Smart City Q&A pt. 1: Barry Gander, co-founder, i-CANADA, Smart City consultant, Invest Ottawa EVP, Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance

What is a Smart City? The Business Dictionary uses a very broad definition to define the Smart City as: “A developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas; economy, mobility, environment, people, living and government. Excelling in these key areas can be done so through strong human capital, social capital, and /or ICT infrastructure.”  (Emphasis added)  Does it make more sense to talk first about the Digitally Smart City or even the Digitally Smart Municipal/Regional Government?

Some experts put a gradation on the Smart City term, saying that a Smart City is one where the infrastructure works well, but an Intelligent Community is the next stage: all the functions of a city are integrated and coordinated.

At i-CANADA we think the distinction has little meaning today, because almost everyone is talking about “Smart City 2.0”, which is the Intelligent Community. We think that the hair-splitting over terms is confusing for city officials who just want to get on with the job. We have found that leaders like Mayors tend to prefer the term “Smart City”.

If so, what is the necessary base – infrastructure, expertise, leadership, governance model, etc. – required to move towards being a full smart city?

i-CANADA uses a five-level pyramid to describe the Smart City. Place is the bottom layer, where consideration is given to the advantages or special circumstances growing out of a location, e.g. near the sea or on a river. Next comes Infrastructure, or the transportation and communications backbones of the city. The Collaboration Ecosystem includes social networks and open innovation programs. Solutions encompasses digital tools for health, education, government, the arts, and traffic control. The top layer is the Live, Learn, Work and Play area, where the technology provides a capstone of good and meaningful existence.

When planning a Smart City, the most important step is the first step: establishing the governance for the project. Which leaders are going to be the champions; who is going to drive it forward? This is a multigenerational commitment that has no end-point…the Smart City will go on and on.

Where are we in terms of integrative applications: “there’s an App for that” versus “there’s a system/framework in which to fit that App.” (system of systems – Smart Cities Council)

A true Smart City has one fundamental characteristic that differentiates it from past understandings: all the elements within the community are interconnected and interactive.

Instead of (e.g.) a Smart Traffic department or a Smart Energy division, a Smart City is a system of systems. The Smart Traffic information interacts with data from the Smart Energy grid to optimize energy use by electric vehicles; they both interact with Smart Buildings to locate available parking locations, while the Smart Utilities function prioritizes the need to replace burnt-out street lights in areas being affected by heaviest traffic volume.

Within this interactive system of systems, the elements can be viewed dynamically as a continually evolving hierarchy of processes.

To determine how to become a smart city, or the competitive advantage that a particular smart city can offer, requires the analysis of this hierarchy, including: information technology, community orientation, governance structures, business innovation, human capital, and community knowledge infrastructure. To manage their competitive progress, community leaders need to understand their community’s competitive position on a map that (i) reveals the community’s factors of strength; (ii) pinpoints the weak aspects for remedial action; and (iii) determines the path for progress. As a culture of innovation and the active enrolment of key community members are determinant factors for success, it is necessary to measure and manage not only the hard data about a community’s infrastructure, its business components and its investments. It is also necessary to measure the spirit of the community and its capabilities of energizing itself in the right directions of evolution.

What is the importance of and where are we at in terms of a common platforms (the android model?) such as Europe is demanding?

This is not as important a question as it might appear. Platforms will come and go; efforts to unite them will be ongoing. It is more important to realize that creating a Smart City is only ten percent technological; it is 90 percent social. The key is to inform and motivate all the sectors of the city’s population that there are focused goals that can only be accomplished by working together.

i-CANADA has a model for obtaining the support of communities, which involves surveys, workshops, goal-setting and blueprinting.

What are/is the possibilities from “big data,” the ability of cities to effectively use it, the implications for privacy and security?  What is the significance of open data

Ultimately, big data will be the essential ingredient in making a functional community. More and more points will be “plugged in” to provide data, through the IoT. More powerful AI engines will make meaning out of it and establish correlations. Fundamental activities like transportation – through autonomous vehicles – will reply completely on bug data in order to function.

