The Smart City buzz is reaching a feverish pitch. What politician doesn’t want his city to be smart? The alternative is to be a dumb city, I suppose. And nobody wants to be accused of that – least of all the people in office.
Meanwhile, every wireless vendor under the Sun is pitching in with their (mostly overhyped) vision of Smart Cities – and there’s not shortage of events and organisations jumping on that bandwagon. I’ve written about why all of this bugs me here. But here’s the issue:
The risk of over-selling and under-delivering on Smart City hype is huge. Smart City use cases (call it IoT if you like) are being produced by the dozens if not hundreds. Trash collection, smart metering, traffic counting, pollution monitoring, energy savings, etc. etc. etc. In other words: The ‘Smart Cities movement’ – if there is such a thing – is one massive collection of fragments and so is the technology that is supposed to support it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love big hairy audacious ideas. The problem here is not shortage of ideas – but simply that there too many of them. They’re too unspecific, and the risk is that not much will happen and people will get tired of talking about Smart Cities very soon. What we need is FOCUS. And for that, we need a sharply defined goal.
The one thing that we know for a fact that everyone wants is public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi can be provided and monetized in many ways – but common to them all is the inherent value that people see in Wi-Fi for Internet access.
That’s why I believe that the starting point for any Smart City project should be public Wi-Fi. Smart City applications can then be built (and experimented with) on top of that.
A public Wi-Fi project can get Smart City development off the ground. It can produce value to communities and businesses now. It will produce less talking and more doing. It will show hard evidence on the benefits of independent wireless infrastructure. It will give IoT-type use cases a platform to work off now. Last but not least: If done right, it will foster Smart City innovation.
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