What it means to be a 'smart city' in 2019

By Andrew Ryan posted Sep 30,2019 10:58 AM


Andrew Ryan, Vice President of Federal Accounts, Nlyte Software

What it means to be a 'smart city' in 2019

According to GovTech Navigator’s 2019 State and Local Annual IT Spending, local organizations spent $51B and state organizations spent $46B in 2015. In 2019, these numbers are anticipated to climb to $53.1B and $54.5B, respectively with health and human services and education each taking the lion’s share of IT spending at $28B each, spending on transportation services came in second with $13B allocated. At 9.3% of annual U.S. GDP,  state and local governments account for the fourth largest segment, under manufacturing (17.1%), information (13.3%) and retail at 9.6%.

Just over a $100B annual spend on IT-related products gives any agency a much-needed modernization boost to services that help govern citizens’ lives. Case-in-point, although not state-funded, everyone’s lives were forever altered by the Department of Defense’s support of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) in the 1960s, which created what is commonly known as the internet. 


State and Local Take IT Innovation Mantle

Today, state and local governments are poised to capture the life-altering, innovation mantle from the federal government with their support and rollout of Internet of Things (IoT) services. According to a recent study by IDC, IoT spending in the United States is expected to reach $194 billion this year, among the biggest spending areas are transportation at $71 billion and utilities at $61 billion. As federal funding transformed ARPANET into the internet—state and local IT spending will transform IoT into smart cities. 

GovTech Navigator places the 2019 State and Local Government Utilities IT spend at $9.1B. The top drivers for IT spending are creating better customer experiences and modernizing the grid. IDC confirms this by pinpointing utilities’ IoT spending on smart grids for electricity, gas, and water.  When it comes to transportation, GovTech says state and local government IT spending will be $13B, citing continued investment in smart communities and preparation for connected vehicles. Small pockets of city device connectivity will quickly escalate into a uniformed mesh of data used to enhance our daily experiences. Sound familiar?  History is repeating itself, as smart cities follow a similar ARPANET adoption pattern—this time state and local CIOs are driving the innovation. 


IoT and the Call-to-Sprawl

There have been many devices invented to measure time, dating back to 1500 BC with the Egyptians’ T-square measuring shadows to Sir Sandford Fleming the Canadian railway construction engineer credited with developing the system of standard time, still in use today. And then there is internet time, a clock that runs forward at a blistering pace, rendering cutting-edge innovations obsolete in months. State and local CIOs must keep internet time in mind when selecting hardware and software to build out smart city services, scalability and longevity are the keys to slowing the clock.  

When purchasing components to construct smart cities, IDC puts hardware spending at $250 billion led by more than $200 billion in module/sensor purchases and IoT software spending will total $154 billion in 2019. CIOs need to carefully take into account sensor battery life, signal distance and companies who already have IoT LoRaWAN-type networks in place. Partnering with turnkey, best of breed IoT companies will simplify and speed service adoption.  

As the demand for smart city services continues to grow, data centers will stretch closer and closer to the point of data origination. These microdata centers will be tucked into various corners throughout municipalities, putting a strain on device management and IT security. CIOs should strongly consider Technology Asset Management (TAM) tools to help keep track of sprawl as they continue to make a significant impact on improving and optimizing current IT operations in the world’s largest and, now, smallest data centers. 

In summary, state and local CIOs will be the stewards of the new internet—an internet of connected devices throughout our cities that improve civilian services. To fuel this growth, network modernization and improvements are on every agency’s agenda and there are billions of dollars allocated to make it happen. A precedent has been set with the formation of the ARPANET, CIOs need to adhere to standards and best practices when making hardware and software selections to construct their citywide IoT networks. The next stage of data-infused evolution is here, this time it does not reside with the federal government—it’s in the hands of state and local CIOs. 

1 comment



Dec 19,2019 11:09 AM

IoT and smart cities technologies are not new to state government. However, there are many new developments which are creating great opportunities to states in creating real-time, efficient government.

One of my first responsibilities for the state of Utah, back in 1990, was to create the State of Utah Fuel Network. In the process of replacing leaky underground fuel tanks, we created a shared service for 30,000 state, local, county, and school district fleet vehicles by putting electronic fuel gauges and card readers on fuel sites located at department of transportation sites, school bus yards and public works facilities. We were able to replace fewer sites and provide much broader access to all of the network's users. In the process, we saved over $60 million for state and local government. The sites were networked using 1200 baud modems. I could hardly wait for the internet to extend into rural Utah a few years in the mid- and late-nineties.

Today, we have sensor networks that create virtual river basins allowing us to monitor vital water sources across the state. The Sno-tel network lets us monitor snow levels and temperatures in the mountains. The State's Road Weather Information System lets us monitor storm impacts and respond quickly when a snow storm hits. GPS devices in fleet vehicles allow us to provide real-time information on what roads have been plowed.  And health monitoring systems provide improved information on the health status of Utahns.

All of these systems help improve sustainability and quality of life. They support the many services that state government is responsible to provide.

I think we can do a lot more. As we combine real-time IoT-driven systems with artificial intelligence hubs that can analyze and make sense of increasingly complex networked data, we can continue to improve quality of life across the country. This is a tremendous opportunity for NASCIO and for all 50 state CIOs. Good luck in 2020!