Expert Insights Series: Smart Cities

Smart cities—or the idea of converting your city to a smart city—is gaining in popularity around the world. It seems everywhere we look, cities are strategizing ways to incorporate smart city technologies and pilot programs.

This week we’re joined by Chris Jackson, Vice President of Government Operations here at BSM Technologies, to talk about smart cities. We wanted to get his pulse on the current conversation around the concept and the roadblocks surrounding widespread adoption.

BSM Blog Crew (BBC): Thanks for your time Chris. The concept of smart cities isn’t new, but it seems as though the topic has increased in popularity over the past few years. As someone who is deeply entrenched in the world of big data and IoT, what trends are you seeing in the marketplace?

CJ: The biggest movement I see happening today  is the idea of a smart city being a connected city. By that, I mean sensors and transmitters sharing data from a specific location.

For example, the municipalities at the forefront of the smart city movement are laying fiber-optic cables under sidewalks and pavement whenever and wherever possible. These cables are connected to modems and monitor foot traffic on sidewalks, and temperature, traffic, etc. on the pavement. They “speak” to the traffic lights and sensors, and then based on the patterns, the lights will dim when foot traffic is low, and sensors will learn when to keep lights green in certain directions to avoid gridlock.

BBC: Could you provide an example of something we all use that will be altered by smart city technologies?

CJ: One of the oldest examples of the trend toward “smart” is the gas and water meter. Traditionally, utility companies would send an individual to manually check the meters at the side of your home. But in recent years we have seen a shift to digital readers that remotely monitor your water and gas usage.

Utility companies and local service offerings are also starting to get into the water and gas lines themselves, starting to use various types of sensors to monitor the water pressure (for example), so if pressure drops, they know there’s likely a water main break, and they can dispatch a crew to remedy faster.

BBC: These improvements are so compelling it seems as though every city would want to immediately adopt smart city initiatives. What do you see as the biggest roadblock?

CJ: You’re 100% right, but unfortunately this isn’t something that is mandated at the national or provincial/state level. It’s completely up to the cities themselves to prioritize the improvements, and it isn’t cheap, so they need to allocate the financial resources to improve infrastructure.

There’s also an expertise gap. By that, I mean cities don’t have the innovative experts on staff and are going to need to start hiring data scientists, either on payroll or as consultants. Data scientists are excellent at processing information, which is the essential component to a technology being coined “smart.”

BBC: I would be remiss if I didn’t explicitly tie this conversation back to our business. How does BSM’s solutions play a role in smart cities?

CJ: Our partnership with Geotab is by association putting us at the front of the pack when it comes to telematics connecting what counts for our customers. Geotab is truly a leader in the data-driven city and has pioneered the smart city revolution concerning telematics. Geotab’s dynamic-insights and urban-analytics can be used to drastically improve city-wide safety and efficiency. I would encourage anyone reading this blog to check out the Geotab Smart City data package.

BBC: Thanks, Chris. I think all our readers will find this interview insightful, I know I have!

Looking for more expert insights interviews?

Check out this one on Choosing the Right Telematics Vendor, our initial overview on How Big Data Applies to Telematics, and this deep dive into Big Data. And be sure to subscribe so you get our blog updates right to your inbox!

Stay in the know! Receive future posts right to your inbox by signing up for your newsletter.

About Us – BSM Technologies Inc., through its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a leading provider of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled telematics and asset management solutions.  BSM Illuminate is BSM’s software platform, which enables companies to make data driven operational decisions and to leverage big data and analytics for competitive advantage. With more than 20 years of experience in the enabled telematics and asset management solutions industry, BSM is focused on the Government, Service, Rail and Construction markets, utilizing predictive analytics to interpret data from multiple sources so that customers improve their operations in the areas of efficiency, safety and compliance.