Smart cities built on digital integration
By Shmulik Kachlon, co-founder & CTO, Smarter City Solutions
Thursday, 21 October, 2021
The key to a smart city is true digital integration every step of the way. From providing data and services to increasing efficiency and assisting with customer management, real-time digital integration helps governments understand what is happening in their area, what is required and how to address emerging challenges. Aggregated data helps decision-makers drive insight and run leaner and more efficient parking operations.
True integration is hard to find, however. Talk to a digital service provider and chances are they will mention that they operate from the cloud. At more than 15 years old, cloud is far from a new technology solution, but a significant number of businesses that say they are cloud-based are in fact largely using infrastructure-as-a-service cloud solutions with manual processes. Most companies in the parking industry don’t take advantage of the platform-as-a-service that cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) offer.
How does this affect integration? Imagine a parking solution with two main facets: assisting drivers to find a parking spot, including paying for parking; and helping parking rangers enforce restrictions to improve compliance. A service that provides payment options without properly integrating with enforcement might send the parking data to an offline stack shared by the enforcement team. The enforcement side would then need to develop a way to turn that data into actionable information so they could deploy rangers to the right area. It’s messy, slow and outdated.
A fully integrated digital parking solution would see that parking and payment data seamlessly travel to enforcement without the waypoint in the middle, the need for the data to be interpreted for a different use. A cloud-first solution supports that uninterrupted flow of data and does not require the step of extracting it from the stack.
Benefits of a cloud-native partner
When evaluating potential service partners, local governments that seek the benefits of smart city solutions should look for:
Integration: As shown in the above example, disconnected services are more prone to error, are less efficient and require more work to maintain. Integrated development can offer better insights into how various services are being used as well as assist with allocating resources to where they are in most demand. The city planning team can also use those insights to manage and operate parking bays in a more efficient and practical manner.
Scalability: Cloud-native services are built for scalability. The near-limitless nature of the cloud allows for continuous integration, continuous delivery (CI/CD), which means more frequent, more reliable updates from application development teams who can add features and functions without interruption to existing services.
For example, as a parking technology developer, we have created APIs which integrate seamlessly with local government area databases, in-ground sensors, single-sign-on solutions, compliance systems, licence plate recognition, human resources, payroll, staff and student systems, geospatial systems, and government asset management systems such as TechOne, Infor Pathway and Civica Authority to create a holistic ecosystem.
Elasticity: Elasticity is the ability of the solution to be flexible according to changing contexts and volume. Elasticity has really come to the fore in the last couple of years as the pandemic has disrupted travel patterns and made citizen movement less predictable. As asset managers, local governments need in-built elasticity to deploy fit-for-purpose solutions as activity trends shift.
A use case for this might be that your council manages a previously oversubscribed parking lot located next to a popular train station. Because of local lockdowns, the majority of passengers are no longer commuting to their jobs in the CBD. Simultaneously, in response to the drop in use, perhaps the local bus company has cut its scheduled services, leaving the remaining passengers who must commute to their workplaces little choice but to drive to the train station. Due to the fact that the volume of cars has dropped and the carpark is no longer oversubscribed, a smart city solution would be to allow those cars to park for free or a smaller fee because an overfull lot is no longer a challenge. Elasticity accounts for and helps balance supply and demand.
Security: One of the most compelling advantages of using native cloud solutions is the advanced security tools and frameworks offered by cloud providers such as AWS. We have employed and deployed out-of-the-box security features including DDoS mitigation, firewalls and other services such as AWS Guard Duty and AWS Inspector to protect our product suite against constantly evolving security threats. As a solutions provider for large enterprises such as Monash University and the University of Sydney, as well as Brisbane City Council and Mosman Council, the security features of the cloud are the most advanced in the software industry.
Integration, scalability, elasticity and cyber security are the foundations of smart city initiatives, and yet many local governments seem reluctant to commit to software-as-a-service solutions because they see the risk of switching from their current system to a cloud system as too high. The cost benefit of digital transformation is, however, evident in the efficiency gains, improved asset use, and enhanced customer service in a cloud solution. Question is, are you a smart city leader?
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