City as a Platform

The GaaP model isn’t limited only to national ICT strategies, it can form the guiding strategy for cities and regions too.

In the Aspen report ‘City as a Platform‘ they provide a detailed introduction to the concept, headlined by the fact:

the challenge is finding new ways for city governments to navigate a transition to “platform governance”—network-based modes of interacting with citizens and co-producing services.

There are a number of exemplar case studies of cities pioneering these principles that offer leadership for others to follow.

Bristol CityOS – Open Programmable City

MIT offers this highly visual presentation of the core concept of ‘Senseable Cities‘, how the widescale deployment of IoT sensors can form the fundamental mesh of intelligent connectivity that enables the smart in Smart Cities.

Bristol in the UK interprets this vision through their idea of a ‘CityOS’, a city-wide operating system, explained through this presentation Bristol: Open Programmable City, where they describe how a massive amount of connectivity, a backbone of an Openflow-based software programmable network catering for 3G, 4G and 5G network access methods and a meshed network IoT ‘canopy of connectivity’.

This facilitates “a laboratory for urban change”, encouraging and enabling a portfolio of innovative programs that better connects citizens and visitors within the city, such as:

  • A Playable City A concept pioneered by Bristol, gamifying various aspects of city life and services, from encouraging dancing down the street through to how buses in Lagos encourage random connections between strangers.
  • A Bristol ‘Citizens’ Sensor Box’ – A DIY Internet of Things toolkit for citizens to innovate and build their own home-based unit on the network to meet their own needs, as part of a broader ‘Citizen Sensing‘ momentum.
  • A Digital Data Dome A powerful new way to visualize and interact with the amounts of data produced.

Milton Keynes – App Store Economic Innovation

Where Bristol is concentrated at the network layer Milton Keynes offers an ideal companion through their MK:Smart initiative, which builds their program around the key capability that enables the Platform business model, the city’s App Store.

Powered by BT’s ‘Cloud of Clouds’ platform, this provides a single framework for tying together a number of foundation parts:

  • A Cloud architecture core design – A configuration of IaaS / PaaS that enables ‘Tenant services’ (ie SaaS), that in an increasingly virtualized world will come to host network functions as VMs as well as application ones.
  • API Service Architecture – A Service Oriented Architecture with standardized API interfaces to enable composite application logic.
  • A Federated Identity framework for integrating digital services within a singular Identity system.
  • Orchestration and billing – All the core business functions for cataloging, provisioning and billing for services etc., with the modernization required to achieve Cloud Service Brokerage across multiple providers.

Apps Store Data Hub Architecture

The Apps Store element of the model can be further decomposed into a number of key Capabilities:

  • A SandBox Developers Environment
  • Onboarding workflows for new apps
  • Open Data Store
  • Big Data IoT Feeds

It also acts as an overall unifying architecture, an ‘information spine’ that aggregates all the sensor data to make it usable to the higher level apps.

Critically they also define how all of these technologies can be shaped by an overall strategic planning agenda, where the city’s leadership can play their key role.

For example this presentation to the Urban University Conference explores the overall initiative, and this presentation from MK’s Head of Policy focuses specifically on the IoT Sensor Network area.

Both cover the Strategic Planning aspects, the process MK went through to launch the initiative. A headline process of ‘vision setting’ begins with the fact the city will expand from 70,000 to 260,000+ and naturally this will present challenges. How can a Smart City help address them?

They then cascade down from the Strategic Planning phase through Programme Management to set the business context for the network, their Future City: Innovation Cluster, and how this will enable their MK:Smart initiative that applies apps & sensors to achieve Smart Lamp posts, garbage etc.

In other presentations they then dive even further, exploring specific Smart use cases, such as Parking and Field Gadgets, offering a compelling vision of an ‘Internet of Green Things‘.

Smart Grid – Agile Fractal Grid models

Thirdly the USA’s ‘Agile Fractal Grid‘ initiative provides powerful insights into the opportunity to fuse the utilities into these visions, explored in this Slideshare presentation.

They focus around the headline idea of the city as a living organism, a way of capturing the “anatomy of a digital city” via an analogy of the city having a brain and nervous system, captured via the idea of an ‘fractalgrid‘.

Described is a system of 960 rural co-operatives, self-organizing a massive technology deployment through this highly dynamic organizational model, including a ‘Keiretsu‘ to act as an investor for the collective, as well as a shared services IT model that further enables a DevOps delivery capability.

It employs the same Infonova-based Digital Ecosystem platform that Milton Keynes utilizes, repeating that same framework for then enabling SME innovation within the marketplace, providing functionality like vendor on-boarding and cataloguing.

Digital City Accelerators

Michael Porters’ seminal principles of economic clusters have formed the backbone of many governments economic programs, and underpinned a plethora of industry and regional clusters.

Experts describe the essential formula of a ‘Triple Helix‘ design – One that synthesizes university research with local commercialization and government support, via one single framework.

Silicon Valley is the ultimate example of the economic wealth that can be generated when this achieves a ‘rinse and repeat’ level of maturity for producing, funding and commercializing high value university research.

What is especially noteworthy about attempts to replicate this effect is the synergy with Smart City initiatives, especially the keynote example of Milton Keynes and their ‘Smart:MK‘ digital city initiative. As described in this industry case study review, they have employed a Cloud-based platform for facilitating a ‘Digital Marketplace’ at the local city level.

This is why the Milton Keynes ‘Smart:MK’ smart city project is such a powerful case study example – They systematically enable this Triple Helix model through the implementation of a Platform.[/ms_alert]

As is described in detail in the case study in the ebook, Milton Keynes have deployed a ‘Developer Ecosystem’ platform, a community environment where local software entrepreneurs can make use of resources like sandboxes, hosting and API access to IoT networking. They can be empowered to rapidly iterate the Digital City applications of the future, and most notably this is within an overall program that links together the local Triple Helix combination.

Transforming Procurement – Harnessing Platforms for Ecosystem Enablement

Across all of these case studies is this consistent theme, a shift from linear, city-driven ICT procurement, where the traditional RFP process is followed sequentially in a waterfall like fashion, to buy and solely control equally traditional applications for city functions.

Instead cities shift to become facilitators, installing building block platforms that then enable a flourishing ecosystem populated by local SMEs, where through APIs and Open Data they dynamically build a catalogue of new apps via innovation-driven processes.

The Agile Fractal Grid describes their Ecosystem Enablement framework in this TMF presentation, and the MK:Smart highlights the over-arching most important point, how this approach acts as an accelerator for economic growth:

“Milton Keynes is incubating up to 90 new small and medium-sized businesses to deliver Internet of Things (IoT) applications as ecosystem partners and create hundreds of new jobs: the town’s council has already identified over £105 million ($159.5 million) cost savings and new revenues.”

This approach is now common across many cities, such as Tel Aviv, Pittsburgh, Dublin, Dholera and Shanghai, so if your city isn’t yet on board with this innovative approach, you’re already falling behind the new economy.

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