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4 best practices for hyperconnected cities to unlock additional value with technology

Executive taking a mobile meeting

Urban residents and businesses are embracing technology and innovation at a faster pace than many cities can react. Leaders need to act now to bridge the widening technology gap and create the digital and technical infrastructure to support efficient and effective services to keep citizens engaged and connected.

In 2019, Microsoft partnered with ESI Thoughtlab to conduct a comprehensive study into leading cities’ use of advance technology to interconnect systems to create new services, efficiencies, and lifestyle choices for their residents. These “hyperconnected” cities were found to have four characteristics in common, which other cities can also pursue and adopt to accelerate their smart city journey.

Digital technology adoption

First, these cities have digital technology adoption programs. Four technologies that are adopted by over 90 percent of the hyperconnected cities are public wifi, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, cloud, and mobile applications. By using these technologies, cities are driving high performance across their urban ecosystems and facilitating real-time interaction among residents, businesses, and government entities and services.

When adopting such technologies, it is often important for governments to manage costs by leveraging a defined strategy and architecture related to which technologies they will use. These types of technologies can depend heavily on each other. For example, IoT sensors generate substantial data, which can be economically stored in the cloud, but requires a complementary set of software, analytics, and reporting tools to be able to analyze and use the data. By leveraging a tool suite like Azure, Power BI, and Dynamics 365, governments can quickly create a common technology framework to drive new citizen-facing services.

Advanced use of data

Second, and closely related to the use of certain technologies, hyperconnected cities are generating more value and optimizing services through the advanced use of data. These include implementing artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics, and integrating the results synergistically with other solutions. Over half of the hyperconnected cities partner with local stakeholders, like businesses or educational institutions, to harness the learning from the data to improve services ranging from public utility throughput, to public health and wellbeing, to waste management.

Most progressive governments use cloud services to manage their data, leveraging tools and services available in the cloud for data analytics. For example, Azure offers services like IoT Hub, Azure Sphere, IoT Edge, cognitive services, machine learning, bot services, data bricks… all services available to expedite the collection, management, control, and value-added use of data.

Investments in cybersecurity

Third, these cities have committed significant investments in cybersecurity, both within their government and across their communications and data networks. This is often out of necessity, as hyperconnected cities have greater exposure to the digital world, and thus experienced increased cyberattacks. Despite significant investments in tools, personnel, and training, less than half of these cities feel well-prepared for cyber incidents.

In 2019, Gartner published five different reports related to cybersecurity capabilities, tools, and solutions: 2019 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Access Security Brokers , 2019 Magic Quadrant for Access Management , 2019 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving , 2019 Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection Platforms , 2019 Magic Quadrant for Unified Endpoint Management Tools. Microsoft was named a “leader” in all five categories.

The City of Oulu in Finland bolstered their security stance by implementing a layered security approach in a non-intrusive way, allowing employees to work freely and maintain productivity and reducing the number of phishing attacks by 30 percent.

Connected citizens

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, hyperconnected cities have established the vision of connected citizens as a strategic goal of every agency, department, and service, in their city. These cities communicate effectively with citizens through multiple channels and consider digital connectivity to be a right of their citizens. To stay connected to citizens, cities are starting to appoint chief citizen experience officers (CCXOs), responsible for the end-to-end experience of citizens, ensuring that city websites, call centers, social media accounts, and mobile apps are designed with the citizens’ needs and values in mind. In some cities, this entails responsibility for the citizen experience across the entire breadth of the urban landscape and all regional services, from transportation, education, and healthcare, to community events, housing, and parks and recreation.

Establishing a unified and comprehensive approach to citizen services is more than implementing a single solution. It involves an interconnected program with many elements. As cities become more interlinked, their return on investment grows as they capture more of the benefit such as societal, reduced crime and improved health and well-being

Microsoft and our partners have been working with governments around the world for over 40 years and have deep industry knowledge, expertise helping to implement such programs, which often include the ability for a citizen to both establish and control their own digital identity for accessing government services.

Learn more

If you are starting out or are already on your journey towards becoming more “hyperconnected”, the good news is that best practices are available for you to learn from others to accelerate your smart city journey.

In 2020, we will delve deeper into these four common characteristics of the leading hyperconnected cities. In the meantime, learn how Microsoft can help you achieve your smart city vision.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Endpoint Management Tools, Chris Silva | Manjunath Bhat | Rich Doheny | Rob Smith, 6 August 2019

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection Platforms, Peter Firstbrook | Dionisio Zumerle | Prateek Bhajanka | Lawrence Pingree | Paul Webber, 20 August 2019

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving, Julian Tirsu | Michael Hoeck, 20 November 2019

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Access Security Brokers, Steve Riley, Craig Lawson, 22 October 2019

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Access Management, Michael Kelley, Abhyuday Data, Henrique Teixeira, 12 August 2019

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.