With a quick glance at my phone, the plan became crystal clear. I’d weave my car through the morning commuters and slide effortlessly into a parking spot. Thanks to the city’s new smart parking app, finding a spot wasn’t a concern.

This is a great example of a smart city project that positively affected my quality of life. But did the app have a strong economic impact? Did it help the environment? I suppose it did, but it was negligible at best.

Making life better for residents is important to cities. But, when choosing a smart city project, that is only one part of the equation. Smart city projects need to improve resident’s quality of life, have a tangible economic impact and benefit the environment.

Elements of an impactful smart city project.

For a truly successful smart city project, city officials need to address all three of these elements:

  1. Quality-of-Life
    Your smart city project should directly benefit residents and visitors to your city. A common misconception is that a project needs to be visible to be successful. Often the most impactful and beneficial projects operate in the background.

    A great example of this can be found when cities add controls to their streetlights. Improved lighting reduces crime and makes cities safer for residents.

  2. Economic Impact
    Launching a smart city project that impacts the bottom line is a priority. It’s important to choose a project that provides long-term monetary benefits with a noticeable reduction to the city’s budget. Return-on-Investment (ROI) is critical.

    Look no further than Jacksonville, Florida. JEA, one of the largest municipal utilities in the country, was facing a problem. In 2013, their legacy large turbine and compound water meters had reached end-of-life. By switching to smart meters, JEA experienced a gain of one billion gallons of water helping to protect a valuable revenue stream for the city.

  3. Environmental Benefits
    We’re all part of the same social fabric and have a responsibility to protect and preserve the world for future generations. Smart city technology should benefit the environment.

    A good example can be found in Buffalo, New York. The city, faced with aging sewer infrastructure, implemented a real-time decision support system. This smart city solution reduced combined sewer overflow by over 450 million gallons.

When choosing a smart city project, it’s important to analyze its impact on your residents, your pocketbook and your world.  

Picking a smart city project that addresses all three should be the credo for every city official.