The Smart City Technology Race

by Diane Vautier on August 16, 2017

Smart City Technology Race

New technologies, ground-breaking applications, and the latest types of information management systems are flooding into emerging Smart City landscapes. Some technologies provide network access, some monitor physical workings of hard assets, while others collect and mine the large volumes of data that is used to roll out and administer public services.

While these advancements in how objects and systems are connected and managed are making new capabilities possible for smart cities, they also present a unique challenge. The influx of innovation has actually created a fragmented baseline of technology that doesn’t always integrate as expected or as desired. Companies are racing to gain early adoption and thus a competitively advantageous and lucrative position in the market as a preferred vendor.

Technology and Innovation Players

Exactly which technology(ies) and company(ies) will emerge as market leader is still to be determined, but there are already a handful of recognized technology suppliers in the Smart Cities segment that are actively battling for the top slot. identifies the top 10 companies expected to supply smart cities of the future as:

Schneider Electric

Markets and Markets Research identified the exact same list of Smart City suppliers, indicating that these early entrants to the Smart City market may already be well recognized. Interestingly, Markets and Markets Research also published a list of key innovators in the market.

General Electric
Silver Spring Networks
Itron, Alstom
Alcatel Lucent
Honeywell International
Maven Systems

It will be interesting to watch how these suppliers and innovators either align or compete to push their version of smart city technology forward.


Despite the largely fragmented technology and equipment landscape, World Smart City reports that there has been a “Significant milestone for Smart City development”. At the urging of The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), global standards organizations have agreed to work together toward standardization.

“In the wake of the World Smart City Forum, which was held on 13 July 2016 in Singapore, representatives of IEC, ISO, ITU, IEEE, CEN-CENELEC and ETSI gathered for a meeting initiated by the IEC. This meeting was a global first and part of an ongoing dialogue among standards organizations. The aim was to accelerate and better align Smart City standardization work, which is essential for successful Smart City deployment. Between 60 % and 70 % of humanity is expected to be living in urban environments by 2050.” ~ISO

Technical standardization should provide some assistance and direction for cities looking to implement Smart City technologies to improve urban living and city services. Regardless of who comes out on top in the race for Smart City technology, cities themselves are the real winners. Gartner predicts that Smart City technology will “leverage context-based data from different city infrastructures to develop sustainable and forward-looking business and citizen services, while optimizing city operations.”



Paying for Smart Cities

by Diane Vautier on July 26, 2017

Paying for Smart Cities

As cities learn more about smart technology and the promise it holds for better management of their urban centers, the issue of funding raises concerns about the viability of implementation. How will they pay for the huge investment to support smart city initiatives? Likely, the cost to implement city-wide, smart technology far outweighs the available municipal dollars in the operating budget. In fact, funding is the most significant hurdle to face when deploying smart city projects according to Black & Veatch’s 2017 Smart City/Smart Utility Report, whose survey data indicate that only 16% of municipalities can self-fund a smart city initiative.

Many cities therefore, are looking for creative financing to help fund their efforts. One of the more popular ways being considered is the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs). Public-private partnerships have been around for a long while – as early as the 1400’s in Europe, and presumably came to America along with European settlers. Despite the partnership’s longevity, its renewed popularity as a current funding possibility is gaining speed. Black and Veatch agree. Overwhelmingly, they cite PPPs as the most effective financing model for smart city initiatives by both government entities and smart service providers alike (74.5%). The second and third most effective financing models for smart city initiatives are government grants/subsidies (51.9%) and tax incentives (41.7%), respectively.

There are three basic funding models for the Smart City expansion within the public-private partnership structure according to IHS Markit Research.

“Smart City projects are typically deployed via partnerships between the public and private sectors. The main business models include build-operate-transfer (BOT), build-operate-comply (BOC) and municipal-owned-deployment (MOD).

The most common model is BOT, where city planners work closely with an external private partner that, in turn, develops the services and deploys the necessary infrastructure. The third party is also responsible for the operation and continued management of the infrastructure, until such time when it is transferred back to the city.

The BOC and MOD models, in comparison, assign varying levels of responsibility in the building, operation or maintenance of smart city projects for the public and private sectors that are involved in those works.”

Cities like Columbus, OH, home of , and the Columbus Partnership, are actively engaged in seeking out PPPs as part of their Smart City buildout. Other cities are following their lead. The exact definition of a PPP today is however, up for debate and highly individualized. There are many unclear issues around financial responsibility, ongoing operations, and ultimately ownership of the asset or service in question.
To help cities navigate the complex world of complex funding challenge of public-private partnerships, the Smart Cities Council has published a detailed Smart Cities Financing Guide, with “Expert analysis of 28 municipal finance tools for city leaders investing in the future”.

Finding and negotiating creative financing approaches will be critical to widespread adoption of smart city practices. Private companies will play a significant financial role in making that happen.



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