There are many barriers or concerns about implementing Smart Infrastructure that we need to address; otherwise, it will be held back if we do not adequately resolve these.
Each of the barriers to achieving a Smart Infrastructure that is outlined below will be hard in its own right to resolve but all of these will need tackling to provide the momentum we need
Addressing these fifteen issues lies the resolution we need to have, to overcome many of the barriers to Smart Infrastructure. Within these ‘barriers’ I offer some initial suggestions on solutions that can help in overcoming or resolving them
- Technology- with its consistent change, cities have the risk of buying something not thoroughly tested in a sustaining environment. If technology is not fully proven, this creates uncertainty in decisions that are highly difficult to make, primarily where infrastructure may involve a ten to twenty years before it comes on stream. Part of our solution is to overcome this with a far more a collaborative mindset from multiple organizations across all stakeholders; public, private, investors and citizens, to determine best available options to make decisions, having open and full access to data, results, and clarity of what issues have occurred from installations to date.
- High Investments – How do we bring down the cost of smart infrastructure in different, imaginative ways? The immense financial pressures faced by authorities require joint public-private investment. A collaborative solution is required so as to have financial institutions that look for joint collaborate investments that have as the clear intent to innovate, and build the investing ecosystem, where any cost curve show increasing attraction and social and economic return, due to scale and growing adoption by those involved in the infrastructure solutions, seeing the benefit.
- Truth vs. Hype –So much of technology is often over-hyped, so can we trust what is often claimed? How can we separate the realities when each city has a unique vision or different set of priorities and timescales, for its needs, does the solution fit the need?? Reflecting a “reality” requires an equal understanding of technology-related solutions, their limitations, constraints, and their possibilities, and then at what cost compared to perhaps some imaginative alternatives? Future solutions need to be more open, so decision-makers getting access to all possible options? Are business cases well documented in the detail necessary? We need a smart infrastructure clearinghouse of proven or emerging technology and what it can really deliver.
- Interoperability of things – Infrastructure has so many different systems talking to each other, how can we bring all key systems components together in one central management command and decision center based on a platform approach? Managing smart infrastructures that are collaborative, built on ecosystem principles and based on robust, connected platform solutions, needs greater transparency and validations so investments are made with increased confidence of seeing clear returns
- The need is having a clear story of “building the Use Case” for all stakeholders worked out. This justification is especially essential for a citizen to relate too; they need engagement and increasing dialogue mechanisms that make citizen participation and inclusion very central. We often forget the use case is not just for the buyer but the end customer as they need to buy-in as much.
- Privacy and security – How do we address concerns over personal data privacy and security as smart systems become more pervasive? Today councils, businesses, and all involved parties struggle to understand the value and benefits of the data they can generate, the business case to collect citizens’ data and securely manage it. Privacy and security requires a ‘citizen chart of trust’ built on a highly advanced security system to protect this data and the party who provides this, will gain from the investment
- Resilience – How vulnerable are our cities, what becomes critical to reinforce, to make more robust and build out as more resilient, making the investments part of a conscious set of transitioning ones, bridging today’s needs towards sustainable solutions within the solutions for new smart city ecosystems? Are resilient city systems, both reactive and shockproof? Resilience should always be thoroughly tested as part of any new smart infrastructure investment.
- Sustainability- are our decisions today the right ones to lead to more sustainable solutions? The more we can plan a city’s future on “their” data and forecasts, the more you can evolve on a sustaining, progressive plan. Modeling a virtual smart city that is a “digital twin” of the real city, allows for a real-life simulation of building out the future. The investment in having a digital twin of your assets allows for multiple options to validate, test and explore options and have the “safe” environment to build out your actual assets based on the digital twin.
- Cities have limited influence over many essential services. They equally continue to have difficulties in working across departments and boundaries. Utilities are usually in private hands. Sometimes city management often remains remote and defensive. How can we tackle the need to open up systems where the more you exchange, the more you can benefit in exchanges of knowledge? Today with the concepts of platforms and ecosystem design, Smart Infrastructure can become more “open smart infrastructure” to help break down these barriers and silos, it can progressively build the roadmap, identify the ‘players’ and engage in conversation that allows for mutual solutions to be found for all concerned.