Governance and the two-way conversation: How can ICT facilitate engagement, consultation, transparency and input without isolating those governed?

Steven Adler is the Chief Information Strategist at IBM, and has been a leader in Information strategy and technology development at IBM. He works with us, and is an internationally recognized thought leader who developed several billion-dollar revenue businesses on the areas of Data Governance, Enterprise Privacy Architectures and Internet Insurance; and [he] advised governments and large NGO’s on open government data, data standards, privacy, regulation, and systemic risk. His view is that cities are now engaging citizens in making all the elements work together — on making the city operate as a unit. This is a dialogue, enabled by technology, which has never existed before.

Open Data has turned the city into a platform. This platform, with its fundamental components of an adequate network for communications plus open data, allows politicians and citizens to experiment with social interaction. Politicians can work together with citizens to design policy interactively. No longer will government be left to the five percent of people directly involved; it will encompass the entire population in consensual design of their living polity.

The city, in a sense, becomes aware of itself through information exchanges. This self-awareness extends into awareness of organic growth.

How do smart city applications interface with the private sector; e.g. building energy usage and taxation/regulation or commercial garbage pick-up determined by need.

Today we are facing significant constraints to growth: debt, climate change, population growth. We need to use new tools for growth. Data is a tool that becomes more powerful the more it is shared and used. It overturns the “resource scarcity” paradigm. The more a city uses and shares data, the more powerful the civic entity becomes in its response to challenges and in its construction of positive and sustainable economic drivers for growth.

Governments are seeing this, and are responding by publishing more data. An example is the U.S. Census Business Builder, which uses neighbourhood demographic data about economic and social profiles to help small business find out where to locate and how to expand. Small business can see a map that helps them understand their market. See:

What are the biggest hurdles to realizing the Smart City potential?

Understanding where to get started and who to appoint as champion.


Where does Canada sit in terms of implementation relative to Europe, USA and Asia?  What are the major challenges in Canada?

Canada is the world leader in the creation of Intelligent Communities – we have more than any other nation. The challenge for Canada is to make the world realize this, so we can get better access to the trillion-dollar market. Our other challenge is to equip our smaller communities with the tools for success.

What are the most common areas in which ICT/Smart City applications are being applied? What are the most common areas in which ICT/Smart City applications are being applied in Canada?

There is no area that is not being affected by Smart City applications. Right now, the heat is on integration of various smart systems, in the developed world. In India, by contrast, the focus is on providing a basic Smart City infrastructure for their top 100 communities.

Each municipality is totally different, with different stages of maturity, challenge and resources. Common municipal services like water control are standard issues, as are applications involving preparations for the IoT.

Which Canadian cities are leading the way in applying Smart City applications; any moving toward integrative frameworks/systems?

The ones that have already won awards are in front: Calgary, Waterloo, Ottawa, and Fredericton, but many cities are surging forward: Halifax, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver come to mind.

Should the development of Smart City applications/capabilities be considered part of the infrastructure the federal and provincial governments will fund under the proposed stimulus package?

A stimulus program should concentrate first and foremost on smart community development.  If it concentrates on old-economy problems like fixing the pot-holes, then we’ll have no cars to drive over the repaired roads, because we’ll be bankrupt.  India, for example, is doing it right.  They realize that the surest way out of their urgent challenges, is to create smart cities that can function for citizens as well as generate the next generation of employment.  A few days ago they set aside more than $7-billion to bring 20 cities up to speed as smart communities; they have 80 more to develop.  For Canada, it’s a matter of crystallizing the same vision and acting on it, with all our strength.  PPPs, for example, need to be encouraged more as tools of smart community development.

Barry Gander - Co-Founder, i-CANADA
Barry Gander – Co-Founder, i-CANADA
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