Chief municipal executives, agency directors, and deputy mayors have the potential to become the service innovators of the future. It's going to take, however, some work. The walls that separate municipal sections and units must be torn down, and a culture of sharing, where all data sources are connected to the same interface, must be nurtured – in a smart city municipal platform.
Service Innovation Must Start at the Top
The clear recommendation from Gartner reports Three Best Practices for Internet of Things Analytics (2015) and Market Guide for IoT Platforms (2016) is to gather all data into one, centralized Internet of Things platform.
Many municipalities do the opposite, however: While the department of health is working on a response center, the department of climate and environmental affairs is working on a climate barometer. Both departments are building their own IT platforms with data from their respective silos.
For innovation to happen, we need to think holistically. What most municipalities need is not silo solutions, but a central hub for service innovation, where data from different departments can be combined, and new possibilities be discovered – an overarching IoT platform with roots arching down into all silos.
Think in Terms of Citizens (Not Users) and Discover New Connections
When my colleague, Elisabeth Karlsen, gives talks about smart cities, she often asks if anyone knows the connection between smart health and digital water meters. Usually, you can hear a pin drop. But, oh, how obvious it becomes when she gives the explanation.
All municipalities have water usage data, so why not make use of these data in a smart health context? If the tap water has been running unusually long at Mrs. Smith's, there are several possible explanations: She might have suffered an indisposition, or maybe she slipped and fell in the shower and can't get up again.
In most municipalities, the agency for water and sewerage works owns the water usage data, and the department of health has no access to them. Chief municipal executives, agency directors, and deputy mayors ought to lead the way and foster a new mindset where one thinks in terms of citizens and not users of a specific service. Doing so will tear down silo walls and create a culture of sharing, innovation and better citizen service.
It Doesn't Have to Be Big and Costly
A smart city municipal platform might sound extensive and expensive, but the good news is that it doesn't have to be either of those things. You can start on a small scale with one service and expand scope over time.
Halden municipality is a great example. Together with them, we made a smart city municipal platform which, in the first version, consisted of a response center for their health services. Now they're adding more smart city services to the platform, including smart street lights and sensors. Over time, the municipality can add to the solution with data from technical infrastructure, waste disposal, et cetera.
The message of this article is simple. Chief municipal executives, agency directors, and deputy mayors face a unique opportunity to lead innovation in their municipalities by creating a culture of sharing, thinking in terms of citizens and not users, and thinking holistically, not departmentally. Instead of buying different platforms for each new service you develop, build a departmentally agnostic, smart city municipal platform. That's how you create a sustainable and scalable solution where innovation can happen. It’s an opportunity, however, that must be seized from the top.