Recently I’ve attended a number of events, including Smart Cities Week in Washington DC and it seemed like there has been a significant change in the language of many cities.
I’ve been attending events about Smart Cities and the Internet of Things technologies for many years now. For much of that time, cities have been genuinely interested and open to learn and understand what kind of things might be possible using Smart technology to help run their cities more efficiently. However, the general tone up until now, was that cities wanted to understand the opportunity, they wanted to know what might be able to be done, what the benefits were, what the risks were and of course, what it might cost up front and save them over time but most of all – convince us that this is worth it!
Over the last few months or so, the conversations have been changing. More and more cities are moving beyond the fact finding, knowledge gathering phase and now want to talk specifics.
I’m seeing that cities are realising that both the technology and the business models are now mature –at least in some areas- and our discussions are increasingly focussed around delivering what cities need and want to solve. Cities are not getting dazzled by the technology, they’re asking how suppliers can solve the challenges they are facing today. Technology itself is not an endgame.
We’re having conversations about the specific problems that need to be solved, what actions need to be taken, what proof points they need to see, what success needs to look like. Prospective customers are also much more readily asking about the process of arranging trials and demonstrations to begin projects
This feels like an inflexion point and it may be a sign that we’re beginning in, certain specific areas to “cross the chasm” with Smart City and Internet of Things technologies. I’ve said before that cities will buy when they find a solution that solves their need. Technology is not the objective but rather solving a real problem with proven value, that’s simple enough, with the right business model and in an open and collaborative process.
Another interesting aspect to these more active conversations was that cities and customers are now seeing technology as a tool to solve a problem, not a solution in itself. I believe this is a very positive sign and one I heartily agree with. Not only that but they’re looking specifically at how to begin bringing these technology solutions into their city to begin solving problems, often in a specific area that needs solving rather than trying to change everything at once.
At Enevo, it’s normal practice for us to work on trial deployments in small areas of a city to allow cities to “test” our system before committing to rolling it out at a greater scale. Of course, this makes perfect sense for cities too, trialling a Smart solution enables them to rapidly see clearly if the promise of the technology is deliverable. This reduces risk financially and operationally, especially when it can be done quickly and easily. So far, this approach has helped give over 48 cities the evidence they need that our system will deliver results for them.
Of course not all Smart solutions can be deployed so effortlessly but even for those that can’t be, there are more and more success stories and references from early adopters that cities can study and visit to see in operation.
This change in posture and body language of cities, I believe is a significant moment. There’s not been any doubt that cities have pressing problems to solve but if they’re starting to see solutions that they can believe in and buy – everyone stands to gain: the cities, the suppliers and the citizens who get better, more efficient, more useful and more cost effective public services.