Smart city frameworks of the near future

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Increasing internet connectivity, disruptive business models, and demand for autonomous devices, that automate decision making have become drivers of smart city developments. Environmental health and policy-making represent convergent points that will shape the near-term development of smart cities.It is common to look at the potential implications that a single technology can have on our communities, however, it is the convergence of technologies at the right time in consumer adoption that has the greatest impact. For example, the internet, smartphones and broadband connectivity meet at the convergence point of consumers demanding mobile services. This convergence point redefined how we communicate and interact more than any individual technology did by itself.

I first came to think about when discovering the SixSense technology in 2009, a gesture based wearable computer system developed by Pranav Mistry, now SVP at Samsung. Moreover, for three years I have built and run a mobile startup, called Roadi, focused on helping drivers navigate for parking in a smart city. My teams work, experience and conversation has convinced me of the need to better conceptualize the frameworks that will shape smart cities, and why.

 Smart city frameworks of the near future: Increasing internet connectivity, disruptive business models, and demand for autonomous devices, that automate decision making have become drivers of smart city developments.


Infrastructure framework can be represented well bysystems such as low emission zones. Having successful low emission initiatives is made possible by having the right infrastructure that can detect data such as air quality or traffic congestion patterns.

Another good example of a smart infrastructure is having a network that supports an electric vehicle infrastructure. This is critical as autonomous, decision making, devices will likely be electric powered.

Ultimately a smart city lays a foundation to deliver a sustainable city. An encyclopedic definition of a sustainable city states, “A sustainable city is one that is designed to have as little impact on the environment as possible”

Applications framework relates to the variety of Iot and machine learning devices that will carry out the services that will be available in a smart city.I will provide some statistics on the IoT market as it represents much of the applications market. The other elements are software which will interface with the consumer and the server clients. The application framework is what the consumer and citizen will experience and interact within the form of products and in some cases services.

Internet of things relates to the machine to machine communication, where the user no longer needs to make a series of decisions in selecting from a variety of choices, in their day to day activity. Also, decision-making applications provide a mechanism for making and enforce policy decisions.

Iot stats

According to a post by PR Newswire, anticipated growth in the US is projected to grow at a CAGR over 14% during and can be attributed to growing number of connected devices, rising internet penetration, an technology advancements

‘Hardware’ accounts for largest share in the country’s IoT market, followed by ‘Software’ and ‘Services’ segments. Moreover, consumer electronics and transportation sectors dominated the US IoT market in 2016, and the segments are anticipated to continue dominating the country’s IoT market in the coming years as well

Convergent points

Public health (allow products to make decisions for us): Public health also accounts for the health of the physical infrastructure. The public health-centered smart city initiatives utilize an infrastructure framework.

Since many of the decisions and associated tasks humans make day to day can be automated or remotely managed, much of the associated waste can also be reduced. Think for example the progression of technology used to make the first maps, then software applications created maps, now we want our devices to not only present us with the best, waste reducing, route but to also make the route decision and carry out all the associated tasks. At each level, we were reducing the distance between a person deciding and acting, and subsequently, reduce the waste associated with human inefficiency.

Low emission zones present a use case where Iot connects the infrastructure and application frameworks. The sensors in street lights, for example, can sense a vehicle entering a LEZ and send a signal to reduce the vehicles speed or take other action to manage the vehicle’s impact on air quality. Remote sensing devices have shown to be able to enforce LEZ emission zones through trials in cities such as London.

Other ways that cities are adopting health-focused frameworks is with electrical vehicle (EV) infrastructure. States in U.S. now are providing incentives for businesses that support the development of EV networks. and other smart transit solutions such as transit hubs, where EV ports are installs, Maryland EV highlights transit hub case studies.

The convergent point of public health will produce opportunities that relate the key factors of a sustainable city, as described by Salem Press Encyclopedia as: air quality, clean water, energy use, biodiversity, food and agriculture, waste.

India is a leader in the development of smart cities. with a large population and the migration into cities, citizens are in more demand for scarce resources. Also, the size of the population in cities poses environmental challenges. In India, you can find more interest in the infrastructure development and whole IoT systems, in contrast to interest in standalone applications. Findings of Students from Amrita School of Engineer in a paper showed that urbanization and population growth has led to higher demand for resources like water which are of scarce.” (VIJAI,2016)


The health of some cities are linked to the level of waste produced by freight movements, therefore better decision making through automation is being explored by business owners and public officials.

Findings by the U.S. Dept of transportation found an impact on public health could be made by, “improving the reliability of freight by installing signals that prioritize truck movement along freight corridors. Providing truckers with real-time information on parking availability and truck routes.  Demonstrating the potential for automated and connected freight vehicles to make freight movements safer and more efficient.”

Public policy convergence comes from the need to help us make better decisions. The goal of which is to reduce future negative environmental impact, improved mobility of people and the economy. Applications are produced for consumers because of policy changes. On the other hand, disruptive technologies can influence policy making. The recent case of ridesharing apps and their effect on infrastructure and policy decisions.

Low emissions zone (LEZ) at the application level will bring opportunities and inventions from new vendors who provide the products and services to the citizens and public agencies. Alternatively, consumer demand for a product will greatly influence the policy-making of officials. The increasing numbers of autonomous devices built for optimization, on the micro and macro scale, will press policymakers with the question, What to optimize for.

