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Will smart city investment pay off?

Many governments are making investments in smart city technologies, but not all those bets will pay off.  That's according to a newly released Smart Cities Benefits Index, which ranks 50 cities based on their expected return on investment in smart city technology.

Twenty-one metrics – including demographics, city spend and infrastructure, business economy, education -- were used to come up with the final scores, according to Stephanie Atkinson, the CEO of Compass Intelligence, which produced the index for Chordant and CA Technologies.

Smart City technologies such as connected transportation systems to smart building technology to internet of things-enabled energy systems, have the potential to unlock efficiencies and quality of life benefits.

Smart city projects that start with the transportation sector, for example, can lead to more efficient mobility for residents, improved sustainability, better city services and increased public safety, Atkinson said. But those benefits will vary widely based on differences in geography, transportation systems, demographics and a variety of other factors.

"Those cities ranked higher or that have higher total points on the index are expected to be earlier adopters of smart city technologies and could potentially reap greater benefits of a return on investment," she said.

Boston, Chicago and Atlanta snagged the top three spots on the index. Columbus, Ohio, which has gained prominence in the smart city landscape after winning the Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge last year, was was 18th on the list. Other cities, like Roanoke, Va., and Provo, Utah, scored on the lower end of the spectrum.

Atkinson said that because so many metrics were considered, it is hard to point to one thing that top cities did better than others, but low-scoring cities can see what areas they need to work on.

“Before you do anything you have to have organizational structure that is going to focus on smart cities,” Atkinson said. “And before you have that you need a plan in place.”

See the Smart Cities Benefit Index here.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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