Four lessons from the Smart Cities Connect Conference, Austin, Texas

Urban trailblazers, entrepreneurs and city leaders gathered in Austin, Texas in June to showcase, share and study all things smart cities.

The Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo, co-located with the US Ignite Application Summit, convenes annually “to advance citizen engagement, improve citizen life and to prospect and partner with innovative technology and service providers”.

These big city goals culminated in three days of panel discussions, presentations and side meetings interspersed with demonstrations on the use of robotics, artificial intelligence, big data and automation to improve the productivity, safety, mobility and quality of urban life.

A vibrant southern city, Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

Besides its famed live music, the capital is building a reputation for innovation.

The City of Austin is actively looking at new ways of integrating knowledge into the community through its universities, mitigating the impact of the harsh climate by creating an EcoDistrict and working on ways to capture, manage and use data to put people at the centre of the growing city.

Stephen Elkins, Chief Innovation Officer, City of Austin with the Cities Leadership Institute team.

The big learning from Austin was that creating a smart city is no easy task.

It takes a clear strategy mixed with organisational agility and a collaborative approach that puts its citizens first. Further, it takes a strategy that addresses four critical smart city cornerstones - culture, finance, engagement and service, and data.

A single technology project does not define a city as a smart city. Instead a smart city is a city that recognises and the breadth and depth of change required and responds holistically transforming the city from each of the four corners.

The four cornerstones of a Smart City Strategy

  1. Culture of innovation: Create and foster innovation both inside local government and outside in the community

  2. Finance, funding and procurement: Develop a range of mechanisms to support short term and long-term initiatives, that enable collaborations and partnerships and multiple vendors of varying size.

  3. Community engagement and customer service: Enhance ability to address the challenges and leverage the opportunities that technology creates to communicate, engage and delivery services to the community.

  4. Urban data and governance: Efficiently collect, manage and model data, use networks and IoT while managing critical public policy considerations including security, privacy and future proofing.

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Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia

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