As cities, counties and states across America experiment with smart technologies the challenges associated with becoming a true smart community are coming into sharper focus, says new research.

Yet even as they encounter potential obstacles, government personnel remain optimistic about the promise of smart cities. Nearly three-quarters of the government officials surveyed for the CompTIA report “Building Smarter Cities and Communities” say they have a positive view of smart city developments.

Anticipated benefits of smart city solutions include cost savings from operational efficiencies; optimizing use of resources; improved government services and interaction for citizens; better stream of data to improve decision-making; and the opportunity to attract tech-savvy workers and businesses.

“The government officials we surveyed have a strong interest in using smart city projects to deliver direct benefits to their citizens and business communities,” said Liz Hyman, executive vice president of public advocacy, CompTIA.

Funding, Security Top List of Concerns

The number one concern of both government personnel and citizens is obtaining funding for a smart city project. Most government entities little wiggle room within budgets to shift funds from critical government services to investments in new areas, such as smart cities.

Cybersecurity related to smart cities is another concern for both groups.

“Cybersecurity is perhaps the most mission critical component of any successful smart city initiative,” Hyman said. “Our nation’s smart cities initiatives will require a new contingent of cyber workers. We must ensure that both private and public entities are deploying policies and initiatives that provide the supply of IT workers to meet the soaring demand.”

In fact, 40 percent of government officials and personnel cite skills gaps and a lack of necessary expertise as a primary area of concern affecting the expansion of smart cities initiatives.

“The next phase of smart cities growth will be contingent on expanding the depth and breadth of expertise among government IT staff and, as challenging as it may be, to expand their workforce,” said Tim Herbert, senior vice president, research and market intelligence, CompTIA.

Seven in 10 municipalities with a smart city initiative or pilot underway report having to make upgrades to their telecommunications infrastructure before proceeding. Other challenges they’ve identified include building a business case for a smart city project, finding government and community leaders to champion the effort; and deciding which initiative to pursue.

The report identifies four factors that will shape the future direction of smart cities.

  1. Elevating the understanding of smart city concepts will take time, but “bridge technologies” – smart technologies for the home and office – can help.
  2. Making the leap from digital to smart requires advancements on many fronts, from technology and broadband infrastructures to workflow and user experience.
  3. Data is critical to smart city success, and one of the most challenging components to get right.
  4. Ensuring smart cities are cyber-safe will require resources and a commitment to shared responsibilities for security.