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What we wanted from our smart city technology partners June 21, 2019 | Alison Barlow, Executive Director, St. Pete Innovation District

Smart cities adapt and respond to challenges and deliver services that make them a great place to live, work and play. St. Petersburg, Fla., led by the St. Pete Innovation District, has initiated a pilot project to implement smart city technology to do just that.

Smart city projects require strong partnerships—from diverse regional partners to savvy technology companies—to be successful. Here’s what we looked for to find the right technology partner.

The power in partnership

For our first effort—a smart lighting project—announced in March 2019, we partnered with Spectrum, a leading broadband communications company, and US Ignite, a non-profit organization seeking to accelerate the smart city movement. We feel we have the right team to help us cross the finish line. It’s exciting we can work with our partners to explore what’s possible, leverage expertise and gain lessons learned.

We considered many characteristics to find the right technology partners. Three things we sought in a good partner were:

  1. Strategic thinking – There are near-term benefits of smart cities technology, but the long-term potential is perhaps more important. We looked for partners who think about what communities will need five years or more from today. We also wanted partners who were agile and willing to explore possibilities. We are continually trying out concepts and learning from our experiences. From the first day of our smart lighting project to today, we have adjusted, added and discarded ideas. That will continue.
  2. Engaged leaders – Leadership is critical to ensuring that ideas are implemented. We looked for partners whose leaders were willing to be personally involved so that we better align our efforts with regional government organizations, remove barriers quickly and invest resources wisely. We believe our smart cities efforts can provide benefits across our community, and we rely on the leaders involved to help us get there.
  3. Diverse expertise – Smart cities technology crosses multiple disciplines, requiring diverse expertise. We looked for partners with knowledge of sensors, data analytics tools, infrastructure connectivity, local government policy, urban planning and construction, and community outreach. We also found hidden talents as we progressed that we didn’t even realize our team and partners would have. One example I love sharing is a Spectrum employee used to work in commercial ocean shipping. In our coastal city where the marine science industry thrives, his expertise will be so valuable as we launch more smart city projects.

Smart cities is about technology. But more importantly, it’s about people. Finding the right established technology partners required a thoughtful approach, and together, I’m confident we’ll find success. Read more about our smart city journey.

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