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Impressions From the Smart Cities Summit

A few weeks ago at the Smart Cities Summit, we were awarded the right to partner with Liverpool City Council and deploy Sigma Catalog on a trial basis to respond to the challenges faced by the aging population.

While that recognition was a highlight, what were my impressions of the event itself? First, Liverpudlians (I believe that’s what they are called) have a great sense of humor. Case in point, I heard this from one of the of the Liverpool city managers: “There was a country-wide discussion about who was the second city in the UK. Birmingham said it was, of course, Birmingham, Manchester said it was Manchester, and Edinburgh said Edinburgh. Liverpool said it was London.”  Perhaps it’s a well-known dig at London, but it went over really well.

Second, when it came to Smart Cities, I heard a lot of optimism mixed with a big dose of “how can we make this happen faster.”  Our answer, if you know where Sigma is coming from, is that to gain agility to roll-out innovative products and services, it starts with being catalog-driven, product Master Data Management and product life-cycle management. If cities are looking to realize and rollout out their version of services, they’ll need some mechanism to reduce time to onboard new capabilities and services that will bring them to the citizens and businesses within a Smart City.

Third, communication services providers (CSPs) will have a big role to play in what services and how cities offer those services to their citizens.  Cities will partner with CSPs who will supply networks services and the basis for the next wave of digital services. Imagine that the city will have a master product catalog and in there will be a representation of the services that they can buy/use from a variety of CSPs. There will also potentially be products/services in that catalog from other suppliers/partners that the city is working with. This library of building blocks is what the city council uses to build up the services/products that they are making available to their citizens and businesses within the city.

Finally, becoming a Smart City is more than just a question of service provisioning.  Cities understand that by becoming “smart”, they secure their future as locations that will attract people to live there and remain to build families. One city leader said he was leading the effort, in part, because he wanted to see his grandkids. His city needs to be a Smart City which would mean his children and grandchildren would remain in the area rather than moving to somewhere that is already a Smart City.

We’ll be back with an update as the trial with an aging population in Liverpool moves forward. As my colleague Daryl observed, many cities want to become a Smart City but don’t have a clear vision as to what that is or means. They are therefore waiting for other cities to go first and essentially pave the way, which is why the trial in Liverpool – and in other cities around the world – is so important.