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Definition of Smart Cities

The International Standards Organization Technical Management Board established this working definition of Smart Cities in 2014:

A smart city is one that dramatically increases the pace at which it improves its sustainability and resilience by fundamentally improving:

  1. how it engages society,

  2. how it applies collaborative leadership methods,

  3. how it works across disciplines and city systems, and

  4. how it uses data and integrated technologies

in order to transform services and quality of life to those in and involved with the city (residents, business, visitors).

We propose adapting this definition to be Austin’s strategic intent:

We are a city that becomes increasingly efficient in solving real problems for real people by

  1. engaging stakeholders and users,

  2. leading collaboratively,

  3. working across disciplines, departments, and city systems; and

  4. using data and integrated technologies

to transform services and improve quality of life with and for all Austinites, businesses, and visitors.

This definition does three things to represent Austin values:

  1. It complements our open government commitments to be participatory, transparent, accountable, and integrate technology and innovation methods.
  2. It incorporates Austin values of inclusion, accessibility, and equity.
  3. It takes the hype out of Smart Cities by grounding it to the purpose of solving problems, with the essential ingredients of engagement, leadership, collaboration in addition to the use of integrated technologies and data.

Maturity Model

A good roadmap will tell you where you are as well as where you are going. To this end, our roadmap will use a maturity model to help the City as an organization continue to improve our problem-solving capabilities.

Smart City Maturity Model. A Smart Cities Maturity Model that assesses a project from level 1 (low maturity) to level 4 (high maturity) on five dimensions:
Dimension A. Engage society: how openly do you allow others to participate? Level 1 = 1-way/broadcast information. Level 2 = 2-way engagement, receive input. Level 3 = Close the feedback loop. Level 4 = Inclusive partnerships/relationships.
Dimension B. Lead Collaboratively: what does your leadership look like on your teams? Level 1 = Hierarchical. Level 2 = Encourage team problem-solving. Level 3 = Shared accountability for outcomes. Level 4 = Transparent multi-partner governance.
Dimension C. Work across disciplines, systems: How do teams work together? Level 1 = Silos. Level 2 = Across disciplines or units. Level 3 = Across teams or departments. Level 4 = Across systems.
Dimension D. Tech and data: How is content managed and technologies used? Level 1 = Paper/no data. Level 2 = Some automation/some data. Level 3 = Transactional services/analytics. Level 4 = Integrated systems/data models.
Dimension E. Capability: How evolved is your ability to solve problems? Level 1 = In-person, one episode at a time. Level 2 = Some analysis - high level trends. Level 3 = Deeper analysis, identify hidden problems, respond. Level 4 = Real-time data, predictive, proactive, transformative.

The maturity model aligns to the four components of the definition:

  • Engage stakeholders and users
  • Lead collaboratively
  • Work across disciplines, city Departments, and systems
  • Integrate technology and data, in a way that evolves our
  • Problem-solving capabilities

There are four main steps in the maturity model.

Stage 1 involves siloed and separated teams with hierarchical governance that communicate one-way, often with paper-based systems that yield no data, and thus problem-solving must be done in person, one episode at a time.

Stage 2 involves cross-disciplinary teams empowered to solicit input from others, enabled by some automated technologies that yield data that gives you high level trends with which you can identify target problem areas or opportunities.

Stage 3 sees diverse teams with shared accountability for outcomes, empowered by their ability to close feedback loops by sharing information on actions taken, enabled by more robust transactional technologies that yield richer analytics, with which you can conduct deeper analysis and identify more hidden problems, yielding in a more responsive problem-solving capability.

Stage 4 evolves into deeper and more robust partnerships and relationships empowered by transparent, multi-partner governance of networked teams across systems and sectors that are enabled by integrated technologies and robust data models that yield a proactive, predictive problem-solving capability. This stage transforms cities into hyper-efficient, sustainable, and resilient systems that support a high quality of life for residents, businesses, and visitors.

Building Blocks

During our interviews and conversations with City Departments, we learned that there are a number of gaps and barriers to being able to build a robust smart city capability.

Smart Building Blocks. Core needs, gaps, and capabilities to deliver - what we've termed "smart building blocks." They are:
Foundation - getting on the same page about what Smart Cities really means
Policy - identifying ordinances, policies, or procedures that need to be changed or developed
Teams - establishing diverse teams to focus on solving problems with data and technology
Services - helping people get what they really need from the city
Technology - tools that help people solve problems faster
Business and Funding Models - how we partner with others and pay for solutions

These building Blocks are:

  • Foundation - getting on the same page about what Smart Cities really means
  • Policy - identifying ordinances, policies, or procedures that need to be changed or developed
  • Teams - establishing diverse teams to focus on solving problems with data and technology
  • Services - helping people get what they really need from the city
  • Technology - tools that help people solve problems faster
  • Business and Funding Models - how we partner with others and pay for solutions

We go into each of these building blocks in depth in the next pages.