The Platform

Digital rendering of a smart city grid. (Shutterstock)

In an upcoming conference in January on smart cities, I will chair a panel discussion focusing on these new issues of concern for municipalities: “Forget Smart Cities: The Next Step is Smart Regions & Resiliency”. It will focus on the broadening shift of importance which includes the total region and its support of intelligent infrastructure, rather than just a downtown area.

The COVID pandemic has created a paradigm shift in which the corporate workforce has become split with a subset of people now working from home permanently. This is causing a shift of priorities for leasing future corporate office space; developing new requirements for resiliency in redundant broadband connectivity and power; and the importance of expanding the design and requirements for building a smart city into building a smart region.

With the shrinking demand for corporate office space in the coming years, this new shift will create the reverse of musical chairs. There will be more office space available than there will be a need for that space. Only the buildings which meet the requirements of offering intelligent amenities, like redundant power and broadband connectivity, will have a better chance of improving their occupancy rates.

Resiliency needs to be incorporated into any city’s vision of the future. Resiliency in its intelligent infrastructure will guarantee future regional viability.

Another speaker on the panel, the Hon. Russell W. Hartigan, who has worked with several suburbs as well as the city of Chicago on various government economic and planning issues as well as contract negotiations, says taking on the planning to renovate and rebuild cities with smart city concepts is no small task. “Getting companies to locate their corporate facilities within a city or town is not a walk in the park.”

“There is a lot of competition between cities and regions today, especially if there is a lot of job creation as part of the deal.” Hartigan knows having a well-defined plan showing the upgrades of intelligent infrastructure is critical for the municipality to demonstrate its ability to support a new corporate facility. All municipalities should be concerned about attracting new corporate growth and maintaining a viable economy into the 21st century.

From representing the city of Chicago, Hartigan points out, “Cities, as well as smaller towns, need to formalize a committee of diverse professionals to review and understand what these new issues mean as far as economic sustainability. The future economic viability for the municipality and its surrounding areas is dependent on modeling the right strategic direction and then following through on its implementation.”

He agrees with my observation that city governments need to bring in more than just the traditional business advisors, lawyers, and accountants, to review and assess the negotiations. Today, you also need a technologist who understands all the aspects of technology tied to the project because success is tied to technology-based infrastructure.

Smart cities must also focus on cybersecurity

Also, in the age of global terrorism and active cyberattacks, corporate and government enterprises which have critical infrastructure, buildings, and data centers must have solid defenses to be impervious to attacks to ensure business continuity. Hardening an organization’s data center as well as its total business campus is a critical step to ensuring its business continuity.

In today’s corporate business environment, many organizations cannot survive if their core applications are out-of-service for a couple of days. This includes stock exchanges, airline reservation systems, online services like Amazon, utilities, and others.

Besides corporate infrastructure, municipal infrastructure must also be protected and hardened to resist cyberattacks. All the layers of the platform for commerce must be adequately protected to ensure the stability of the regional economy.

Building the right platform for success

Darrin Mylet, CEO of Local Broadband Networks, is another panelist with a pragmatic perspective who is currently working on implementing some of this new smart city infrastructure in a major city in the southern United States. His company is focused on the implementation of all these next-generation pieces that include the world’s fastest wireless/fiber link of 400 Gbps (expanding to 4 Tbps in 2022).

Mylet observes, “When building new digital real estate assets, they need to demonstrate fast payback, high margin with multiple revenue streams, and secure access in order to be attractive to building owners as well as the municipalities that the buildings are serving!”

Mylet points out that in order to be successful, municipalities and key stakeholders need to create public-private partnerships upfront to provide smart city integration on a platform that is tailor-made for expansion and digital advancement.

They need to look at the fundamental investment drivers which cover a broad range of issues, including, but not limited to: Public policy, community development (conquering the digital divide), competitive pressures, and traffic growth (streaming video and other new increasing bandwidth demands).

Many major cities need to get out of their fog of lethargy and start focusing on setting the right direction into the future of network-based commerce and digital governance.

If they do not, they will fall behind in regional viability and not be able to compete with smaller towns and cities that have taken action to remain viable. Once that happens, you will see the downward spiral of deterioration that has attached itself to many cities in the past, start to spin the city into a depressing vortex of decline.

Only this time, the decline will come faster and will probably be irreversible.

As I have said in the past, “Smart Cities Don’t Have Dumb Buildings”. The faster we can add resilient network capabilities onto buildings, the faster we can accelerate regional viability and compete in today’s digital economy.

Details for the upcoming conference can be found by clicking here.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.