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Industry Perspective

Putting a Smart Communities Strategy to Work

Industry Perspective

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The objective is to build a government that is more responsive, productive, efficient, transparent and more engaged with its citizens. 2

Putting s Smart Communities Strategy to Work


Today, more than ever, local government leaders are tasked with making their communities more efficient. They realize the need to institute policies and procedures that enable them to make data-driven decisions, maintain constant awareness of community activities and stay connected with all of their constituents. Driven by these citizen expectations and the need to make their communities more efficient and responsive, governments are working to transform their communities into digital ones. This transformation is powering the concept of smart communities. Simply put, smart communities are about connecting people to technology to achieve better daily outcomes. Modern communities face many challenges. Whether it’s congested roadways, homelessness, a lack of jobs, or crime, the opportunity for improvement is everywhere. To address these challenges and provide the best services sustainably, governments leverage the efforts of the entire community to devise better solutions.

Budget constraints, difficulties navigating intricate technology and training large staffs can all stall aspiring smart communities. So how does a community become smart? The process is no simple task. That’s why Esri, a leader in geospatial information technology, and GovLoop have partnered for this industry perspective to discuss how, with the right process, people and technology, any community can become smarter. We’ll discuss the six elements your community needs to become smart and how to use the power of location intelligence to strengthen these six core objectives of an optimized smart community; and share how three communities used GIS technology to become smarter.

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Defining a Smart Community & Its Benefits To implement a smart community strategy, we must first understand what a smart community truly is, and what it may look like in the real world. Known by many names — livable community, sustainable city, resilient city and even smart nation or subsets like safe city or healthy community — smart communities across the country share similar goals. The objective is to build a government that is more responsive, productive, efficient, transparent and more engaged with its citizens.

Esri looks at smart communities as being part of the digital transformation where government must rethink how they’ll deliver services. In this case, the reinvention is all about technology and how it will be at the forefront of how they improve that service delivery.

Esri suggests there are six core objectives of an optimized smart community: 1. Safe A safe community embraces a methodology and infrastructure where all sectors of the community work together collaboratively to safeguard citizens’ well-being and property.

2. Well-Run A well-run community identifies opportunities to achieve advantageous collaboration. If data and developments are shared openly, both citizens and infrastructure providers benefit from events such as road resurfacing.

3. Livable At their core, livable communities have to juggle multiple priorities to reduce congestion, safely manage water and waste, and create the infrastructure for sustained success.

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Putting s Smart Communities Strategy to Work

4. Healthy To manage disease outbreaks and safeguard the wellbeing of their citizens, healthy communities scientifically analyze all known datasets available. These datasets include information from hospitals, social media commentary and historical data.

5. Prosperous Communities prosper when they use data to identify market trends that attract investments. Whether appealing to potential residents or businesses, economic development planners help communities grow by emphasizing the importance of location.

6. Sustainable Planners and urban designers use technology and data to balance competing interests, fuse data from a variety of sources and communicate their intentions to multiple stakeholders.


How to Implement a Smart Communities Strategy The benefits of a smart community for both government and citizens are clear. And yet achieving the true vision of a smart community is often a challenge for most state and local governments. In fact, according to an IDC report, by 2017, 75 percent of cities worldwide will have failed to take full advantage of smart city data and digital assets due to a lack of process, project management and change management skills. Every community may be different, but they all share common operational traits. Each relies on real-time intelligence for evidencebased decision-making, more effective collaboration and public engagement. So what are the obstacles that prevent communities from becoming smart communities? The most common hurdle is a lack of strategy and holistic information that can prevent a smart community from taking hold. Government is often individually compartmentalizing their activity and data, but agencies don’t always have an end game in mind. In other words, they are fixing pieces, but not looking at the whole picture. GIS is the foundational piece that can connect the aspects of your smart community and help you topple siloes, think holistically and view the data that is underlying all aspects of your community. Effective smart communities do so by applying a hub approach that connects people with the information and technology to drive improved quality of life, innovation and better choices. In order to become a true smart community, governments must do three things: ask the right questions that will help them work backward from a goal; follow six steps that create a solid path to becoming a smart community; and use the right GIS tools that connect the geoenabled data that powers a smart community.

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Ask the Right Questions and Work Backward Too often communities can be derailed in their efforts to be a smart community because they think being a smart community simply means throwing technology at problems. It’s more complicated than that. The first question communities must ask is: What is the vision you have for your community? The common barrier for communities is not having an initial strategy or goal to focus on. If communities start with their vision for the community, however – whether it’s to become safer or more sustainable – they will have concrete problems to address and can collect and analyze data to achieve that vision.

Follow These 6 Steps GIS technology can help government use the power of location to improve coordination and achieve the operational efficiencies of a smart community. Follow these simple steps to strengthen your smart community by taking advantage of all of the holistic information and views your GIS data can give you.

1. Organize Your Data When the open data movement started, it was focused on outward-facing data distribution, not inward. What many governments have come to realize is that there is an immense benefit to opening information for their own employees. Having a single site promotes inter-agency collaboration, a greater understanding of patterns across regions, as well as a decrease in the time spent collecting data that someone else already has.

