Smart solutions thrive beyond city limits

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The smartest solutions thrive beyond city limits. Smart Regions enable smaller communities to implement smart city solutions, and focus on outcomes that put people first in our rural and suburban areas as well as our urban cores. They use technology to optimize or altogether replace failing systems and infrastructure, and in doing so alleviate otherwise strained municipal budgets.

To begin building smart and connected regions, Venture Smarter launched Regional Smart Cities Initiatives as a nonprofit effort to work with Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Councils of Governments as well as elected and public officials in local, county, state, and federal government agencies to cut the chaos out of smart technology and infrastructure planning. We simultaneously launched the working group for IEEE-SA P2784, ‘The Guide to the Technology and Planning Process to Build A Smart City.’


  • Technology and Planning Process Standards

  • Project financing and budget allocations for smart tech

  • Remove Procurement and Policy Barriers

  • Interdisciplinary, complex relationships must be supported

  • Community and stakeholder groups must be engaged


  • Deploy interoperable solutions city to city, state to state, region to region

  • Save dollars, mitigate risk, speed up project timelines

  • Create innovative P3 collaboration opportunities

  • Institutionalize long-term collaborations and visions

  • Create cities and regions reflective of citizen wants and needs

Smart Regions are built on top of a foundation of interoperable, accessible connectivity, upon which applications (solutions) can be deployed across sectors, agencies, and municipal boundaries to create better places to live, work, and visit. Agencies must look at prioritizing smart and connected technologies and policies while considering infrastructure projects, educating and aligning elected and public officials around available resources, and using data and analytics to better understand addressable opportunity areas and community needs.

Challenges in building smart cities

  • Siloed conversations and resources

  • Disparate assets and information

  • Strained municipal, state, and federal budgets

  • A Spectrum of Taxpayers wants/needs

  • Antiquated and/or nonexistent policy frameworks

  • Elongated procurement and planning cycles

  • Limited capacities and internal resources, capabilities in government offices/agencies

  • General confusion about government procurements and opportunities in technology and innovation communities

  • Technology continues to outpace policy; therefore innovation continues to outpace implementation

  • Technology silos and vendor pigeonholes

  • Knowledge gaps

  • Political and legislative barriers

  • Time (Technology outpaces Policy, Innovation outpaces Implementation)

  • Retrofit vs. Build new

Benefits and Goals of thinking collaboratively, regionally

  • Shorten timetables

  • Centralize data and information

  • Get predictive and responsive

  • Reduce costs, waste, and redundancies

  • Test and iterate - quickly

  • Prioritizations (projects and funding)

  • Interoperability (technology and planning process standards)

  • Resource and Knowledge Share

  • Policy and Coalition Building (Regional, State, Federal)

  • Promote regional economic development and growth in urban, suburban, and rural areas

  • Smaller and medium-sized communities can move smart cities conversations forward

  • Regional talent and innovation funnels will attract and retain talent and grow businesses and startups

  • Update and optimize infrastructure and public service delivery


Learning from the market

Local, county, state, and federal agencies can and should collaborate to resource and knowledge share, and even cost share when it makes sense for projects that ultimately cut costs, create value, and/or generate revenue. They can work together and with the business and academic communities via public-private-partnerships to focus on things such as connected infrastructure prioritizations, impact and feasibility research, and setting community-driven “Smart City Development Goals.” There are several examples of working groups forming that I am involved with that revolve around standards and collaborations, such as the Global Cities Team Challenge, IEEE Smart Cities, Intelligent Community Forum, and of course, our Regional Smart Cities Initiatives. Afterall, ‘collaboration drives smart city success stories.’

Leaders need help understanding a myriad of questions. Most commonly:

  • What can smart technologies do to solve pressing problems?

  • What is it going to cost?

  • Who is going to pay for it?

  • What happens if something goes wrong?

  • What policies enable or prevent certain goals and visions from being reached?

  • Who owns the data?

  • The list goes on….

In many states, for example, up to 90% of transportation dollars are used to simply repair and maintain our crumbling roadways and highway infrastructure. There is no room in that to create new budget allocations for smart and connected solutions, so we have to create dynamic business models around solutions that cut costs and generate revenue to move the needle quickly across the state that promote seamless and strategic implementation of smart and connected technologies to improve our roadways and transit systems. This means we will do things like promote dynamic and on demand public transit, mulit modal transportation planning, and advanced and autonomous vehicle research and implementation. The technology is the enabler, but the focus is improving experiences and outcomes for people - residents and visitors, alike.

With the Smart Regions effort, It is our goal to give even small and medium sized communities and agencies the tools to create smart city success stories. This means that solutions founded in connectivity, mobility, and resilience aren’t reserved for our urban cores, but available and affordable for their counterparts in suburban and rural areas, too.

The technology and applications integrated to make smart cities efficient can also translate into the private sector. Think about connected campuses and facilities, for example, or the spurred business growth and improved business systems by putting our corporate and innovation communities to work in our cities and regions. Planning efforts on that front require the same interoperability, security, and resilience as government sided planning, but often times can move much more efficiently without red tape around procurement and project cycles.

Interested in learning more about Smart Regions? Have questions, thoughts, or ideas? We want to hear from you! Email or join our online collaboration community!

Written by:
Zack Huhn
Founder, Venture Smarter
Chair, IEEE Smart Cities Standards Committee

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