What Is a Smart City, and Why Should I Care?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The technology world is full of buzzwords, and our channel is no exception to this rule. As soon as one term becomes demystified, two more spring up in its place. Just when you thought you understood what the Internet of Things is and how it could impact your business, the term ‘smart city’ starts getting kicked around.

Hopefully you know enough about IoT to understand the ramifications of smart city tech (and if you don’t – no worries, we’ve got you covered). But if you’re a VAR, it’s imperative that you understand what a smart city is, and what it means to the channel.

Smart cities go beyond smart homes, Amazon Alexa-enabled devices, and the luxury of Wi-Fi in the park. Estimates from experts are predicting that more than $41 trillion will be invested in IoT tools, platforms, and technology in cities around the world over the next 20 years. It’s being seen as the solution to many of today’s modern problems: from gun violence to California wildfires, to traffic jams. And with a sticker price like that, you can’t afford to ignore it.


Don’t Miss the Big Picture

Sure, smart homes are already coming into play, and from Google to Amazon to Microsoft, you can take your pick of digital home assistants at your fingertips. But building a smart city is obviously a larger task, and it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

A smart city, as defined by the Smart Cities Council, “uses information and communications technology to enhance its livability, workability, and sustainability. It collects information about itself using sensors, devices or other systems, and sends the data to an analytics system to understand what’s happening now, and what’s likely to happen next.”

Smart cities will have a major impact on the digital economy, not to mention the global one. Like it or not, this is where things are headed, and all the data to move forward with implementation already exists – we aren’t waiting around for the technology to catch up to the idea here. From servers to routers and networking to cloud computing software to digital signage for outdoor kiosks, smart cities have the potential to demand many different verticals and technologies take part in constructing one.


What Does This Mean to Me?

Now is the time for VARs to familiarize themselves with the infrastructure necessary to create a smart city. Governmentally-focused VARs may already have their fingers on this pulse, but there are many different factors to still consider. Data aggregation will be a major tool, which will likely mean that fostering relationships with ISVs capable of aggregating different kinds of data will have a large payoff in this industry. In addition to this, the ability  to sell technology that can be refashioned to cater to smart cities can create huge opportunities for VARs. If you’re already selling digital signage and kiosk services, determine how these can be implemented into smart buildings, smart cities, and even bundled with other solutions like routers and wayfinding tools.

It’s also important to take a step back and adjust your perspective on these types of solutions. Although VARs deal in tech, and smart cities need technology, don’t forget that building and refashioning cities is, at its core, a human issue. Every city is different, and will be looking to cater its smart city initiatives to solve human problems specific to its own population. Take the time to research accordingly to learn what each city is looking to focus on, and how you can specifically tailor your offerings to their needs.


Adding Value

Perhaps one element of creating a smart city that can easily go unnoticed is how crucial value-adds will become. Urban landscapes are complicated, and so is the technology necessary to tie it all together and solve complex problems. The first initial step will be integration planning, and VARs should want a place at the table when those discussions happen.

A smart city is more than just a few pieces of technology linked and functioning together – it’s a living, moving, changing ecosystem, and city planning committees will be eager to have all the help they can get during the implementation phases. Be sure you’re able to offer additional support, installation services, roll-out tech support, and troubleshooting. This can mean the difference between winning and losing in the battle to gain these contracts.


Smart cities are coming. They may be coming at different paces, and with different priorities in mind, but they’re coming – and for many cities, the initial steps have already been taken. Navigation kiosks, open and free WiFi in public spaces, and transportation solutions have already taken root in many large cities all over the world. The train is ready to leave the station, but it’s up to you to decide if you’ll be on it or not.  

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