When I first got involved with SynchroniCity, a thought flashed across my mind that I’m sure has flashed across many minds before mine: “Another Smart City IoT project?! What new ideas could it bring to the hundreds of examples already out there?”. But, however tired the ‘smart’ terminology might have become, for me the true measure of a ‘smart’ project is actually in its substance and, most importantly nowadays, the inclusiveness and transparency between stakeholders, and the interoperability measures that ensure the scalability of the solutions.
I think we can all agree we’ve heard plenty of talk about Smart Cities and IoT enabled city services over the last decade or two. Whereas ‘smart’ used to be all about the technology (to the point where it even became a bit of a gimmick), it’s now broadly agreed amongst frontrunner cities and specialists that ‘smart’ is really about the cities, and its citizens – the tech is simply just another important tool to help us attain a greater quality of life.
And at the really smart end of the ‘smart’ scale, a handful of projects are now tackling one of the critical barriers the Smart City market faces – the difficulty to replicate and scale IoT enabled city services across further cities and domains.
SynchroniCity is one of them. SynchroniCity, having learnt from previous initiatives, is approaching this problem in a very practical manner. Much less ‘smart’ talk, and much more smart walk.
We have now matured as smart citizens. We’re all much savvier today on the future of our city services than we were. We now have the smarts to distinguish between what works and what doesn’t. So, let’s take ownership because after all, Smart Cities is all of us.
We’ve seen many examples of great Smart City IoT enabled solutions being implemented:
- Barcelona saved €42.5m on water through their water management system and generated an extra €36.5 million a year through smart parking
- Telco-integrated street lighting in San Jose and smart LED streetlights in Los Angeles delivered annual cost savings of $9 million 
- London has a transport contactless payment system that together with an open data portal and a Unified API generates an estimated annual savings of up to £130m a year .
However, these solutions are all tailor-made to the specific city platforms, city-specific one-offs. They help the cities they were built for but won’t fit anywhere else in the same form. Which is why the next big challenge is to embed scalability into such city service IoT solutions across cities globally and across city domains.
But for this to happen we need cities worldwide to sustainably collaborate with each other and work hand-in-hand with the developers and providers of these IoT solutions. Collaboration, inclusiveness and trust building are essential pieces in this big Smart City puzzle. And these are precisely the elements that SynchroniCity is nurturing so we can deploy IoT-enabled city services at a global scale.
At the SynchroniCity Bootcamp next week we will be welcoming 16 shortlisted pilot projects from the SynchroniCity open call at Future Cities Catapult. These pilots will be deploying their IoT enabled solutions across city sites worldwide. Interoperability between the participant cities will be validated over the 6-months that these pilots will last.
These businesses, together with the participating cities, citizens and experts in the field that make up SynchroniCity, are shaping the next generation of the Smart City market. One that will create a truly interoperable global city network built on principles such as inclusiveness, collaboration, co-creation, trust, openness, agility and transparency.
Investors in Smart City solutions, cities, citizens, businesses, technologists – watch out this space! A new promising community is here!
Dr Gemma Guilera, SME Programme Lead at Future Cities Catapult