Cisco to invest $1 billion in smart cities
The capital pool is intended to support municipal adoption of smart cities technologies
In many ways smart cities are the ultimate application of the internet of things—a huge variety of connected devices and infrastructure create volumes of data that can be analyzed to create multi-level efficiencies that not only streamline municipal operations, but also improve quality of life for urban residents. At the same time, given the sweeping and long-term wave of urbanization identified by the United Nations as a mega-trend, the move toward smart cities is in many ways an imperative.
To support this sea change in the way cities are built and operated, Cisco Capital, alongside funding groups Digital Alpha Advisors, APG Asset Management and Whitehelm Capital, has created a $1 billion City Infrastructure Financing Acceleration Program. The announcement came this week during the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
“Funding is a major stumbling block for municipalities beginning their smart city transformation,” said Anil Menon, Global President of Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities. “With our partners, Cisco will bring the capital and expertise it takes to make smart city projects a reality. Digital Alpha, APG, and Whitehelm Capital bring a fresh perspective on investment in an area that has previously been perceived as too new and, therefore, too difficult to finance.”
The current state of smart cities initiatives is marked by an inability to move from limited pilot projects to at-scale deployments. One factor at play here is the dependence on taxpayer funding—in a nutshell, it’s hard to justify to an average taxpayer the need for a long-term, technology-focused investment, the benefits of which may not be realized for years to come.
Cisco’s new program is geared toward minimizing upfront capital outlay, and pairing projects with a financial mechanism in support of a desired outcome; according to the company, “revenue-share financing, for instance, even allows a city to tie financing to desired outcomes and extend future operating budgets though revenue streams from the new services that a digitized infrastructure makes possible.”
On the tech side, Cisco has built on its Kinetic IoT data platform to create Kinetic for Cities, which features enhanced support for public safety, full policy automation, and a refreshed dashboard that support integrated video inputs, real-time emergency information and other new functionality.
A launch customer is the city of Cary, North Carolina. The city’s Infrastructure and Network Manager Terry Yates said, “The Cisco Kinetic for Cities platform provides us the tools we need to positively affect our citizens’ lives.” For example, Cary is using the platform to deal with parking in a congested downtown area in the growing city. Using the Kinetic for Cities solution set, authorities can get tabs on the number of available parking spots, identify peak usage times and get insight into the usage of handicapped spaces in an effort to inform short- and long-term planning.
“Capabilities like real-time and historical visibility into parking space utilization are allowing the town officials to not only see handicap and electric parking space utilization, but to also help us design more efficient parking solutions for our citizens,” Yates explained.
With the platform in place, cities can further integrate IoT solutions running the gamut from automated lighting and smart parking to crowd control, environmental monitoring and enhanced, digitized mobility. “We see Cisco Kinetic for Cities…being an integral part of our digital transformation strategy that provides a citizen-centric, white-glove experience,” Cary CIO Nicole Raimundo said.