Paul Goff from Buro Happold talks Smart City Systems

Paul Goff from Buro Happold talks Smart City Systems

 In our latest and very first guest blog, we have some fascinating insight from Buro Happold’s Paul Goff on Smart Cities Systems.  Paul is a Project director within Buro Happold’s Infrastructure division and is responsible for their Urban Intelligence service offering which encompasses ICT & Systems in the public realm.  Enjoy.


Smart City Systems

In a sector  plagued by self-appointed, industry sponsored narrators and pseudo experts,  it can sometimes be difficult for city planners to see past clichéd statements referencing  the need for ‘SMART city systems and ubiquitous connectivity’ and really understand the strategic benefit that maybe garnered by implementing a SMART city scheme.

Frustratingly this situation is further complicated by a generation of master planners who find it difficult to accept that fixed telecommunication infrastructure is actually the forth critical utility.


It often proves even harder to persuade project teams to consider the spatial implications of deploying data centres (arguably the fifth critical utility with the advent of cloud services) in city planning briefs.


Alongside these abstract obstacles, state sponsored SMART city infrastructure investment programs infiltrate the subconscious of industry spokes people and municipal CTO’s alike.


These schemes introduce national hierarchies for cities that will and won’t achieve ‘super connected’ status and increase the pressure on local authority’s to chase funding for broadband infrastructure, the perceived panacea to the evolution of SMART city systems.


Typically these authority’s wont have been given the opportunity or support required to analyse existing legacy municipal systems and infrastructure.


With only a limited view of how existing data streams flow through municipal organisations (and the community) it’s likely decisions will be made that negate the opportunity to deploy strategically converged networks.


This will result in increased up front capital investment whilst reducing the opportunity to encompass migration planning going forward. This is a crucial point, particularly bearing in mind the need to allocate above and below ground space to telecommunication assets, sometimes deployed in the public realm for up to 30 years.


City planners looking for a way through this strategic quagmire should in the first instance seek the assistance of a range of information technology specialists including business analysts and IT enterprise planners.


Not traditionally included in a master planning team these disciplines will be tasked with aligning the strategic objectives of the municipal authority with legacy systems and processes, identifying opportunities to reuse or replace existing systems, facilities and infrastructure.


The output of these efforts are likely to include the on-going development of an appropriate feasibility and business case, analysis of user requirements, use case models etc.  all of which will form the basis for the integration of systems deployed to support the city.


Integration of municipal ICT systems refers to the process of linking together (both physically & functionally) the computing platforms, applications and infrastructure deployed within the city  to act as co-ordinated whole, with the objective of improving and automating management of resources and the operation of the public realm.

Applied holistically by utilising open application program interfaces (API’s ), open standards and  deploying non-proprietary infrastructure this integration becomes a powerful tool and the basis for a SMART city operating system.


The phrase city operating system is now in common use, often associated with automated control, sensing and supervisory capability within the confines of the metropolis.


The architecture of a city operating system should be based upon a platform with the potential for evolution and innovation thereby enticing third parties (including the community) to develop new system components and applications,  thus ensuing the longevity of such a system.


This architecture is also likely to encompass a physical network topology (to include transmission media and civil infrastructure) that maybe owned by the city or by one or multiple telecommunication operators.


Finally at the edge of this infrastructure there will be a mix of fixed and wireless interfaces interconnecting the intelligent devices and sensors promoted by the technology manufacturers to city wide systems.



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