The International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) states, “The holy grail of smart cities is an integrated, sustainable approach to improve the ef?ciency of the city’s operations and the quality of life of citizens.” – (ISPRS, 2017). Disruptive technologies will cause policymakers to make decisions about policies surrounding technologies used in public spaces either physical or digital. At Roadi have also helped design software that can detect freight vehicles entering low emission zones.

Applications that will have the most impact will come from artificial intelligence; electric vehicles; autonomous vehicles; mobile applications; drones; wearable and smart devices. Each one and their integration will pose a challenge for policymakers. They provide many opportunities for optimization and better decision making, but the continued advancement poses a challenge for policy makers to ensure the citizens best interests are accounted for while still enjoying the benefits of the advancements in technology.

Consumer engagement and consumer adoption are a critical factor in the policy decision. this breeds incentive for business owners to deliver compelling consumer goods. The authors of a research paper focused on consumer response to smart grids, found that, “they (consumers) displayed an interest in playing a much more informed and active role in energy decision-making,” regarding smart grids the research concludes that, “More policy attention is needed on demand-side measures, introducing institutional and regulatory changes, and modifying relationships between consumers, the government and utilities.”

Companies like Roadi which provide wayfinding technology for real-time parking availability focus on the user experience of finding parking nearby their current location. Giving more attention to the user experience in public policy framework is more important than is a public health convergence or infrastructure framework. This is so because policymakers will be limited in implementing a new smart city focused initiative if consumers do not adopt the associated technologies helps to increase the adoption of smart city application.

The report from one smart city workshop observed:“Team members agreed that the goal of applying smart cities technology is to significantly improve the quality of life for residents.”

Figure 1Roadi smart parking Wayfinder display
Bringing the concepts together

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) – (PR) an example of an infrastructure level framework that touches both public health and public policy and creates opportunities on the application level for vendors and consumers.

Smart cities answer the question of what to optimize for, by optimizing for the environmental and economic health of the citizens. Public policy convergences want to improve transportation, economic mobility, and safety. A city optimizing for public health will apply technology more aggressively and seek system level tools that will support an infrastructure which can reduce the causes of poor public health. Intelligent transport systems being such an example.

An application level framework will likely be focus on the convergence of public policy needs. here policy makers will implement department specific technology rather than whole infrastructure specific systems.

Regardless of which framework is adopted in the long run most cities will arrive at the same destination of have a deeply integrated and autonomous city.

Hack for impact: A conduit for social change


Hack for Impact, the 24 hour hackathon in Baltimore, was a glowing success!

The Hack for Impact team want to show appreciation to our sponsors, community partners, event planners, judges, presenters and of course give a big CONGRATULATIONS the winners, Food Chain!

Together we were able to collaborate to build and implement solutions for relevant problem statements in the pre-selected categories for crime, health, education, transportation, child welfare, and domestic welfare. One part of the mission is to set an example of how cities can bring together tech innovators and social change-makers in order to solve relevant, painful problems by exchanging ideas, sharing expertise and developing effective solutions.

The event opened with an inspiring speech by Aaron Velky on the power of moments! Aaron is the founder of Ortus Academy a non profit that teaches financial intelligence to k-12 students. 



We wanted to give a special thanks to Impact Hub Baltimore for providing the venue for the hackathon! Impact Hub is the largest entrepreneurial communal network in Baltimore, a key driving force in creating community engagement and they help to create innovative solutions that address sustainable development goals in 50 + countries.

We thank our sponsors Fearless Tech, a full stack software development firm in Baltimore that delivers sleek, modern, and user-friendly software designed to push the boundaries of possibility.

Fearless is a company that represents the mission of HackForImpact as their website states, "We build software to solve problems. Software has the potential to change lives."

Ope Thomas, founder of Roadi, a parking app that tackles the painful problem of finding available parking, was the primary organizer the HackforImpact. The hackathon and it resulted in $3000 in sponsorship value, 57 total registrations, 4 project submissions, and 20 participants who were in the final presentation, which was evaluated by 4 distinguished judges.

The judges were Gary McDaniel, Ope Thomas, and Alex Bullignton, Founder and CEO of Arbit. Gary McDaneil is a highly accomplished business builder and decisive leader with an extensive record of successful executive leadership. Alex Bullington, founded Arbit with a goal of helping athletes and brands connect better with their audience.

Fully Grown LLC, A Baltimore based food startup strives to overcome food deserts, and one way is by teaching children about healthy food habits, and providing healthy meal prep services

The University of Baltimore, was a strong community partner for the event helping to organize the event and reach the right audience. The University of Baltimore provides Knowledge That Works in a vibrant, urban setting. These sponsors and community partners provided essential support to make this event a success and helped to create dynamic engagement with influencers in the community, the HackForImpact team extends the deepest gratitude.

As stated above the HackforImpact team wanted to formally congratulate Food Chain, the winners of the hackathon! Food Chain, devised a solution that will help improve access to quality food for those in a food desert. As part of their next steps to make this vision a reality they have begun conversations with public health experts in Philadelphia and Baltimore to learn what they can about the challenge they want to help improve. 

