30 Smart Cities Buzzwords

Random Observation/Comment #619: Every industry has its business buzzwords. Speak the language of your peers.

Why this list?

The past 3 days, I attended the Smart Cities New York conference, and quietly listened and took notes throughout fascinating panels and talks. Much like coming up with my list of 30 blockchain buzzwords, it didn’t take long to hear some common themes and messages from different perspectives.

My general approach to distilling content at conferences is to find the different perspectives and their excuses not to adopt. These are the pain points most presentations and panels will likely address in order to foster more buy-in from the audience and their peers.

For the different perspectives, I found the smart city initiatives to be approached by public/state, private/business/startup, and NGOs. As for the bottlenecks, they’re sprinkled throughout the following buzzwords:

  1. Circular economy, Circular data, Circular cities – They all really love the closed loop image for sustainability.
  2. First mile, last mile – This highlights the need for user experience in consuming goods and services to receiving them.
  3. Smart communities – Not just a city, but the individual communities working for each other and maintaining the culture within it.
  4. Data driven performance – Everything must be data proven before large scale implementation as the impact is expensive
  5. Congestion pricing – Streets are not free and dis-incentive models can be put in place to reduce congestion.
  6. 5G – Telecom companies push this hard likely to sell new hardware and wireless foundations.
  7. Interoperability of maps – Surprisingly great comparison to the blockchain platform model where the image overlays of maps like Google and Apple are not 100% compatible. Instead, parties have used vertices of road intersections rather than full overlaps of geo-location. Clever engineering work.
  8. Accessibility of new technology – This was not brought up frequently, but I really think the case of including all levels of handicap accessibility should be built into future designs.
  9. Infrastructure overhead – This came up along with accessibility since most migrations of new city infrastructure and technology requires large investment and maintenance costs.
  10. Sourcing solutions from private sector – The hackathon and incubator model has really worked out well for cities within in the US with limited budgets.
  11. Auto addiction recovery – I heard this twice. We’re addicted to cars and cities are trying to replace these with better forms of transportation via walking and biking. If there’s any form of auto transportation, it’d be at a higher cost and hopefully driven by autonomous vehicles.
  12. Footprint awareness – Along the lines of a sustainable city, the view of reducing a footprint is strewn across panels.
  13. Green mobility – The future of mobility refers to improved transportation by public and private innovations. The “green” portion is also looking at unintended consequences from new innovations.
  14. Resilient cities – I’ve seen a few references to resilience from a sustainability standpoint, but I think the future cyber security alliance is important to invest in and enact within a smart city.
  15. Data value chain – All data should not be monetized, but has its own purpose in proving the end value back to the citizen.
  16. Inclusive urbanization – This relates back to accessibility. I think being inclusive is taking into account poverty.
  17. Leveraging incubators to enact change – Cheaper crowd-sourcing of ideas.
  18. Humanize urban innovation – Being creative and think about how we can relate these changes to our citizens.
  19. Green New Deal guidance – This was very topical and came up a few times as general guidance towards necessary goals for a 2050 equitable society.
  20. Democratize “EV” – Democratization on costs and availability of electric vehicles. Specifically EV infrastructure of charging station installations need to have an integration plan.
  21. Innovation overhead – What’s the cost of integration and vendor lock-in vs citizen benefit for these ideas? Maintenance costs can be deadly to go-live with projects.
  22. Connected and collaborative urban future – More buzzwords that look at working together across multiple corporations and incentives. Breaking the silo pilots into possible cross city expansions.
  23. Data ubiquity and open access for innovation – Open data solutions have been useful for giving start ups the necessary data sets to show correlations and conclusions.
  24. Surge of anti development sentiment – This was slightly unexpected, but it makes sense. Changes often get push-back so education is also key.
  25. IOT informative data and gateways – Smart device installations are everywhere and can be managed by different initiatives. The use case for school smart lighting could be powerful for emergency situations and lighting escape routes.
  26. Anti surveillance and tracking – Along lines of not building new physical infrastructure driving gentrification, there’s also awareness of AI facial recognition tracking throughout a city breaching citizen privacy rights.
  27. Citizen first city – Think about how people will react to these initiatives. What does a citizen’s user journey look like? Does it make their lives better?
  28. Rethinking real estate – A lot of great analysis has been done with Airbnb and WeWork for renting out commercial real estate throughout a city to create better rental deals and out source maintenance and active/dynamic filling of individual seats.
  29. Smart government – Smart policies and flexibility for implementing changes.
  30. Collectivize the failure – I heard this in a panel where this emphasized the accountability and follow-through of major projects that may be high risk.

As a closing thought, one industry I found lacking presence at the conference was financial services. I’m not sure if this is because there’s no direct application for funding these projects, but I think the blockchain world intersecting with the tokenization of assets can be a large incentive mechanism for driving the city to more individual interaction. There’s a whole stack of decentralized services I’ve seen just waiting to be pieced together.

I think the 5% buzz of blockchain at these conferences will soon jump to 20% as companies like ConsenSys push forward ideas that help leapfrog innovation. Cities like Dubai and countries without legacy infrastructure will be able to take advantage of lightweight payments and services rails.

~See Lemons in a Smart City