Steering the Conversation

Steering the Conversation

Speaking to what’s important to each stakeholder

Five years ago, the Smart City market was approaching the peak of inflated expectations – lots of buzz, but not a lot of traction. Since those early days, ambitious visions of tech-centric metropolises have given way to more pragmatic expectations, laying the groundwork for a steady and sustainable move towards adoption. The general concept of Smart Cities – leveraging technology to improve livability – holds promise for communities of all sizes; large and small.

When navigating the Smart City market, it is wise to speak to the priorities and concerns of diverse stakeholders, many of whom might lie outside the security integrator’s traditional business.

While the list of key stakeholders is nearly infinite, they generally fall into flve major categories:

  • Law enforcement
  • Transportation management
  • Resilience and sustainability
  • City management
  • Technology management

TALKING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES

In large metropolitan markets, law enforcement often encompasses multiple agencies: the local police department, regional of- flces of state and federal agencies, and even peripheral agencies that are within campus, stadium or convention center organizations. In smaller communities, the stakeholders could simply be the local police department.

Tasked with overall public safety, their key areas of focus will likely be:

  • Deterring and investigating crime
  • Fostering trust
  • Improving the community’s reputation

Perhaps the best way to approach the Smart City conversation with this group is through a discussion of policy related to using video technology in public spaces. Start with defining the purpose of the camera system and how the stakeholders will prioritize device placement. Talk about access control – who can view the video and who authorizes sharing it. How will personally identifiable information be protected, used and redacted? How long will video be retained? How will video be destroyed when it’s no longer needed?

By raising these questions, an integrator encourages stakeholders to think critically and more broadly about policy topics. This, in turn, will help them draft policies that will contribute to a positive city image and build community trust. In this way, the technology solutions selected will be more likely to achieve their intended outcomes and yield long term value rather than become gateways to unintended consequences.

TALKING WITH TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENTS

You may find transportation management stakeholders residing in the local city or county Department of Transportation or in the Public Works Department. There may also be stakeholders who work for outsourced professional services or engineering firm.

What do these stakeholders care about most?
• Reducing traffic congestion
• Eliminating injuries and fatalities related to transportation accidents
• Implementing data communications relating to connected and autonomous vehicles

Traffic congestion may be the most universal of all city challenges. With so much surplus demand for mobility filling roadways to capacity, the need for technology solutions that can safely increase corridor throughput and reduce commute times is paramount.

Speaking to those concerns, integrators can discuss how video analytics can automate dynamic traffic signal control. Instead of relying on static programs based on traffic studies performed every five-to-seven years, the intersection signal controllers would receive real-time data from cameras and dynamically adjust signal timing and phase based on current conditions to keep traffic flowing.

Another topic dear to the hearts of transportation stakeholders is something called “Vision Zero” – the goal of reducing major injuries and fatalities from transportation accidents down to zero. Listen to what these stakeholders have done so far to reach this objective – what has worked in the past and what hasn’t. This can help you better understand what technologies to offer that would progress them toward that goal.

While autonomous vehicles are certainly another hot topic for Smart Cities. It centers on emerging computer science, is saturated with academic research initiatives and lies outside the scope of most technology integration businesses.

TALKING WITH THOSE IN CHARGE OF RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Most large metropolitan centers have an Office of Sustainability and/or an Office of Resilience. You may find someone in the city’s organizational chart with the title of Chief Sustainability Officer or Chief Resilience Officer. Smaller cities and towns may not necessarily have those departments or titles, so you’ll have to dig a little deeper to identify which local official has the responsibility and passion for these issues.

What are the top concerns for these stakeholders?

  • Economic development
  • Resilience to natural and manmade disasters
  • A solid framework for sustainable development goals

While sustainability is often equated with green or environmental initiatives, there are actually 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) defined by the United Nations. They run the gamut from reducing poverty, hunger and inequality, to protecting the environment, providing access to affordable and sustainable energy and strengthening global partnerships.

Research indicates that most cities use some or all of the SDGs as a guidepost for their own sustainability efforts. In a survey of 167 cities, which ESI Thought labs encapsulated in a study called “Smart City Solutions for a Riskier World,” 76 percent of participants reported that they incorporated each of the UN SDGs into their plans. Goals with the highest focus included eliminating poverty, providing quality education, decent work and economic growth. To win over these stakeholders and sponsors, an integrator should speak to how their proposed technologies can help the local government reach these goals for the betterment of the community.

Mitigating impacts from urban flooding is another common concern of cities, and it highlights socioeconomic disparities in our communities. The 2017 report by The World Bank titled “Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disaster”1 points out that “poor people are often exposed to frequent, low-intensity events, such as the recurrent floods that affect many cities with insufficient drainage infrastructure, are nearly twice as likely to live in fragile dwellings, receive less post-disaster support than do non-poor people.” Stakeholders focused on sustainability are likely to view this more from a human perspective than a technology perspective. When addressing their concerns, focus on proactive solutions that provide early detection of dangerous conditions, deliver timely notification to people in affected areas, and shorten deployment times of emergency services.

Framing technology solutions in terms of the stakeholder’s citizen-centric mindset gives them peace of mind that the products and services you offer can have a positive impact on the community they serve.

TALKING WITH CITY MANAGERS

In large metropolitan areas, the chief executive of the city is likely to be the mayor. In smaller local governments, executive authority is likely held by the city manager. Unlike other siloed stakeholders mentioned above, city managers are as diverse in focus as the communities they serve. Because city management is a career-track positions, managers often bring to their current role extensive experience with managing other cities or towns.

The best advice is to talk less, listen more. Ask this stakeholder to share stories about where they worked in the past, what challenges they helped those communities overcome and how those accomplishments are influencing their focus today. This will help you understand their passions, what obstacles they might be facing and where your knowledge and skills as a technology expert can help them bring their plans to fruition.

TALKING WITH CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICERS

The Chief Information Officer is generally the stakeholder responsible for drafting the city’s technology strategy and policies as well as managing all the technology owned and administered by the local government. To do their job effectively, they need to maintain a good working relationship with the city manager/ mayor/council and with the chief procurement officer – the person signing the check for technology investments.

Besides wanting to know how to wring every ounce of value from the technology they purchase, the other concerns foremost in this stakeholder’s mind are:

  • Security of the countless nodes, endpoints, and IoT devices on the city’s network
  • Ensuring that newly adopted technology conforms to the city’s IT policies
  • Efficiently managing all technology with limited personnel resources

In conversations with these stakeholders, it’s important to steer the discussion less towards solutions, and more towards how proposed technology will live within their environment. This should include topics like cybersecurity, device lifecycle management and administrative tools that can help them streamline dayto- day operations.

FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANT ISSUES OF THE DAY

Local governments are complex organizations looking for technology solutions. In her keynote address at the 2020 Smart Cities Week conference, US Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), stated that there’s an estimated $1.1B in Smart City Grant programs planned to be distributed in the next 5 years, and that city governments are expected to spend $41T in “Smart Technology” over the next 20 years.

If your organization can navigate the diverse stakeholders within local governments and help them visualize how your offerings can solve their specific challenges, you can build long term growth in the Smart City vertical segment. In addition, you’ll have the satisfaction that comes from impacting communities in a positive way.

This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Security Today.

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