Thank you again for your support, the impact of this event would not have been possible without your help! This event was more than simply a hackathon, but together we did the work to investigate ways to be conduits for social change in Baltimore city by addressing it’s relevant problems and creating solutions with technology. Events like these will be the catalyst for swift, effective change in cities all over the world and by creating an atmosphere of inclusion, collaboration, and competition; we will only create more unique solutions to challenging problems which will lead to a higher quality of life for all of us.


All of the organizations listed work to provide tremendous social value to the community, and we would love if we could spread more awareness so that more people can be a part of the coming changes with us. Through our collaboration we can merge technology with social innovation so that we may merge and extend our capabilities into horizons not previously known. Please join us on our journey!






Event Details:

Time: June 1st and 2nd

Location: Impact Hub, Baltimore (10 E North Ave. Baltimore, MD 21202)

Time: 5:30pm

# of team: 10 teams 70 participants

# of problem statements: 10

# of judges: 4

Hackathon Website:


Sponsored by:

 Impact hub Baltimore, Providing the space. Fearless Solutions, University of Baltimore, Fully Grown Roadi

The Mission

Teams will submit a working prototype that can championed by one of the social change makers to implement and address a submitted problem statement.


Problem statements

A team of volunteers is hosting a hackathon at the Impact Hub in Baltimore to bring together tech innovators with social changemakers, to share ideas and develop solutions to solve or greatly improve some of the most pressing problems facing Baltimore and cities around the world.


As a community leader, we are asking you to submit a problem statement that can be selected at the event. If your problem statement is selected, there is an opportunity to work with our video team to share the story with the hackathon audience. Moreover, as a selected problem statement, you can be a mentor during the event to guide the attendees.


Categories for problem statements include:

·          Health

·         Crime

·         Transportation

·         Economic mobility

·         Housing

·         Education.


Help us bring together change makers and influencers like yourself to make Baltimore and the world a better place

Driving and Parking:

Download Roadi: Iphone and Android

$6 Parking available next door, and street parking is the best and recommended option. If you park in the parking lot next door you can pay to park till 4am the following day.

Event Start Process

Participants arrive (doors at 5:00) and settle in to Impact Hub main area for food, beverage and networking


Aaron Velky: Ortus Academy

Ope Thomas: Roadi

Programming Details – Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning

  • 10 pre-selected problem statements will be prominently displayed for attendees to view and assess in main area
  • At the program’s onset, attendees pick which question they’d like to focus on and stand in that designated area
  •  *Important  If one or a few question(s) were selected by only 1 or 2 attendees, encourage others to join them. If no one obliges, give lone attendees the option to work alone, in small group or join another team
  •  Teams have until 3:00 pm on Saturday June 2nd
  •  Presentations begin at 4:00 pm

Programming Details:

All presenting teams must be at Impact Hub Baltimore ready to present by 2pm on Saturday June 2nd

·         At 9am Saturday morning, light breakfast with coffee will be available

·         There will be mentors throughout the event helping to guide the teams through development.

·         At 12 pm, Ope and Emcee welcome everyone back for final presentations

·         Each team, picked at random, gets 5-7 minutes to explain their solution

·         Judges will have time for questions at the end of each presentation and at the

·         conclusion of the program


Required items for presentation:

·         Working prototype

·         Powerpoint presentation

·         Value proposition description

·         Go to market strategy


Conclusion of Event:


·         Judges convene for discussion and decision making

·         Attendees mingle and final networking while judges convene

·         Pick top 3 based on points system - predetermined and publicized categories



·         $500 Prize

·         Opportunity to implement solution


For more info contact:

Opeyemi Thomas


Great Eight Finalists! Roadi at STRT1UP Showcase on March 14

Great Eight Finalists! Roadi at STRT1UP Showcase on March 14

Roadi, is a software company solving real world challenges for real world people. With machine learning, the latest in sensor methods and crowdsourced data, Roadi helps drivers find a parking spot nearby and keep track of where their car is parked.  Come see Roadi at the StartupMD STRT1UP Showcase on March 14 in Annapolis, Maryland. 

Vehicles equipped with smart parking technology using the same methods found in the Roadi App

Read original article:

Roadi street parking.jpg


Parking is a headache, make no mistake. Driving around in circles, hoping desperately that a space will open up does no good for you, the environment or other road users, so why isn’t it made easier? Thankfully, HERE On-Street Parking aims to take the stress out of this most stressful of maneuvers. We take a closer look at how it works.

HERE On-Street Parking is a recently-announced service powered by sensor data from multiple car brands– a first for the industry. We spoke with Marc Notenboom, senior product manager at HERE, who helped drive and deliver the new service.

“Usually, parking isn’t a problem if it’s outside work or your house, but in unfamiliar areas you need to search for a space. Here, there are two options – off-street and on-street – the former describes garages or multi-story car parks, which we already include with information on where they are, opening hours and more.”

“On-street parking information is harder to find. We want to provide drivers with details as to where they can park, time restrictions, day restrictions and whether a permit is required. We also want to include information on whether an on-street space is actually available.”




Marc explains that in cities, people looking for parking spaces can not only result in frustration for the driver, but also causes traffic congestion when the driver must go around in circles looking for a space. This also causes pollution and devours fuel, making it a real headache for drivers, pedestrians and the city in which they find themselves.

