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What Makes a “Smart City” Smart?

The phrase “smart city” has been popping up more and more, especially in reference to large metropolitan areas. Singapore’s use of sensors and cameras to monitor cleanliness and traffic, New York City’s use of ShotSpotter to enable quicker police response to gunfire, and London’s smart parking initiative are commonly brought up. But what is a smart city? And how does a smaller community become “smart?”

A quick search will find a lot of definitions for smart cities, many of them saying basically the same thing. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), “a Smart City begins to be developed when multiple smart initiatives are coordinated to leverage technology investments across an entire city, use common platforms to decrease service time/maintenance costs, share data across systems, and tie IT investments clearly to smart missions.” Basically, a smart city uses data and technology to achieve their goals. To many, this is too basic and broad. There are specific goals identified for smart cities: sustainability, economic development, and better quality of life for residents. These goals indicate that a true smart city is forward thinking, preparing for the future to ensure that the people living and working in the city have a safe, healthy environment, and will for a long time.

Here at Harshaw Trane, we add a few more things. A smart city is more than just the technology it uses. We think that a smart city is made up of four planks. Technology is, of course, one of them. The other three are management, security, and procurement. Smart cities also utilize smart financing, energy savings contracts, and resources like P3 and EPAD. They have trusted advisors who can help them with each of these planks.

So, how do cities achieve this? Just as there are many definitions of smart cities, there are many ways to develop one. Some consider simply adding new apps to make information more accessible to residents as creating a smart city. But being a smart city is more than just having smart technology – it’s having the right technology for your community.

In Kentucky, where 90% of cities have less than 10,000 residents, most places don’t need an app to tell them where they can park or to help them avoid traffic jams. They can, however, massively benefit from smart infrastructure upgrades.

Harshaw Trane makes your city’s facilities work smarter for you, not harder, by improving your buildings, lights, water meters and treatment plants. Connected buildings with smart controls and efficient HVAC systems improve the city government’s sustainability and reduce energy costs, helping pay for the project. Replacing street lights and building lights with LED is considered low hanging fruit. It vastly increases efficiency and the safety and security of citizens while paying for itself with energy cost savings.

We’ve installed Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) in several cities across Kentucky. AMI is a system of connected, smart meters that communicate with both utilities companies and customers. They automatically read and report energy or water use and provide more accurate billing information. According to the Department of Energy, AMI reduces the costs of metering and billing, provides more customer control over energy consumption and costs, lowers outage costs, and reduces utility capital expenditures.

We have also worked with multiple cities to build new water and wastewater treatment plants. On the surface, it’s not always clear how this can help a city become smarter because there isn’t a lot of talk about innovative technology when it comes to this. Water is essential to a city and its residents, and as more people move into cities, water systems need to be able to meet the demands of the population. Efficient water and wastewater treatment plants are essential to improving and sustaining the quality of life of people living and working in cities, a key goal of smart cities.

We want your cities infrastructure to work smarter for you. We can help you become a smart city with smart results. If you’re interested in learning more, call us today at 502.499.7000.