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The importance
of a smart city
monitoring plan

Author: Satta Sarmah Hightower

Data is the cornerstone of the smart city, and it is also the key to monitoring the progress and effectiveness of technology solutions.

Whether it includes smart parking, smart lighting, intelligent public safety systems or all the above, a data-driven monitoring system is crucial to determining whether the investments your city has made are helping you achieve your goals.

Effective smart city monitoring

Smart city monitoring doesn't mean citizen surveillance. When cities implement smart city solutions—such as a network of sensor-based Internet of Things devices that share data—most, if not all, of the data is de-identified and aggregated. And many cities have data governance policies in line with state and federal privacy regulations stipulating how cities can collect and use the data.

The data collected from smart city monitoring solutions are often consolidated onto one platform or into one repository to streamline data management and enterprise security. Trends and patterns discovered in the data get distilled into actionable insights that can be used to develop effective strategies to combat traffic congestion, air pollution, degrading infrastructure and other civic issues. Smart city monitoring can help make this happen, and an effective plan monitors traffic and air quality, utilizes advanced sensing and enables predictive maintenance.

Traffic and air quality monitoring

Traffic monitoring uses technologies powered by artificial intelligence, such as smart traffic signals and intelligent video systems, to help reduce travel times, improve intersection safety and make public transportation more efficient. Air quality monitoring includes maintaining stations throughout the city where IoT-enabled sensors keep tabs on pollution levels. Areas with higher pollution levels can be investigated so that city officials can find interventions that improve air quality, whether those are policies or products.

Advanced sensing

Because many smart city solutions rely on sensors, advanced sensing technology is also critical for an effective smart city monitoring system. These technologies enable real-time monitoring, letting cities make proactive decisions like closing major roads before severe weather events strike or sending safety alerts to the public about shutting off water or power during maintenance. Advanced sensing technologies essentially provide robust fault detection capabilities that cities can leverage to minimize or prevent issues before they have a much larger effect on the public.

Preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance offers similar benefits. Using predictive analytics generated from the data gathered by intelligent sensors and devices, cities can estimate when critical infrastructure might fail and fix issues before they are irreparable. Preventive maintenance is especially important in public safety and for critical infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, street lights and buildings. It also helps city officials manage tight budgets, helping to prevent issues from accumulating over time and causing expensive shutdowns, and could help to more efficiently map time- and cost-intensive projects, such as major road repairs or replacing public works and emergency management vehicles.

Enhancing a smart city monitoring plan

If you can't measure what you're doing, you can't be sure that you're improving. Though artificial intelligence and IoT sensor-based devices are crucial for collecting, analyzing and acting on the data that drives smart cities, robust network capabilities are equally important.

Smart cities can benefit from 5G network connectivity and mobile edge computing to get data to its intended destination as quickly as possible. Effective monitoring requires near real-time connectivity; delays in communicating critical information could jeopardize public safety or make it more difficult for a municipality to achieve its smart city goals, whether that's making public buildings more energy-efficient or reducing traffic congestion by increasing public transportation ridership.

Adequately preparing employees—especially your IT team—for these changes is also crucial. Smart city solutions will generate more data for the team to manage and more technologies to implement and maintain. Working with a managed services provider can significantly reduce the burden on your team. Even if you run your services in-house, working with a strategic technology partner opens up access to initial training, ongoing guidance and troubleshooting help.

Ensuring digital equity

As your city gets smarter, you'll need to factor digital equity into your monitoring process. Every part of your city needs to benefit from innovation. But even in areas that have the necessary infrastructure, monitoring your progress should include gathering data and reporting on how the solutions you've implemented have measurably improved key quality of life indicators in underserved communities and for underserved populations, such as people with disabilities.

By keeping all these things in mind, you can ensure that your smart city monitoring plan gives you the data you need to track your progress, adjust your strategy when things don't go according to plan and ensure that every investment improves the quality of life for everyone in your community.

Learn how Verizon solutions can help cities stay smart, connected and safe.