Park strife

Now, HERE has launched its on-street parking service, which uses sensors installed in vehicles from multiple car makers to share parking information with the cloud, which is then crunched and sent to the car makers’ fleet. Marc tells us more:

“For on-street parking, there are different types of sensors that send different types of information. The first type of data we’re using indicates when a vehicle is parked, so when the doors are locked and the engine is turned off. Then, the location is sent to the cloud via GPS, informing us that a parking bay is occupied.”

If you get this information from many vehicles on the same street, Marc explains, HERE can decipher parking availability and share it with the fleet.

The future of parking

The first generation of HERE On-Street Parking contains availability information for a whole street segment, which allows the driver to see what parking availability will likely be at the end of a journey, similar to historic traffic patterns which predict the traffic situation at a given moment in time.

Marc adds: “For the actual moment you arrive this information will be based on live data, similar to live traffic, and we will include additional features, like the amount of time you might be waiting for a space and if you are actually allowed to park there. The second generation of the product will be even more detailed as we will be able to provide availability with spot level accuracy.”


How, though, would this work? Marc explains: “The sensors in the vehicle that are used to power automated parking systems are scanning the street while driving by, and can detect where there are open spaces. So, if there is a space without a vehicle, this information is sent to our cloud and can then be shared with other vehicles.”

Ensuring autonomy

This leads us onto the development of the autonomous vehicle.

Marc describes his own vision of parking the driverless car, which he says is split into two possibilities: a system of car sharing, where one passenger is dropped off and the vehicle drives itself to the next customer, like a taxi service, or private owned cars which have to park themselves.

Marc says, “When the car needs to park on-street, services which use sensor data, like HERE On-Street Parking, will be very important, as the vehicles will be split into two categories. There will be those that are looking for parking spaces, and those that are scanning and sharing information on the spaces.”

“Sensor data will be required both to scan these spaces, and to park in them.”

Desire for data

The sensor data now made available by the multiple car makers is absolutely vital in ensuring the success and future development of the On-Street Parking service.


With this in mind, Marc explains the importance of others in the industry coming forward and collaborating, sharing their data to drive towards the promised future of the autonomous vehicle.

Marc says, “The key with HERE On-Street Parking is that the more data you have, the better the prediction and the service will become. We’re not only using sensor data, we’re also using information from mobile payment operators who share information on the timeslots where parking is charged, and car-sharing programmes.”

Marc concludes: “We’re always looking for more people to collaborate with, as the more we do that, the better this product will be.”

Topics: AutomotiveAutonomous carsConnected carsFeaturesHERE at MondialHERE AutoOpen Location PlatformEditor's picks

Smart City Frameworks and Methodologies

Roadi Garages.jpg

Thoughts for Developing Technology-Based Problem Solution Options

Derived from the Challenge Teams discussions of the

MCEDC-TEDCO-NIST-MWCOG Smart Cities Workshop

Final Version

November 17, 2017


Held September 12, 2017 at the

NIST Gaithersburg, MD Campus


Sarah Miller, MCEDC[1]

Ronald Kaese, TEDCO[2]

Jack Pevenstein, NIST[3]

Lisa Ragain, MWCOG[4]

Anna Wright, (MCEDC Graduate Intern), University of Wisconsin

Claudia Elzey, (MCEDC Graduate Intern), University of Pennsylvania

Benjamin Resnick, (NIST Summer Undergraduate Fellow), Case Western Reserve University


Executive Summary

                Presented is a distillation of insights and conclusions reached during a smart cities workshop by six multi-disciplinary teams, each having from 12 to 15 members, which considered approaches to the solution of municipal problems that might involve the application of “smart cities” technology. Teams were established according to six challenge areas including (1) Public Transportation, (2) Public Safety, (3) Health Services, (4) Energy, (5) Water, and (6) Agriculture. Team members were workshop attendees drawn from the communities of the following professionals: (1) Elected and appointed officials and civil servants, (2) Entrepreneurs and small/start-up business owners, (3) Engineers, scientists and policy analysts from Federal laboratories, and (4) Students and faculty from regional colleges and universities. Recognizing the complex nature of developing solutions to municipal problems that may require or lend themselves to the application of technological innovation, the workshop’s overall goal was to develop a roadmap or framework that could be used by multi-disciplinary teams [often established by municipal executives] to address such problems. The workshop strategy simulated the deliberations of multi-disciplinary by organizing attendees into such teams according to the above six challenge areas suggested by the Montgomery County [Maryland] Economic Development Corporation ant the Metropolitan Washington [DC] Council of Governments. The teams, under the guidance of facilitators were allowed approximately five hours for discussion. A secondary objective was to explore methods and terminology for communicating solution strategies across discipline and professional boundaries, especially approaches to communicating the impacts of technology on political, economic, legal and societal aspects of implementing problem solutions.

Based on discussions from the members of the six workshop teams, and considering the complexity of the challenge areas addressed, some interesting “interdisciplinary” insightss have emerged to include the following:

·         The vision of municipalities evolving into smart cities is not a single, integrated technological, political or societal goal, and should not be marketed as a single goal.

·         Not every municipal problem necessarily has a set of technology-based solution options.

·         The market for smart cities technology and the market for technology-based integrated solutions to municipal problems is driven predominantly by the political leadership at the state and local level.

·         There does not seem to be a commonly accepted engineering approach to implementing technology to solve municipal problems. Such an approach may never emerge.

