The very notion of “smart communities” has changed a great deal over the past 15 years. At the heart of many definitions and endeavors has always been a technology proposition, for better or for worse.
In the early 2000s, discussions, projects, pilots and thought-leadership focused on infrastructure. Broadband. High end connectivity and how that would impact (and change) the way we think of healthcare, mobility, retail or education.
The second chapter was led by large technology companies and focused on solutions and solutions architectures, some of them closed and proprietary. The third chapter has focused on data. Big data, analytics, viewing the future of smart cities as a market of city data.
All of these technology propositions have been part of the journey. Yet to paraphrase John Lennon: Smart Cities is what happens while you make other plans. As Amsterdam’s CTO, Ger Baron, put it: “Airbnb has had a more profound and disruptive impact on the Amsterdam community than any of the digitalization projects the city has initiated or controlled itself.”
Smart cities have been and will be impacted by two technological revolutions nobody planned. One has already occurred, the other is yet to play out.
The first has been the smart phone. App centric thinking turned smart city thinking into a more citizen centric concept and radically changed how relevant stakeholders thought of citizen interaction with the city and urban services providers.
The second revolution, yet to unfold, is called platform. While we have embraced Uber and AirBnB into our daily lives, the demand-side economies of scale, 'prosumer-fication', and ecosystem value creation dynamics that come with platform have hardly made it to the arena of smart cities. But it surely will.
The City as a Service will rise and, as it does, the 'old smart city' concept will die. How do we – government, industry, society at large – prepare for the introduction of platform into our smart city thinking? How will regulatory frameworks (need to) be effected? How will cities procure? And what, in the end, will carry value – the data, or will it in fact be the platforms, algorithms and software that aggregates data and secure it? Do we need a New Digital Deal?