11.21.2016Personal Tech

Let’s talk about the smart cities you’ll soon be living in

By: Lani Ingram

As 2016 comes to an end, we've asked our top technologists to share their predictions and insights about the most disruptive tech trends that lie ahead. As part of our Tech Trends 2017 series, Lani Ingram, VP of Smart Communities, shares her predictions about how the smart city trend will accelerate in the coming year.

1. Smart cities will hit a tipping point

When people think about smart cities, they tend to view them as futuristic, but they're going to start becoming more of a day-to-day reality rather than a vision for the future. It'll happen because the cities and the technologies together have evolved to the point where we can actually deploy at a larger scale than we could before.

One big trend in 2017 will be the movement from smaller pilots to larger deployments of smart city tech within cities. The number of requests for proposals (RFPs) that are going out for larger-scale smart city products as opposed to smaller pilots has been growing. Boston and Chicago have recently put out RFPs around their energy activities, for example.

These deployments could be everything from street solutions—such as lighting, traffic or parking—to public safety and citizen engagement. Citizen engagement is a really big area—trying to create methodologies and leveraging technologies that create more positive real-time conversations between the government and their citizens. That can be done with everything from kiosks to mobile apps.

2. Humanizing the tech around smart communities

Another big trend we'll be seeing is cities focusing on technology for economic development and innovation, and allowing their citizens to have more of an open-data environment with a lot more information at the city's fingertips to help their citizens create solutions for their own communities. One thing we've seen in 2016 especially is the disparity that exists within communities, not just on the national level. Tensions within even small communities are dividing community members, and cities want to use technology to bring in dialogue and bring people together.

When it comes to citizen engagement, we need a more modern way of developing conversations between community members. For example, if you're thinking today about making a change within your community, traditionally the way to get that done is to go to town hall meetings, or to write petitions and get signatures. Those are really outdated methods of citizen engagement. What we're looking at with technology is to create more modern, real-time mechanisms of creating conversations and activities for community members to improve the society around them.

It really is only when you start to humanize technology that you get adoption, and until you get adoption, technology doesn't get utilized in the manner that benefits society in the way that we think that it can.

Tying into that, we're going to see greater humanizing of IoT. This is one reason I think Verizon is so well-positioned to develop smart community solutions—we have that one-to-one relationship with consumers, a third of the United States, in fact, and those consumers are also citizens, students, fans, passengers and more. These are people we know how to communicate with, and we can help cities drive these kinds of dialogues.

3. It takes a village to develop a smart community

Next, we'll start to see the collaboration that needs to exist among all the players to truly deploy these kinds of solutions. This kind of collaboration is going to be really different from the way it's been done in the past, where you have more of a customer-vendor type relationship. Now, it really is an "it takes a village to raise a child"-type of concept. I think it takes a really collaborative ecosystem to develop a smart community, and it's going to consist of various different players, from city officials and large-scale partners, like Verizon, but also the nonprofits, universities, and other technology vendors—large and small—and everybody needs to work together in more of a public-private partnership type environment. If any one entity tries to come in and try to do it all themselves, I think that it's going to stifle innovation.

It's only when all these players can start working together, and understand where one organization picks up and the other one drops off, and how together we can drive adoption, utilization, and efficiencies, and pull the best out of each one of our solutions and our assets, that we're really going to see the power of smart communities take off.

Leading these disruptive trends in 2017 requires the best talent. Our technology team is looking for people who push the boundaries in core areas, such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and Network Engineering.

About the author(s): 
Mrinalini (Lani) Ingram is VP, Smart Communities for Verizon’s Product and New Business Organization, where she is responsible for leading the strategy, engagement, implementation and solutions support for Verizon’s smart cities portfolio of products.