The Biggest Mistakes Smart Cities Make & How to Avoid Them

Learning from the past can be your city’s ticket to a smarter, more successful future

In case you’ve been living under a rock, smart cities are currently all the rage – and they have been for over two decades.

Since the dawn of the 21st Century, cities across the globe have endeavored to adopt, integrate, and assimilate the latest in urban technology to transform their municipalities into smart cities. Seeking to make city life more efficient from economic, environmental, and social perspectives, these cities find themselves in a mad race against time – and competing localities – to leverage the latest algorithms, infrastructure, and applications from the most up-and-coming technology companies.

However, in doing so, many urban areas across the globe often make some critical mistakes. This, because it’s far easier to get a hold of new and state-of-the-art innovations than it is to use them correctly. 

Here are some of the biggest mistakes cities make while seeking to become “smarter” – and what you can do to avoid them, in the here and now.

#1 – Viewing technology as the end, rather than as the means

Technology presents would-be smart cities with many possibilities. However, tech is not the solution that transforms the city into a smart city. Viewing it as such would be a very grave mistake, one that could potentially prevent your city from truly becoming “smart.” 

Instead, it’s critical that said technology be seen and internalized as the conduit through which cities can foster long-term, holistic growth, and goal achievement. For example, rather than viewing 5G technology as what determines whether a city is (or isn’t) smart, cities should understand that it’s the means through which smart cities and their citizens collect, share, communicate and learn from each other, making everyday life far more informed and connected.

#2 – Thinking that more tech means faster results

Technological innovations may enable smart cities to process information and communicate faster and more efficiently than ever before, but that doesn’t mean that going digital with the latest tech means that all your city’s troubleshooting and processes will be fixed with the flip of a switch. Using tech to resolve issues can be fast, but expecting it to provide quick fixes will more often than not resolve in a band-aid approach that doesn’t actually tackle bigger picture problems.

Remember, adding digitization does not equal acceleration, and when it comes to tech, the more isn’t always the merrier. Avoid this common mistake by pairing down your tech adoption to the least amount of solutions you need to run and oversee your smart city. Rather than use 100 different apps to keep citizens connected, use just a few, each with their own distinct purposes and capabilities. For example, one knowledge base, one for real-time updates, and one for customer service. The key is to understand which tech will promote the greatest interactions and engagement, and use only those, to keep your infrastructure as lean as can be. This, to avoid overloading your systems and leading to unnecessary and pesky lag.

#3 – Underestimating the power of the people

Even the smartest tech is only as intelligent as the person ensuring its successful execution. For the tech to actually influence human lives for the better, the humans overseeing its integration and day-to-day operations must ensure they know how to properly use it, and fix it, should the need arise.

To avoid the common mistake of hitting human error roadblocks, said human task forces must first study every new tech being adopted, in an effort to predict and resolve potential obstacles and bureaucratic barriers, before they arise. Yes, other tech can be used for this purpose, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms, However, for the knowledge gleaned to actually be of use, any insights generated must be adapted to the needs and abilities of human decision-makers. After all, it is the people who wield the real power, even if it feels like the machines are calling the shots.

#4 – Forgetting that human demand is the drive for smart supply

Finally, never focus so much on technology that you forget who and what it was developed to serve. The needs of every smart city start and end with those people who live and work within its bounds. And while it might be amazing to have technology that can do XYZ, if it is beyond what the city’s dwellers need, or enables something entirely different from what those needs are, it becomes nothing more than a waste of time, resources, and investment.

Now, that doesn’t sound so smart, does it?

To truly become smart, it is up to cities to first ask their citizens what they want out of city living, and what they feel is needed to make it happen. Then, independent research should be engaged in, to devise the most practical and efficient way of supplying such demands. 

Bottom line

At the end of the day, avoiding smart city blunders is simple: always remember the people you’re “going smart” for, and those long-term goals smart city innovation is poised to resolve. With these two factors in mind, you will be able to avoid the common mistakes associated with smart city tech adoption and truly shine.

Do you want to transform your city into a smart city? Discover which Highroad Launchpad portfolio companies are developing the smart city tech that meets your city’s unique needs. >>