By Joseph Waring

Smart city focus shifts to scale, ROI

As smart city initiatives mature, attention is shifting to deploying services across an entire city as well as creating business models that generate revenue for budget-constrained municipalities.

Mrinalini Ingram, VP of Smart Communities at Verizon (pictured), said the smart city industry is evolving, moving from merely creating new services in the first phase to developing innovative solutions in the second, and then deploying services at scale in the third, which she refers as Smart City 3.0.

Ingram, speaking at the 5G cities session yesterday, said many cities are stuck in the second phase as they don’t have the necessary infrastructure or platforms to scale.

Michael Zeto, VP and GM for Smart Cities at AT&T, agreed scale is essential to moving to the next level and creating safer and more liveable urban environments.

He also noted he’s seen a shift towards more viable business cases, driven largely by hybrid public-private partnership models.

Dan Rabinovitsj, VP of connectivity at Facebook, pointed out that municipal governments don’t have the budgets to spend on various applications, so every service has to be something that can be monetised.

“Cities need to feel they are partnering with companies that are not trying to drain them of funds. We’re seeing some cities take the initiative with public-private partnerships. I challenge all the operators in the room to think about how they can partner with cities to give them tools like dashboards to integrate all the disparate systems,” he said.

Jane Rygaard, Nokia's head of marketing for mobile networks, added every part of a smart city has different requirements and connectivity needs, so they need to look at both licensed and unlicensed spectrum and mix and match depending on the application.

She thinks not every service has to generate revenue as many focus on productivity gains, and would like to see more attention given to improving energy efficiency and getting the green thinking into deployments.