The next evolutionary step for the world’s cities is to implement interconnected networks that manage big data to increase productivity and value. These ‘Smart Cities’ integrate multiple technologies to securely manage a city's infrastructure, information systems and services. This innovative use of information can help to improve the health and security of citizens by enabling sustainability, mobility, accessibility and transparency. By creating an atmosphere of synergy rather than competition, the Smart Cities of tomorrow have the potential to deliver synergies that make the city a ‘happy’ place to live.

Ultimately, the goal of building a Smart City is to improve the efficiency of services and satisfy the needs of its residents using technological tools. When buildings, power lines, gas lines, roadways, cell phones, residential systems, and so on are able to talk to one another, the gathered data can expose patterns of waste and ways to avoid it. As such, a Smart City’s integrated network is able to present information seamlessly, identifying trends and problems as soon as they arise. This enables local government departments to adapt and adjust services to provide solutions. 

For example, the Songdo International Business District (Songdo IBD) is a brand new Smart City built on 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of reclaimed land southwest of Seoul, South Korea. Built to achieve the former President Lee Myung-bak's vision to promote a green and low-carbon agenda following 60 years of reliance manufacturing, the Songdo IBD uses fully integrated smart infrastructure to drive efficiency and help achieve sustainability goals. As a result, the city boasts a waste collection system that eliminates the need for waste trucks, has numerous charging stations for electric vehicles and smart infrastructure that is designed to eventually support automated vehicles. In addition, Songdo IBD is now the second city in the world to have all of its major buildings pass, or surpass, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) requirements.

In Dubuque, Iowa, in the U.S, the ‘Smart Cities in A Box’ initiative reduces water use and increases leak detection using sensor-dependant networks. While their ‘System Dynamics for Smarter Cities’ strategy allows planners to model the effects of different policy choices on systems such as the economy, housing, education, public safety, transportation and health care might interact.

To build an effective Smart City – whether it be from scratch like Songdo IBD or retrofitting an established city - collaboration of almost every stakeholder across a community and economy is vital. If the network has a gap in data or information flow, it will prevent synergistic benefits. Therefore, it is crucial that a culture of collaboration and partnership is built and nurtured. 

However, this is not an easy task. As Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz states, the biggest obstacle for urban planners to using Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies to build Smart Cities is fragmentation of governmental bodies. He says the U.S. has “19,492 units of general purpose municipal governments, 13,051 school districts, and 37,381 special authorities”, pointing out that most of these units have separate public data systems that use different infrastructures that is isolated and unable to communicate on an inter-department level.

Therefore, collaboration must evolve to allow business and departments to leverage each other’s strengths as a symbiotic network. Creating a culture of collaboration requires clear direction, positive reinforcement, and perseverance. It requires a shift that could take years of redefining priorities and attitudes in order to eradicate competition and silos in favour for working together and acknowledgement of the mutual benefits this brings. Indeed, organisations that refuse to collaborate, and instead retain a competitive stance, will miss out on the forward-thinking partnerships and innovative ideas set to power the smart cities of tomorrow., 

Incentives can help drive collaboration and encourage positive behaviour, although first deterrents to collaboration must be removed. This may require changing reporting structures or conflicting objectives and making sure that isolated, specialised silos are broken down. This is because when different businesses, or even departments within the same organisation become highly specialised, it can prevent communication and productivity. 

By making sure employees throughout a business and an industry understand what the others are doing, specialisation can be replaced with networking, creating new avenues for collaboration and profitability. For example, not only does collaboration across a discipline align priorities, it can aid the development of more successful training programs, allowing industries to create a more prepared workforce and facilitating lower unemployment. Once the value potential in collaborating in order to build interconnectivity is understood, the possibilities are endless. Indeed, the research firm IDC estimates the smart infrastructure industry could bring in $122 billion over the next two years.

Smart Cities are the embodiment of the fourth Industrial Revolution. They bring together every element of connectivity, the internet and big data in order to drive efficiency and well-being for those choosing to reside in them. In order to achieve the goals of building, or retrofitting a Smart City, all areas of that economy must work together with the common goal of achieving efficiency, value and productivity. By turning competition on its head, collaboration has the potential to secure higher financial and societal gains. As the old adage says, two heads are better than one. 

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