By Kathleen Wolf Davis

“Who here lives in a smart city?” asked Dr. Lawrence Jones, VP of Edison Electric Institute, to the audience in the ‘Optimising smart networks: the role of utilities in smart cities efforts’ session during Oracle Industry Connect’s energy and utilities program.

Not a single hand was raised.

“Now, if I asked the mayors of your cities, would they think you live in a smart city?”

Jones continued, building the idea that, in fact, the definition of a smart city is pretty broad – some would say wide open, even.

Jones added, though, that we do need to start whittling it down a bit, and that there are certain underlying features that make a city smart that provide a starting point: information, customers, and the economics of it.

What is key: integration.

“Nowhere do we see tech integration as in the smart city where multiple infrastructures come together,” Dr Jones said.

Manny Cancel, VP of IT and CIO of Con Edison, added this detail to Jones’ definition, “Cyber security has got to be baked into this.”  

Dr Jones certainly agreed.

Moderator Brad Williams, VP, Industry Strategy at Oracle Utilities, brought up the subject of analytics in response to Jones’ inclusion of information in his smart city definition.

“But analytics for what? Know the answer to that,” Dr Jones replied.

“What is it that you want to analyse? So, now, what information mix do you need? Analytics needs to start with a solution.”

Cancel added that, while he agreed with Jones’ assessment, those problem/solution combos sometimes present themselves.

He used his own utility as an example of this, noting that they were one of the last major utilities to put in smart meters. They didn’t do it until they figured out how they could use the data. But that did happen and they did find the value.

“In the end, rather than discussing which cities are smart, it would be easier, really, to just tell us which cities are dumb. Then I can work forward and make the dumb cities smarter,” Dr Jones said.

Panelists did come to agreement on a few ways to make dumb cities, less dumb cities, and even somewhat smart cities even smarter. They suggest starting with these six point:

  1. Simplify the conversation so the municipal stakeholders aren’t overwhelmed by the conversation itself
  2. Plan out integration. What works together already? What needs to work together in the future? How do you lay out the framework for that?
  3. Define your city’s unique problems. If you’re building a brand new city from scratch, you can put in all the ‘cool stuff’ from the start. Retrofitting a community will have layers of issues that don’t exist with the shiny, new smart communities
  4. Be a good consensus builder. Get all those stakeholders and community influencers on board for this journey
  5. Think about cost and investment up front and get regulators into the conversation
  6. Create smaller proof-of-concept areas to show benefits to the market, and if the market sees those benefits, the market will respond

This partner content was originally written for Oracle Utilities’ blog Insights for the Innovative Utility. You can read more at,

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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