·         An interdisciplinary “lingua franca,” or common language for defining municipal problems and identifying solutions that may have technological components does not exist. Attempts at creating such a language appear to emerge when multi-disciplinary problem-solving teams are called into existence. This phenomenon was observed in the various workshop teams. The success of this communication seems to depend on the good will and engagement of team members.[A1] 

These insights are drawn exclusively from the raw notes and poster sheets used by each team during their discussions, and represent both the discord and eventual harmony that might be achieved when professional from many disciplines are brought together to address a complex problem.



 We wish to express our thanks to the many individuals whose advise and support were essential to the event’s success. First to our core planning team of Ms. Sarah Miller of MCEDC and her two graduate student interns, Ms. Anna Wright of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ms. Claudia Elzey of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Ron Kaese of TEDCO, and my summer research fellow, Mr. Ben Resnick, a junior mechanical engineering student at Case Western Reserve University. Next, we wish to thank Ms. Lisa Ragain, Principal Water Planner and Mr. Ben Hampton, Principal Transportation Planner, both of MWCOG for their support in acting as facilitators for the Water and Transportation Challenge Teams. Additionally, thanks to Drs. Chris Greer and Sokwoo Rhee, Director and Deputy Director of NIST’s Smart Cities Program (Engineering Lab) and especially to Sokwoo for his work as the Energy Team facilitator throughout the event. Also, thanks to Dr. Rob Griesbach, Deputy Assistant Administrator, USDA Agricultural Research Service, for his service as a facilitator for the Agriculture Team, and to Dr. Ben Overbey, NIST Coordinator of Emergency Services for his effort as a facilitator on the Public Safety Team. Finally, thanks to Mr. Paul Zielinski, Director of NIST’s Technology Partnerships Office for his encouragement, guidance, good cheer and support for this entire effort.



                “Smart Cities” suggests images of ultramodern metropolises where all kinds of problems associated with city living are solved elegantly by the application of sophisticated technology. Urban utopia arrived? Not by a long stretch. Research into the term to prepare for this workshop found that “Smart Cities” means many things to many people depending on their professional duties and academic training. Moreover, many of these meanings are disjointed and simply do not connect easily with one another. Some people see “Smart Cities Solutions” as complete solutions only waiting to be implemented by slow-moving city councils; others perceive them as tools that, although useful, could create costly and unforeseen problems.

                The major stakeholders in smart cities are engineers, the business community, and government officials. Engineers are eager to apply systems technology. Vendors are eager to sell specific systems. Elected and appointed city officials want to provide their constituents with the best solution methods to demonstrate economic development and growth. Unfortunately, all too often, visions of problems and societal needs are misunderstood and miscommunicated among individuals who must work together to craft solutions, but who can’t find the right language to do so. This lack of a “Lingua Franca” among interdisciplinary professionals is certainly not new.

                Given the need for an interdisciplinary dialogue, NIST assembled a core planning team in May 2017 with the objective of holding an event that would address “smart cities” problems in six challenge areas including (1) Public Transportation, (2) Public Safety, (3) Health Services, (4) Energy, (5) Water and (6) Agriculture. The planned attendees would be drawn from a diverse set of professional communities, some having members with strong technical and analytic backgrounds and others with more qualitative backgrounds. The planning team targeted attendees from four categories: (1) Elected and appointed officials, policy makers and city planners, (2) Entrepreneurs and small/start-up business persons, (3) Federal laboratory engineering and research personnel and (4) the Academic community. Each professional field uses specialized language and methodologies for defining and describing problems. Overcoming these language and methodology gaps was a major goal of the event. By inviting attendees who represented a diverse group of professionals, the planning team sought to begin a conversation toward a holistic conversation on applying smart technology to address municipal problems.

                The workshop was structured with a team of approximately twelve individuals including a facilitator for each of the six challenge areas listed above. Each team was also provided with a focus for their discussions about how a problem might be defined and its various dimensions described (See these challenge areas and focuses in the following table):





Challenge Area Teams

Problem Focus

Public Transportation

First- and last-mile connectivity

Public Safety

Sensing and preventing crime events

Health Services

Monitoring, controlling and mitigating the opioid crisis


Tracking and regulating building energy use


Meeting federal storm water management standards (MS4)


Nutrient and pesticide management


Each team was charged with discussing its assigned problem focus and developing a “roadmap” or methodology for defining and describing some problem covered under the focus that might lend itself to a solution, which integrates technology or some technological components. A central aspect of developing these roadmaps was to develop (1) common language, (2) plain terminology, and (3) a method of delivery that could be used to communicate solution requirements to professionals across disciplines who might be involved with producing and implementing such solutions. The results documented in these proceedings are drawn from the notes and charts supplied by each team’s facilitators following the conclusion of the workshop.


What does the term “Smart Cities” mean? It means many things to many people.

                Every workshop challenge team wrestled with the meaning of the term “Smart Cities” as a prelude to any discussion of smart cities problems. The complex discussions over the semantics of smart cities led to the first key conclusion of the workshop: as municipal project teams begin to use the term “smart cities” to define their problems, they must be explicit in their meaning of the term as it relates to the project and to their constituency.[A2]  At the workshop, teams created and worked through two broad definitions of “Smart Cities.”

