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Doing business in the smart cities of the future

Senior Lead Smart City at the City of Greater Geelong, Matthew Szymczak IMLa, shares his insights on doing business in smart cities – it might happen sooner than you think.

When we think about smart cities, it’s generally very future focussed. And while fully integrated smart cities are 5-10 years away, it is happening now through pockets or trials. As our cities mature, we’ll start to see the ecosystem become more connected. Essentially, we’ll see the feedback loop from the physical start to inform services.

What does that look like in practice? In the case of city parks and gardens, we can use sensors to tell us when trees need to be watered, the condition of equipment within the park or even how many people are using a particular space. That feedback can inform maintenance and planning, even down to the granular level of recommending particular areas in the park that are cooler or have more shade for a, particularly hot day.

For managers and leaders looking to embrace the opportunities in smart cities, there are three elements that will play a crucial role.

Prepare for transformation 2.0

Transformation 2.0 is the next step. It goes beyond the current digital transformation to where the physical, through the Internet of Things, and digital realms interact.

Managers need to be thinking about this transition now.

Ultimately what we are doing in smart cities is looking at how we can use the technology and data to manage our cities and spaces with the goal of creating more value for our communities. The challenge and opportunity for business is to consider their role in that connected ecosystem.

Consider the ethics of smart cities

As businesses start to utilise smart technology, ethics is an important consideration. That is, privacy around data collection and digital identity.

Managers need to be mindful of what they’re creating. Data on its own has no way of knowing who you are and what you do, but it’s very important to be transparent around what data you collect, why you do it and what it tells you.

The motivation behind smart cities isn’t about being Big Brother. It’s about providing people with better cities, information and experiences. Communicating that, or co-designing solutions with your customer group, can help to provide the ethical transparency required.

Keep an open mind

Through the Deakin University MBA program, I learned to take a holistic view of smart city design. By understanding management practice and various elements of business, I am able to connect the dots. Whether I look at it from an innovation perspective or with a technology mindset, I can also look at the benefits, financial implications, ongoing accountability and sustainability.

Matthew Szymczak IMLa

That’s what I encourage managers to do when they consider doing business in smart cities – to look at the bigger picture and keep an open mind.

The changing technology creates new opportunities and skillsets for the jobs of tomorrow. It’s not necessarily about replacing staff but moving them into roles that can add greater value and enhance performance. People can start to do more meaningful work.

But before we can get to that point, there is a broader change that needs to happen. Managers need to keep an open mind and consider alternatives and options because the obvious answer isn’t always there. The tech is changing and evolving rapidly. However, it’s important to remember that the tech and the data it gives us are just one part of the management toolset. At the end of the day, it’s what you do with that technology and data that matters the most.


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