- It is turning “Smart” rhetoric into reality for all concerned to understand what this means. Any smart future is dependent on people, technology, and data coming together and being committed and engaged in the solutions these might offer. Today citizens still don’t know what a smart city or what “smart” means in infrastructure solutions, or even the benefits it can bring. Today the concept of a smart city still seems worrying, and citizens continue to ask is technology going to solve our daily problems? By providing access to reliable and trusted knowledgable resources, dialogues and information will help educate all involved. We need to focus continuously on a clear narrative of what a “smart” city is going to provide, in benefits that the beneficiary can understand.
- To raise consumer awareness or citizen engagement needs investment. Will it save citizens time, money, and provide peace of mind? Does it offer clear and obvious benefits to daily lives? Will citizens relate to smart infrastructure implementation as they see the value and be prepared to contribute more through taxes? The need is to connect the “smart” story to the emotive needs of the citizen, is simply paramount, otherwise implementing technology or solutions not understood becomes a very frustrating exercise, blocked by public concerns. Smart is engaging the citizen constantly and in multiple ways. It is time-consuming but essential.
- To invest in Smart Infrastructure needs a Smart vision. Technology developments will be continuing to evolve. The innovation pipeline will require a level of collaborative participation, as experimentation, scaling up and full-scale innovations that “add” to a city or its infrastructure will need a more collaborative model. Game-changing technologies and harnessing the potential will require different models of design. We come back to collaborating, innovating and investing will be more in partnership but it is constantly providing this vision and linking it to value, benefit and return that makes any new design compelling.
- Smart Infrastructure Business Models – Cities are recognizing the need to build more sustainable business models that show clear value propositions, by clarifying who benefits, what are the cost and returns and, what is the impact these will have. A Smart Infrastructure Validation model designed and conceived, similar to the Business Model Canvas, on its ability to articulate the full proposition, would be useful to outline the impact of disruptive technologies and what radically different solutions will provide within a Smart City?
- Innovation and Invention– recognizing that innovation and inventions are continually evolving; we need to build out the necessary space to factor this into our future thinking. Often it is hard to choose the right solutions. This demands a constant awareness of technologies, materials, solutions, alternatives as they evolve to be considered and evaluated. Having access to a register of breaking technologies, of accessing new designs, not only aids the city planner, it speeds up the identification of all the stakeholders and the eventual decision-making process. To look towards the leading Smart Infrastructure advisors and ‘Smart’ solution providers will help partly bridge that knowledge gap and allow for greater collaborative exchanges for knowledge building..
- Finding attractive funding models – With cities and local authorities often highly cash strapped, the sacrifice of the long-term to service the immediate will be a constant dilemma. Imaginative partnerships between stakeholders need further exploration and validation. Raising awareness, matching public and private funds will require exploring. Collaborations with research institutions, private and public sectors will need to find the right platform for engagement. We need to develop those centers of expertise and financial modeling that are “energy transition” rated.
Cities cannot tackle these issues in isolation; they should only commit to this in an ecosystem of partnerships. These include investors, other cities, research and institutions, financial investors, central Government and public funding, with a variety of private companies coming together in a constellation, with the citizen being clearly at the center in dialogue, informing and in educating them on ‘why’ the smart future is the way forward.
There are many roadblocks for smart Infrastructure to overcome. Is this a prize worth going for? At the heart of this, if cities are going to embrace and invest in a connected smart city, it will require a deep sustaining commitment, overcoming many barriers to progress.
Translating a smart vision into a workable set of solutions for cities and infrastructure is hard, demanding work. There are arguably many different positions on the value of building ‘smart’ into our infrastructure.
What one needs is leadership, not just in technology solutions but in understanding and building a holistic understanding of “smart Infrastructure” and all the needs to reduce so many current barriers and impediments as today, there is far too much-siloed thinking of only thinking about my contribution.
We need “big picture thinking to gain the growth and impact Smart Infrastructure designs can bring in collaborations