The first main definition developed by the workshop teams centered on city-dwellers and their elected and appointed leaders addressing municipal problems through the skillful application of state-of-the-art technology. Team members agreed that the goal of applying smart cities technology is to significantly improve the quality of life for residents. In this context, smart technology referred to technology which improved capabilities for sensing events, and technology that enabled data collection. Both sensing events and data collection could then be analyzed to inform decisions about the management of scarce resources and the reduction of risks to life and property. Regardless of their professional disciplines, all workshop participants recognized an important caveat that increased data collection and analysis alone does not make for a smart city. Collection of the appropriate data for decision-making is as important as the quantity collected.

                Other workshop participants provided an alternative concept of smart cities: municipalities where elected officials, their appointed staffs and the supporting bureaucracy make policy and decisions objectively, and where both policy and decisions are somewhat if not entirely isolated from political issues. With the emergence of enhanced data collection and processing technology, the academic notion of bringing rational, data-driven decision making to city administration appears intoxicatingly close to realization. Unfortunately, as our workshop teams recognized, only a small select set of decisions lend themselves to being data-driven. So, the vision of smart cities must integrate increased capabilities for data collection and analysis with the local political and cultural issues that drive policy and decision-making activities. This insight leads to the complicated question of determining the value of the smart cities concept, and to whom this value has meaning.

                The structure of this workshop, by its very nature, as well as their discussions, shows that what may be considered a smart city by those public officials concerned with public transportation may have little relevance to those concerned with the availability of health services, water quality or agriculture. What constitutes a vision of a smart city is dependent on the unique requirements of the challenge area to which problem solutions are applied. Moreover, problem solutions that rely on sophisticated, elegant technology in one challenge area for a city may not be appropriate or even implementable in another city. Problem solvers should be cautioned that the vision of a smart cities solution to a municipal problem may be seen by some as inherently better than a solution without. In other words, it is vital to understand that solutions are not inherently better because they incorporate technology or include an abstract buzzword like smart cities.

                Thus, we are led to the first conclusion coming out of the workshop. Before defining and describing a “municipal” problem in terms of a smart cities solution, a project team must first decide what the term “smart cities” means to them and to the constituents they represent.[A3]  They must answer the question if the notion of a smart cities solution relying on technology even appropriate to the problem as it is widely understood by constituents and stakeholders.


What are the dimensions of a smart cities problem solution? This is highly dependent on who “owns the problem and solution.

                While the use of options drawn from information and communications technology most certainly is a significant part of a smart cities problem solution, our challenge teams recognized early in their discussions that certain conditions had to be in place to accommodate technological solution options. These conditions reflect the dimensions of the environment within which any problem solution must be implemented. The dimensions identified in the workshop are summarized as follows (order presented is not significant):

1. Government and Bureaucratic Conditions

·         Governmental organization and bureaucratic infrastructure and legislative institutions

·         Legal and regulatory constraints; pertinent relationships among Federal, state and local institutions

2. Economic and Market Conditions

·         Economic, commercial and financial resources

·         Market availability of relevant technology and engineering capability

3. Government, Community and Constituency Conditions

·         Municipal culture and societal traditions

·         Tolerance for change in addressing municipal problems; applicable time horizons for solution implementation

·         Stakeholder community owning or impacted by municipal problem

·         Relevant historical contexts

·         Where does the mandate to address the problem reside; coalition(s) required to address the problem[A4] 


4. Infrastructure Conditions

·         Quantitative data model(s) required to manage/control the problem; availability of such data

·         Relevant physical infrastructures impacted by/impacting the problem, e.g., utilities, land use, demographic distribution, distribution of residential versus public and commercial buildings, transportation, communications


Whose problem is it, anyway? The challenge of defining and describing the problem belongs to whomever is responsible for solving it. This will vary from municipality to municipality and depend upon the urgency of implementing a solution.

                Unfortunately, even when smart cities technology can improve a municipal problem, many problem definitions fail to frame the issue in a way that highlights how smart technology can have an impact. As pointed out in several challenge team discussions, problem definitions depend on the individuals doing the defining and on how they perceive the needs of their constituencies. Also, the general acceptance of these definitions as the authoritative word often depend on how loudly and aggressively they are promoted and how well they are understood by various stakeholder communities. Thus, as might be expected, many municipal problem definitions begin as political positions advanced by elected officials and candidates, whose messages must reach voters. Consider for example the discussions of the Health Services team, which addressed the “opioid addiction crisis” as problem that could be helped by a variety of technological approaches—the appeal to smart cities technology. Observe the nuances involved in problem definition and possible solution approaches depending on the definers in the following matrix:

Commonly-Understood “Nominal” Problem



Affected Parties


Opioid Addiction

Elected Officials

·          Physicians

·          Pharma industry

·          Public

·          Families

·          Legislation

·          Regulation

·          Professional best practices

·          Education

·          Elect me; keep me in office

·          Let’s apply some IT somewhere

Opioid Addiction

Planners & Policy Analysts

·          Patient demand

·          Physician response to patient & families

·          Public services

·          Commerce and the economy

·          Government

·          Regulation & executive action

·          Efficient allocation of public safety resources

·          Enforcement

Opioid Addiction

Engineers & technologists

·          Patient demand

·          Physician response to patient & families

·          Public services

·          Commerce and the economy

·          Government

·          Improved patient monitoring

·          Early detection of high-risk individuals

·          Improved monitoring of prescription activity

·          Pre-emptive enforcement based on data collection and analysis

Opioid Addiction

Citizens advocacy activists, organizations

·          Physicians

·          Pharma industry

·          Elected officials

·          Regulatory agencies

·          Public

·          Families

·          Legislation

·          Regulation

·          Professional best practices

·          Education

·          Community pressure on elected officials


                To be sure, the above matrix is not meant to be exhaustive; it is meant to demonstrate that problem definitions and descriptions are heavily dependent on the frames of reference and professional “idiosyncratic” terminology brought to the definition effort by team members. This was driven home throughout the workshop. Moreover, the lack of a commonly understood interdisciplinary language for communicating definitional nuances appeared to take up a lot of time during the discussions among team members. It is interesting to note that absent any hidden agendas or advocated positions by challenge team members, there appeared to be a strong collective desire to understand unique terminology and professional viewpoints across the various disciplinary boundaries that were represented on each team. This spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration might not necessarily be present in actual situations where such teams may be called to action in real-world situations.


What are the legal and regulatory issues with the adoption of smart cities technology? In effect, these issues will often set the overall constraints on identifying solution options and implementing them. They may conflict with issues of technical efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

                Any solutions proposed for municipal problems will always have a strong dimension involving what is allowed by law and regulation. This involves legal and regulatory issues at the Federal, state and local levels. These issues are especially important when data collection, analysis, storage and access and use by public officials are involved. Moreover, since this data is sometimes provided to contractors working for government agencies, legal issues of privacy and security become complicated. Interestingly, this is one area often overlooked by engineers and technologists proposing technology-based problem solutions, and if considered at all, is often incorporated as an afterthought.

                Although there was no way to address all the legal and regulatory issues relating to the implementation of technology-based municipal problem solutions during the workshop, team discussions brought up the following points that must be part of any smart cities solution planning:

·         Individual security and privacy.

·         Public liability for safeguarding sensitive personal identity, financial and medical information.

·         Personal liability of public officials and civil servants for failures of smart cities technology.

·         Liability of smart cities technology vendors.

·         Protection of constitutional rights, e.g., freedoms of speech, firearms ownership, due process of law.

·         Line between enhanced public safety and individual liberty.

·         Negotiation of legal and regulatory conflicts between Federal, state and local governmental entities; issues of governmental sovereignty.

·         Legal review of municipal problem solutions, especially those involving data collection, storage, analysis and executive use of generated information; legal input during problem definition and review of solution options.

·         Common terminology/common understanding for communication among legal, technical, policy and elected professionals; especially important when communicating to legal counsel representing clients during discussions that may quickly evolve into advocacy situations.


What are the economic and financial constraints? No matter how elegant or intoxicating a technological solution appears, if there’s no money to pay for it or maintain it over time, it’s a non-starter.

                Obviously, planners must be aware of financial constraints in considering the adoption of any technology as a component of a municipal problem solution; however, this is a more complex and convoluted issue than simply stating that some amount of money is available or that some stream of annual appropriations may be available to support a solution strategy. Our challenge team members were sufficiently sophisticated to be aware that budgets for technology-based solutions are very often impacted by constraints that have little to do with technical efficiencies or resource allocation strategies, or other issues with which engineers and policy planners are normally occupied. Multi-disciplinary problem-solving teams like the ones we modelled in the workshop challenge teams must possess a background understanding of the tolerance of their constituents for spending money on technology-based problem solutions that in a short time may no longer be supported by political leaders who might be elected to office based on drastic cost cutting. Apart from short term politics, problem solving teams must assess the longer capability and willingness of a municipality to maintain and upgrade technology-based solutions as required. Even seemingly simply technology has a way of rapidly becoming obsolete in the face of city growth and evolution and creates its own unique problems that demand the commitment of unforeseen financial resources. Pertinent considerations noted in workshop discussions included:

·         Willingness of constituent residents to spend funds on technologically based problem solutions. This can be tied to such things as the willingness of constituents to spend money on the latest technology for themselves, which in turn can be tied to household affluence and even level of education.

·         Expected changes in the regional economy, i.e., is it expected to grow and become more affluent or is it expected to shrink.

·         What are the perceived priorities for tax dollars, at present and for the foreseeable future?

·         Are Federal and/or state funds available to municipalities; is such availability sustained or a one-off situation?

·         How are problem solving teams to integrate financial constraints into problem-solving options involving the integration of technology?

·         To what extent is it appropriate for problem solving teams to advocate for solution options given the uncertainty of financial resources to support such options.

·         Can solution options be prepared and recommended as “financially agnostic”?


Who decides when the problem has been solved? Identify stakeholders, decision makers, constituents and their interactions and relationships. Do these change in importance over time?

                Our challenge teams found that although it was easy to identify problem stakeholders, decision makers, and constituents, it was more of a challenge identifying their interactions among each other. Moreover, within each group, there were obviously many competing vested interests; so many so that there seemed to be little homogeneity, and little agreement on priorities for problem solutions. An interesting point made during the discussions of several teams was to recognize the possibilities for creating ad hoc coalitions among different stakeholders to address problems and agree on the desirability of adopting appropriate technologies to create solution strategies.


