If you were in ancient Rome looking for signs of the big fall, you wouldn't look in the headlines. You'd have to look closely for small signs, faint signals. You'd have to keep watching day after day and year after year. That's roughly what Eric Schnurer argues in a long comment to a recent article in The Atlantic on Rome's slow fall, "Why Local Innovation Is the Answer." Small things, he writes, often have "large-scale effects but play out on the level of individual grains of sand."
Louisville, Kentucky's chief technology officer works with the Code for America Brigade captain every day. That sounds to me like a good way to start building a smart city. But there's more to it than that. “My job is to help us chart the course forward” for what he sees as the new IT. If as the metaphor goes, data is the new oil, or technology is the new steam engine, or “smart” is the new “rich and famous,” Ed Blayney has just sprung the gate. This former second-in-command of an Army infantry company in Afghanistan says civic tech's not going away.
Many people by now have resigned themselves to the ways of smart because they like the features. But smart cities are still new and mysterious, even a little bit unsettling. A friend asked me, "What's a smart city?" I give her the standard spiel about smooth traffic, sustainable garbage, on-demand this and that. She rolls her eyes. "Another top-down miracle," she says in disgust. What's it going to take to win widespread trust?
Smart cities, or cities on the path to smart, should first ensure they've got these three non-technical attributes in place, says smart-city leader Greg Delaune of UIX Global. Only then should anyone go changing lightbulbs.