Where Should a City Start?

April 12, 2019 - Government spending for Smart City initiatives initially often gravitates towards “highly visible, politically attractive” Information Technology based services, such as:  

  • Security and safety 
  • Video and image sensors 
  • Traffic monitoring & signal control 
  • Parking management 
  • Waste management 
  • Free public Wi-Fi 
  • Informational services 

These data rich services, built with Informational Technology systems require high speed data communication networks and are in many cases expensive to buy, install, configure, and operate. The networking demands of these services, which transmit large volumes of data back and forth, require cellular networks that carry recurring monthly data charges, which can become very expensive, very quickly. 


Cities generally lack the highly skilled IT resources that are required to deploy, run, and technically sustain these systems. Building the “human capital” and filling the talent pipeline for sustaining IT based Smart Urban Services is a workforce development task not normally tackled by city governments. 

Smart City initiatives, like those listed above, deliver value to city residents, but at what cost?  In many cases, these systems are cost centers, not self-sustaining revenue generators.  


An acceptable Return on Investment (ROI) for implementing Smart City initiatives can be difficult not only to calculate but to also justify quantitatively, especially when cities face fiscal constraints. Initial design and engineering, capital for acquisition, installation, and operating expenses typically limit these services/initiatives to a few high profile, iconic areas of the city. Delivering these services cannot be financially supported across the full city landscape. All in all, these data intensive smart city services incur high lifetime costs. 


So how can a city begin with an approach that is less complex, simpler to implement, and achieves an acceptable ROI in a reasonable time frame? And, at the same time, can also be more widely deployed across the entire cityscape? 


Cities retrofitting their legacy lighting fixtures with LEDs for energy efficiency and sustainability is a well-documented approach.  This approach is also a simpler, more practical way to begin taking on Smart City technology projects.  The next logical step is to introduce new capabilities to LEDs by adding intelligence and connecting what were formerly stand-alone assets. This is an excellent way to make the process more efficient. 




Written By Chris Davis

Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Smart Cities

CIMCON Lighting, Inc