have found the quickest and most tangible way to improve city offerings and move toward a smart future is through transportation opportunities. Electric utility and grid modernization opportunities closely follow, however, and these city agencies face a number of circumstances in which cross-agency collaboration can advance smart city priorities, such as the adoption of electric vehicles.
2. Cities are leaning on P3s for effective financing
“Public-private partnerships (P3s) are an important tool for getting past the sticker shock of upfront costs,” the report reads. And this rings true for all cities hoping to advance smart city initiatives with the industry expertise (and wallets) of folks across the private sector.
Though President Trump recently told a group of lawmakers that P3s are “more trouble than they’re worth,” a number of cities from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. have touted the offerings of newer P3 models due to the level of flexibility they bring to project development.
3. Cost is the biggest barrier of electric fleet adoption in cities
Electrifying a fleet of municipal-owned vehicles, especially larger transit vehicles including city buses, is no easy task. Following the footsteps of other large transit agencies, the New York MTA recently announced a plan to operate an electric bus route in the city, but the three-year pilot will only test 10 buses, in-part due to the costs of modernizing the system. Black & Veatch notes that today’s electric buses are priced around $750,000, though upfront cost parity is “just a few years away through economies of scale as demand and production volume increases.”
4. Autonomous vehicle adoption may be further than it seems
5. Cybersecurity is a top obstacle for communication capabilities…
6. …And the demand for cybersecurity will drive grid modernization
“Intent on safeguarding the nation’s largest electric grids from potential mayhem, federal regulators have stepped up their oversight of the security of power utilities in an attempt to protect it from threats and incidents such as widespread, long-duration blackouts caused by digital saboteurs,” the report reads. Though, as cybersecurity concerns increase, so do capabilities of hackers, and these dangers have already been demonstrated in cities including Dallas, where a computer hack set off more than 150 emergency sirens across town.
City stakeholders must prioritize implementing security measures in their networks as soon as possible. Some cities have even brought on chief privacy officers to help address these security concerns and instill proper security practices.
7. Utilities are a top driver of smart city collaboration
Municipal government leaders cannot develop a smart city on their own. Collaboration and citywide communication are key, and 43% of survey respondents have reported collaborating with utilities to advance smart city initiatives. These internal collaborations facilitate smarter communities, and increase the success rate of smart city projects by simplifying the process of incorporating data into operational habits, according to Seattle Smart City Coordinator Kate Garman.