Smart City? I’m not sure it’s possible…


Smart City? I’m not sure it’s possible…

We have posted an article over at with the headline:

Looking for a Smart City? Grab Your Skis

Fair enough. Caught your attention. Betcha thought it was about a ‘Smart City’ in Vail or Park City. Well you are flat out wrong.

This is an article about how ski resorts use data collected about their customers to adjust everything from lift ticket prices to which ski runs to plow. They use that data to help their skiers get to the resort, find places to stay, purchase high end equipment, know how long the lines are, and virtually (get it…) everything else about their experience on the mountain.

The resorts put together the ability to collect the data and then hired analysts to slice and dice it so they could gain more information about their businesses, make them run more efficiently, and guess what, increase the bottom line. You will find similar operations in successful shopping centers, department stores, doctor’s offices, airlines, and just about any other major business you can name.

What do they all have in common? They want to make a profit and run more efficiently.

Profit and Efficiency aren’t really watch words of governments at any level. Oh they talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Here is a paragraph from the article:

No one yet knows quite what to make of the “smart city” concept, and whether it’s worth what big companies like Alphabet, Siemens, Ford, IBM, and Amazon would like to charge places to use their tech—in money and in knowledge. But if officials want to get to know the concept a bit better, the wins and the tradeoffs, perhaps they should head to the mountains.

I have been saying for years that the Smart City tsunami is being driven by the tech companies, not by the cities who are hungering for data.

See the difference? The ski resorts like the one interviewed in the article wanted to fix a problem and increase their profits, so they set about to design programs to do so, then reached out to tech companies to automate them.

Cities are standing around smiling about being smart, all the while feeding the coffers of Google, Siemens, et al. Don’t get me wrong, there are some smart city managers who are hiring folks who understand how to analyze the data and are using it to manage their processes, but my guess is that they are few and far between. (You can meet some of them at PIE 2018 in a few weeks.)

Those departments within the city like police, fire, water, and others that actually deliver services, have been collecting and using data for years.

I expect that by the time I get home my electricity and water will be ‘accidentally’ be cut off and no one will know why, except the guy who read this at city hall.



John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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