Pennoni Perspective Volume 22 • Issue 4 • Winter 2018/19 - Page 8

A conversation with the CITIES NEED TO BUILD A CLEAR PATH TO SMART CITY TRANSFORMATION The Smart Cities Council is a global alliance of smart city experts committed to helping communities use innovative approaches to improve the quality of life for their residents through smart technologies and sustainable practices. Each year, the Smart Cities Council donates coaching, workshops, and more to five communities in North America through the Smart Cities Readiness Challenge grants. As an Associate Partner for the Council, Pennoni is invited to participate in the on-site Readiness Workshops offering case studies from our clients and services to provide communities with the knowledge to become smarter. Pennoni’s Marketing Manager Katie Crawford talked to Jennifer James, Smart Cities Council Global Readiness Program Director, and Kevin Ebi, Smart Cities Council Global Managing Editor to learn more about Smart Cities Council, Smart City initiatives, and the Readiness Program. Jennifer previously worked at an engineering firm and led their smart city solutions area. She now uses that industry insight to work with Smart Cities Council partners, like Pennoni, to coordinate with cities as they figure out how to apply technologies and best practices to make communities more successful. Kevin manages the editorial team at Smart Cities Council where he and his team collect best practices and success stories from all around the world to share inspiration with cities considering smart city initiative and next steps toward implementation for cities that have already begun the process. So, what is a Smart City according to Smart Cities Council? A ‘smart city’ isn’t defined strictly as a city. And “cities” aren’t being advised to apply technology for technology sake. “We believe a smart city is one that uses technology wisely to solve real problems and make a real difference in the community,” Kevin explained. And to do this, a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished based on the specific needs and problems of their community should be established. Jennifer reminded us that while being a smart city isn’t a whole new thing, it is about bringing an additional set of tools and way of thinking to the table that helps communities achieve their goals. Smart Cities Council offers various resources for cities and communities no matter where they are in their journey, whether that’s at the start developing an action plan or further along in 8 | PENNONI Jennifer James Smart Cities Council Global Readiness Program Director Kevin Ebi Smart Cities Council Global Managing Editor need of some hands-on-help. One tool that is helpful is a type of checklist, the Smart Cities Journey. It helps cities to create an understanding and structure of where to go, planning and then the implementation. There must be feedback loops throughout the process to ensure an adaptive approaoch. As cities learn what works and doesn’t work for them, they can go back and make adjustments to achieve their goals. Another resource the Council offers is the Readiness Program, including the Readiness Challenge. The Challenge is a competition that helps cities and communities prepare and advance their smart city journey. As part of the competition, and beyond the competition itself, workshops are held to bring together industry experts with the community stakeholders, people from various departments and entities, to create a common actionable implementation. Often, an obstacle doesn’t exist solely within one department and the various departments don’t always communicate effectively to solve it. Getting people from throughout the city together to begin working on a plan for what they truly want and need to accomplish is a good starting point. According to Kevin, “A lot of the solutions that end up coming out of the workshops, really do involve different people who are looking at problems from different lenses and with different resources backing them to figure out how they could come together and do more than one person could do by themselves.” At the Readiness workshops, Smart Cities Council Partners provide free expertise in an environment that doesn’t feel as though someone is trying to sell the city something. Since they have been through the process before, the Partners understand what solutions work. As Jennifer told me, “It’s that expertise that is invaluable to cities who are embarking on a smart cities journey or who are at some stage on their journey. Nothing matters until things are implemented, making a difference and achieving benefits for itizens, and that’s what our partners do.” With the knowledge that each partner has, communities don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Kevin told me he can’t think of a time when the Council has been in a situation where a city has been struggling to solve an issue and a Partner couldn’t help. At the workshops, cities can ask Council Partners or the subject matter experts in the room for advice and there has always been a partner who has some experience they can point to or some project they can adapt. “We are just very proud of the partners that we have and are proud of the work that they have done.” Funding and financing are both huge hurdles that cities face in their smart city implementation. Having a roadmap for smart city implementation is more likely to attract technology partners and/or funding for projects and programs. But Jennifer