Smart Cities are All About Experience

/ smart city

By Jon Salisbury

Smart Cities are coming. They are arriving all over the world in different shapes and sizes. This can be very disconcerting to people who want standards to be in place and to provide fantastic outcomes in a reliable fashion.

We looked at smart cities from the following perspectives:

  • Cities
  • Citizens
  • Technologist
  • University

I will provide details below about my findings and some areas that I think should be fine-tuned for these smart city projects.


Cities are learning quickly and trying to appease a growing appetite of the business community and citizen populous for smart technologies. Funding is growing and this is an opportunity that Cities, startups, established businesses and Universities are trying to be apart of fast.

City Perspective

Cities are normally run by a mix of elected officials and administrators. On one side, you have the elected officials who are very concerned about ensuring they put the city in the most prominent position and at the same time reduce risk. The other side is paid employees of the city including CIO’s, Data analytics leaders and more. The role is becoming a position which leads internal technology initiatives as well as initiatives that live throughout the city. Typically, I see variations of 3 main starting points for cities moving forward with smart city projects.

  1. Fiscal responsibility – charging for right of way
  2. Fiscal responsibility – charging for pole access rights
  3. Fiscal responsibility – charging for internet right of way with private networks

This is also joined by projects focused on outcomes. The cities that are jumping straight to outcome-based projects are at the highest risk and are making the most mistakes. They are putting themselves in a position to accidentally implement hazardous environments for the public.

Citizens Perspective

I have not talked to any citizen who truly is getting a lot of value out of these projects or believes it is improving their lively hood. This is a big miss by all parts of the projects!

Technologist Perspective

The lens of the technologist is all about 2 things (Opportunity and social good). I only see technologists aggressively pursuing this space with passion. These technologists are hungry for the vast opportunity and the vast social good that may occur if things are put into place properly and with scale. This space is very risky and poses a lot of potential problems for technology to either succeed, fail or be swallowed up by larger organizations. This business model of “getting scale and then being bought” philosophy has lots of risks for a city. This could result in a company change mid-project and that may come with service reductions, price increases or worst yet, complete failure of the deploying company.

University Perspective

Universities are the perfect place to work alongside in smart city projects. They have tremendous resources, research facilities, and ability to assist in delivery. Universities are quickly trying to understand the broad space and prepare students for the skills needed to succeed in the smart city space. Universities want access to what’s going on in the smart city space and how best to position themselves to help the community at large.

Finding conclusions (Perspectives)

  1. Connectivity, standards, and framework need to be adopted first!
  2. We are forgetting about the experience! We should be focusing harder on the citizen experience and making technology interactive that allows for citizen engagement!
  3. We should begin working on baseline analysis tools which allow us to properly measure successes in future projects. I cannot believe how much I am seeing surveys as a primary success indicator. So many other tools exist to allow for this to be qualitative.
  4. Ensure that every solution that goes into place offers value, revenue, or is an overall cost reduction.

How smartLINK helps:

smartLINK solves a lot of the perspective issues by its very nature

  1. We are completely interactive and drive experience.
  2. We have a ton of sensors for baseline and trend analytics.
  3. We pay for increased connectivity.
  4. We offer a new revenue source to the city.
  5. We come with a smart city framework which has been adopted by IEEE and shown below.

Diagram of Smart City (with NIST overlay)

Diagram of Smart City (with fiscal risk overlay)

These diagrams are the property of my work with “Venture Smarter” as Chief Technology Officer. This diagram is backed by a brain trust which tracks all connectivity options, attributes of connectivity, as well as protocols & attributes as well as authentication methodologies.

It’s amazing to work on a product with aforethought that you will solve so many challenges. Its more amazing to see validation in the market state through dialogue with hundreds of Cities, technologists, Universities, and citizens.


We have a multi-step engagement process with our clients which includes multi-phase approach.

Phase 1: Urban Strategy

smartLINK works with the country’s premier Urban Strategist who has tackled very challenging complex and broadly scoped urban projects to ensure our clients entire cultural and urban environment will be satisfied by our solution stack.

Phase 2: Technology Assessment / Infrastructure

smartLINK follows this study with a technology deployment survey consisting of wireless, wired, and IoT infrastructure. We want to understand the proper standards in place to ensure we fit our technology into the city in a way that is cohesive and beneficial to the citizens and the data analytics platforms in place. We also work on route planning and key waypoints that will make the kiosks more useful to the public.

Phase 3: Financial feasibility / Marketing Study

smartLINK then provides business cases for each kiosk that is laid out across the city. We propose the marketing study to 1 of our national media purchasing partners and ensure the city is represented by the lens that best fits its culture desired revenue outcome and local business growth. We also accompany our launches with marketing and citizen training campaigns to ensure our product is known and well used.

Phase 4: Delivery

Execution and delivery are extremely important to get right from the beginning. We ensure we have multiple Quality assurance points throughout our entire process.

  • Permitting
  • Easements,
  • Content strategy sign off / execution
  • Wayfinding with priority routing
  • Custom Branding of kiosks
  • WIFI implementation
  • lastly the Marketing Kick off

(smart city kiosks) (worlds most advanced wayfinding)

Phase 5: Continuous improvement

As a technology firm first, finding problems and providing solutions is in our DNA. We are constantly analyzing and working to improve our technology ecosystem to maximize value to the community, citizen, city and media buyers in a seamless fashion. At our core, the value is driven from what we provide to the user/citizen. If we are providing value to our user base the rest is built on a solid foundation. We will continue to push forward to provide more value with the same infrastructure through stringent product improvement processes led by industry leading innovators.

Learn more about the process to building smart cities.

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