Identification and adoption of “appropriate” technology to support smart cities solutions. Appropriate technology means technology that can easily be applied to help solve a municipal problem and is compatible with economic, financial, legal/regulatory, and administrative constraints faced by municipality.

                Innovative technology can be intoxicating, entertaining and satisfying to those tasked with finding solutions to complicated problems, especially those complex, multidimensional problems faced by municipal governments. Why is this so? NIST’s “Inventor-par-excellence,” Dr. Jack Rabinow[5] points out that an invention is like the punchline of a joke—completely logical and completely unexpected, and therefore has a shining, amazing brilliance to it. To those in search of a problem solution, a relevant invention may be the answer. However, our challenge team members were shrewd enough to realize that not every municipal problem has a complete technological solution, and that a problem faced by one city many not lend itself to the same technology-based solution when that same problem emerges in another city. So, we invoke the term “appropriate” technology.

                Appropriate technology relative to the search for problem solution options simply means a technology-based solution component that addresses the problem in its local context and can be easily integrated into a city’s culture and administrative machinery. Appropriate technology also means systems that are acceptable to the public and can be supported both financially and technically over relatively long periods of time. The quality of a technology’s appropriateness in terms of its support by a city’s management can be especially problematic. The adoption of any technological component of a problem solution may lock a city into a specific evolutionary pathway, which may be difficult to abandon as the need may arise at some future time. A specific technology may limit problem-solving a city management’s flexibility in the future as issues evolve.

                While the idea of appropriate technology is not meant to bias problem solvers against technology-based or technology-supported municipal problem solutions, it is a reminder that discussions of solution options between non-technically-oriented municipal leaders and the engineering community must include critical thinking about where technology-based solutions can lead.


Where does smart cities planning go from here? Are there “workshop take-aways”?

                Based on the wide-ranging threads of discussion from the members of the six workshop challenge teams, and considering the complexity of the challenge areas addressed by the team members, some interesting “interdisciplinary” notions have emerged. Consider the following:

·         The vision of municipalities evolving into smart cities is not a single, integrated technological, political or societal goal, and should probably not be marketed as a single goal.

·         Not every municipal problem necessarily has a set of solution options that are technology-based at any given time.

·         The market for smart cities technology and the market for technology-based integrated solutions to municipal problems is driven predominantly by the political leadership at the state and local level.

·         At present, there does not seem to be a commonly accepted, unified, integrated engineering approach to implementing technology to solve municipal problems. Such an engineering approach may never emerge.

·         At present, an interdisciplinary “lingua franca,” or common language for defining municipal problems and identifying solutions that may have technological components does not exist. Attempts at creating such a language appear to emerge when multi-disciplinary problem-solving teams are called into existence and tasked with exploring solution options for the first time. To a certain extent, this phenomenon was observed in the various workshop teams. The success of this communication seems to depend on the good will and engagement of team members.[A5] 

Certainly, the workshop participants chose to “bite off” a large amount to chew over, not to mention digest. Perhaps one might criticize the effort as a fool’s task addressing so many challenge areas, focuses, and diverse professions. Yet, by all accounts, most attendees were enthusiastic about the results. Many expressed the desire to keep the effort going. Whether we can do this or not remains to be see.

Opportunities for Innovation in Addressing the Application of Smart Cities Technology

                The workshop discussions among the six challenge teams suggested that the dynamics of interdisciplinary problem-solving activities may drive and even accelerate innovative approaches to the implementation of smart cities technology. How is this so? Consider the following argument.

                Smart cities technologies represent many different technology bases, which although interrelated, have their own best practices in terms of application to problem solutions. Innovative approaches to implementing these technologies in problem solving often involve deviations from established best practices. Such deviations carry risks for the engineers who act as innovators as well as for elected officials, policy makers and corporation counsels who must approve the purchase of problem solving technology. So, best engineering practices with respect to implementing smart cities solutions sometimes tends to act as a barrier to innovation when viewed considering risk management. The workshop’s interdisciplinary teams were observed to explore many more options for implementing smart cities technology in support of problem solving than might be the case if, for example, just engineers deliberated. The more options explored, the more likely innovations would emerge. Also, there seems to be a “dynamic” interaction among multi-disciplinary teams that enhances the attractiveness of innovative thought. Perhaps this interaction not only allows greater intellectual exploration of options, but also helps to absorb or manage the perception of risk associated with deviations from accepted practices relating to technology implementation.


[1] Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC)

[2] Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO)

[3] National Institute of Standards and Technology, US Department of Commerce (NIST)

[4] Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG)

[5] Jacob Rabinow, Inventing for Fun and Profit, San Francisco Press, Inc., 1990, p. 245

 [A1]Even if it’s redundant, I think it would be very useful to add an executive summary at the beginning of the report that briefly outlines the content of the report (so, sketch of the workshop) and identifies these takeaways.

 [A2]I would suggest adding the finding of each heading at the beginning and end of the section to provide the reader with a “roadmap,” as I did here with this sentence.

 [A3]This is good, and worth repeating at the beginning of the section.

 [A4]Is this more a government or a community conditions question?

 [A5]Even if it’s redundant, I think it would be very useful to add an executive summary at the beginning of the report that briefly outlines the content of the report (so, sketch of the workshop) and identifies these takeaways.