Steering the Conversation
Speaking to what’s important to each stakeholder
- By Kevin Taylor
- Apr 01, 2021
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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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-
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.
Kevin Taylor is the segment development manager, Smart Cities at Axis Communications.