San Jose CIO: Making our city smarter resulted in 300% more revenues

BARCELONA, Spain -- The CIO of San Jose, Calif., said that outfitting his city with better Wi-Fi coverage has not only improved the city's competitiveness, but also contributed to a 300 percent gain in revenues.

Speaking at the FierceWireless executive luncheon panel here on "5 Steps to Building a Smart City," Vijay Sammeta, CIO of the city of San Jose, Calif., said that the city's decision to provide free Wi-Fi to convention-goers at its convention center attracted more groups to the convention hall and resulted in more spending on things other than Wi-Fi, such as food and entertainment. "We have seen a 300 percent gain in revenue," Sammeta said. "More tech-focused conferences are now attracted to our city."

Sammeta added that the city does charge for additional telecom services such as customization or wired drops at the convention center.

And economics are top of mind for all city officials. According to Mark Bartolomeo, vice president of connection solutions for Internet of Things at Verizon, the biggest challenge of getting communities to consider smart city projects is the economic model. "Whether it's intelligent lighting, traffic management or monitoring, everyone looks at the economic model behind them. All these projects that have to have a useful life of 30 years are not going to happen," he added.

He added that often it's easier to deploy these systems in areas where there is new development, rather that ripping and replacing something that is still working, even if it isn't as efficient. Interestingly, he said that city priorities vary from region to region. For example in the Northeastern U.S., streamlining traffic is a priority. In the Western U.S., there is more focus on sustainability.

Many cities make public safety a top priority, according to Ravi Chalaka, vice president of IoT marketing at Hitachi. Chalaka added that most cities want to show that their investment has contributed to a better quality of life for citizens. "If you want to build a smart city, you need to have a vision and review what you are doing every three years," he said.

That sentiment was echoed by Sammeta, who said that beyond San Jose's extensive Wi-Fi network, the city also has deployed Silver Springs Networks' IPv6-based networking platform -- and that it is finding different use cases for both networks. "One size does not fit all," Sammeta said.

Of course, some efforts have been made to streamline the various smart city platforms so there is less fragmentation. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, AT&T announced it was collaborating with Cisco, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Intel, IBM, Deloitte and GE to develop a framework for smart cities that will make it easier for communities to be more connected. The consortium will use three U.S. cities -- Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas -- as the first test bed cities for the platform.

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