To Build “Smart Cities,” Look to the Cloud – Next City

To Build “Smart Cities,” Look to the Cloud

Throughout history, human migration has been driven by one thing: opportunity. In the search for better living conditions, economic prosperity and a safer existence, people migrate to cities, hoping to improve their way of life. Yet managing community growth and creating opportunity has become decidedly more complex.

By 2050, the United Nations forecasts that more than 65 percent of the world’s population will live in urban environments. The impact will be felt in cities, the suburbs, as well as the villages and towns from which many of the world’s opportunity-seekers originated.

Cities around the globe are already accustomed to doing more with less. Through the adoption of smart city solutions — such as public safety, energy-efficiency and traffic management solutions that rely on sensor networks, data analytics and mobile services — many city leaders have transformed how they engage citizens and deliver community services. But more must be done.

To keep up with the demand for trusted, mobile services, and allow all citizens to access the unique opportunities in their communities, city leaders should leverage the scale, analytics, security and privacy capabilities of the cloud to build and connect city systems and solutions.

By doing so, communities large and small can engage and support citizens more effectively, empower employees to deliver new experiences with greater efficiency, and collaborate with surrounding communities to address regional needs. A trusted, responsible and inclusive cloud platform that can connect all city services can deliver both short-term and long-term benefits that allow our cities and citizens to prosper well into the future.

However, to be successful, city leaders must make some critical policy and technology decisions, ensuring that the cloud platform they adopt reflects community policies and global standards, such as those outlined in A Cloud for Global Good. Furthermore, there are five key principles city leaders must embrace as they evaluate a cloud platform and the solutions that run on it:

Trust: Every technology platform should be worthy of trust, both in the level of protection it provides against malicious attacks, as well as the degree of privacy and control that individuals have over personal identifiable information — even to the point of providing citizens with the freedom to delete any personal information that doesn’t impinge on public safety or criminal justice efforts. A trustworthy cloud platform must also support security and compliance standards worldwide.

Interoperability: An effective cloud platform should be compatible with every part of a city’s technology infrastructure — from devices such as traffic cameras to the streaming data captured by those cameras. Doing so helps ensure that incompatibilities with either existing or future technology investments do not hinder digital transformation.

Mobility: Citizens expect and demand to be able to use their smartphones to connect and engage with their cities and city governments. As connected cars, wearable devices and mobile apps become even more common, no avenue is more direct for engaging citizens. With the right connected cloud platform, cities can create mobile services that are designed with a local citizen experience in mind, enabling city employees to deliver more personalized services to citizens.

One example is Community on Patrol, a community policing app developed and used by the Miami-Dade Police Department, which gives citizens the necessary tools to report a crime and to work more closely with the police in keeping their neighborhoods safe.

Sustainability: IT consumes a large amount of energy. Using the cloud, city leaders can move to a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) software deployment model that reduces energy consumption, eliminates the overhead of operating and managing an on-premises network, and facilitates the development of services that can be easily reused — both within a city and across city lines.

The right cloud platform should also provide resiliency by offering several geographically dispersed datacenters and multiple instances of its data and apps, so city leaders can be certain that their applications and data are available in the event of an emergency.

Scalability: In addition to increasing sustainability, PaaS gives cities greater flexibility to offer services that automatically adjust to both high and low instances of demand. With an interoperable and scalable cloud platform, cities can work more closely with neighboring communities to develop and connect solutions and services that ease complex regional issues, and maintain citizen engagement experiences and satisfaction regardless of city jurisdiction.

For city leaders, doing more with less is a constant reality. But with the demand for modern services and the inescapable cost of managing IT infrastructure, the need for efficiency and productivity has never been more acute. By implementing the right cloud platform that reflects essential community policies and principles, cities can deliver trusted, responsible and inclusive services that help meet today’s needs more effectively, while laying the foundation for enabling the opportunities of tomorrow.

For more information about how cities are moving to a connected cloud platform, visit Microsoft CityNext.

Kathryn Willson is director of Microsoft CityNext, Worldwide Public Sector.

Tags: smart cities