There are 19,519 cities across the United States, together containing millions of residents. And as the technology used by those residents continues to evolve, those cities must follow suit. That is why crafting a smart city network has become a priority for local government agencies across the country. Gartner forecasts that, by 2020, there will be 25 billion IoT-based installed devices, with 6.8 billion alone in smart cities. Spending by national, federal, and local governments worldwide on IT products and services is expected to grow to $476.1 billion by 2020, and a large portion of that will go towards this very purpose.

A smart city network can benefit local governments in a number of ways. In Salesforce’s 2017 Connected Citizen Report, respondents showed a desire for their local government agencies to connect with them through modern digital technologies, such as smartphone apps, emails, websites, social networks, and other related channels. Younger generations in particular, are looking for this kind of relationship with their local governments: 68% of millennials said that they would be open to their tax money going to research for forward-looking technology for the city (assuming it was for services they would find helpful).

But the benefits of a smart city network extend beyond simply connecting with citizens in the way they want. Going digital with certain services will increase efficiency exponentially, allowing issues to be resolved and information to be delivered at a much more rapid pace, and with fewer resources expended. A smart city network can also result in more efficient energy use and less traffic — both of which benefit the environment and the city’s finances.

However, as with anything in government, there is a certain amount of planning involved in ensuring a successful smart city upgrade, and a lot of different things to think about. In order to make sure that your smart city is stable and has longevity, you cannot jump into it without first making sure that your efforts are directed in the correct place to achieve the best, most future-proof results. Here are some of the most important things to think about when building a modern smart city network.

Whether you are developing apps, connecting with citizens on social networks, automating service requests, or carrying out any other smart city tasks, a cloud based platform is the best bet. Most government agencies do not have money to burn, and these kinds of platforms allow them to create a smart city network in a way that is both efficient and cost effective.

They allow agencies to save money on extraneous expenses such as updating old infrastructure, hiring app developers, and extra hours spent collecting data and responding to citizen queries. What they provide is greater convenience, easier upgrades and scalability, and a higher rate of productivity.

At this year’s Smart Cities Connect Conference, Salesforce Chief Digital Evangelist Vala Afshar said, “Companies that are growing and obtaining market share have the customer at the center of their design thinking principles...and as you [the government] think about building and evolving smart cities, you have to have citizens at the center.”
A smart city network cannot function without input from your citizens. You can use the Connected Citizen Report to get a general idea of what kinds of services citizens are currently looking for, but in order to get it right for your city, it is important to put forward the same sorts of questions to them specifically. For example, while information on public parking might be popular in some areas nationally, the residents of your city might not view that as relevant to your area. With online surveys and forums, as well as beta testing, you can see what works for your citizens, and what doesn’t.

At the Smart Cities conference, Afshar also talked about the importance of both aggregation of data and agile delivery of services when developing smart city operations. AI is an increasingly important tool in helping agencies to collect and interpret citizen data.

Through using tools that leverage AI in the right way, agencies are able to automate more tasks, save time and money, and deliver a better experience for everyone involved. By creating a 360 degree view of each citizen, governments are able to understand them better and give them more of the specific things that they both want and need.

There are a lot of cloud based platforms that can be used to create a smart city network, but none do so more effectively than Salesforce. Here are just a few of the ways in which Salesforce can be used to build a smart city:

  • Service Cloud can be used much in the same way that businesses use it to connect with customers — only in this setting the customers are the residents of a city. Case management allows for more efficient handling of citizen requests and queries, through automatic categorization, smart responses, and customer profiles.

  • Community Cloud allows employees to communicate with the right team to help a specific situation, and get input on relevant inquiries or cases.

  • Marketing Cloud improves outreach and citizen engagement, listening to social chatter as well as making it easier to reach the right people with emails and social media posts, and so on.

  • Einstein Analytics is the AI that helps each aspect of the smart city to become even smarter. Through collecting data and identifying trends, Einstein helps government agencies to be more effective with less work.

  • Apps Cloud allows government agencies to develop apps with a much quicker turnaround and fewer expenses, by using drag and drop creation as opposed to coding. Using the AppExchange, agencies can introduce apps even quicker by adopting and adjusting apps that have already been proven to work for other areas.

These are just a few of the ways in which Salesforce can help local government to create a smart city network. With further add-ons you can accomplish even more.

Smart cities are the way forward. In order to meet the requirements of an ever-changing populace, it is important for local governments to explore all of the ways in which they can adopt smart technology. Ultimately, doing so will benefit not just the average citizen, but the city as a whole.

Ready to talk more about the capabilities of the Salesforce Platform for Government? We’ll help you set up a strategy to start connecting people and streamlining processes like never before.