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Putting s Smart Communities Strategy to Work

2. Create Operational Efficiency Operational efficiency entails seeing the whole operational picture of all the activities your government is doing, and gaining control of it to optimize maintenance, respond quickly to disruptions and improve workforce oversight. GIS allows you to do this via the holistic pictures geo-enabled data can present to your employees and community.

3. Engage Citizens Citizens want to be involved in their government. Community engagement means that you can communicate directly with citizens and staff, and they can communicate immediately with you — reporting problems, locating services and supporting local initiatives by collecting and sharing their own data, then accessing government data, too. Citizens can use their cell phones and other devices to voluntarily collect information about their surroundings and share that data with the community.

4. Have the Right Mobile Strategy In order to get the data you need to power a smart community, you must be able to gather it out in the field for improved operational efficiencies. A mobile strategy helps you reduce costs and provide better services to citizens. Field crews become more efficient, and the data you collect improves your ability to make good decisions.

5. Make Data-Driven Decisions Stakeholders must be able to source reliable data to develop ideas and intelligently assess and accomplish goals. This means having decisions that are driven by open data and supplemented by crowdsourced data; acting on actionable intelligence in real time; creating useful dashboards and reports; and using this data for iterative policy-making that truly makes an impact.

6. Apply the Internet of Things A smart community must ensure all of its systems are interconnected. This means starting with major workflows and enabling them for real-time operations. Smart street lights, traffic management, intelligent cameras and pedestrian tracking can allow public safety forces to monitor real-time traffic collisions and use predictive analytics to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety.


Use the Right Tools Esri provides a full suite of tools that can help state and local governments get started on their path to a smart community.

ArcGIS Hub ArcGIS Hub is the key to creating operational efficiency because it supports collaboration between government, businesses, citizens and their communities to accomplish data-driven initiatives. ArcGIS Hub can make a smart community even smarter, giving context and purpose to data. It organizes people, processes and technology to meet the needs of citizens and governments.

ArcGIS for Local Government To further increase efficiencies, agencies should turn to ArcGIS for Local Government. It includes a set of free maps, apps and best practices developed especially for local government so that developers and other users don’t have to invest significant time and resources in creating their own custom tools. As ArcGIS users, local state and government employees can quickly deploy this ready-to-use solution to improve operations and enhance citizen services.

Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS is a free Windows- and browser-based application that lets users create executive dashboards that integrate maps, lists, charts and gauges for real-time operation views. Users can also create and view interactive maps with dynamic data sources that update automatically as underlying information changes. Once disparate data is compiled in a central, visual and accessible location, agencies can easily make data-driven decisions from a single source of information.

ArcGIS GeoEvent Extension for Server ArcGIS GeoEvent Extension for Server expands the capabilities of ArcGIS, allowing users to incorporate realtime data into decision-support GIS applications. The GeoEvent Extension provides connectors for common sensors and streaming data sources, including in-vehicle GPS devices, mobile devices and social media providers. With the GeoEvent Extension, agencies can make the most of the internet of things to enhance real-time decisionmaking and operations.

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Case Studies: GIS Powering Smart Communities

Communities across the nation and the world are already using data, GIS and other capabilities to make the move to smart communities.

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Putting s Smart Communities Strategy to Work

Los Angeles, CA Managing daily operations and providing effective services in a city as massive, complex and vibrant as Los Angeles is no easy task. When he took office, Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged to use data and technology to drive decisions about everything from jobs to transportation while delivering transparency, efficiency and community engagement. But with more than 40 departments running on an array of disconnected technology platforms, the city struggled to fully tap into its collective expertise and knowledge. Enter Los Angeles’ GeoHub — a modern blueprint for how government should operate. Built on a location-enabled infrastructure, GeoHub weaves together more than 500 datasets — and growing — into a centralized business intelligence system. The hub allows staff, the public and outside agencies to access, visualize and analyze real-time data. Just three months after launching the hub, Los Angeles unlocked insights into public safety, infrastructure and quality of life. With GeoHub, the city is finding better ways to collaborate and deliver services, while Angelenos have a smarter, more connected view of their city.


Dubai, U.A.E. Deciding to make your community the happiest place on earth may sound like a lofty goal. But it’s what Dubai decided to do by using GIS and smart community approaches in 2015. It partnered with Esri in 2017 for its smart city platform, called Dubai Pulse, to integrate and map data for better decision-making. This partnership will decrease siloed information and data and help connect over 44 entities across Dubai’s government. Dubai Pulse will use Esri’s geographic information system technology — coupled with data accumulated by the Dubai Data Establishment — to offer smart and secure services and tools including dashboards, mobile apps and analytics capabilities. The platform compiles all government data in one place, where the right information can be provided to the right people whenever they need it. Dubai Pulse will empower the government of Dubai to identify issues such as traffic accident hot spots, increase citizen engagement in planning projects through the sharing of realistic 3D models and assist with sustainability initiatives including solar energy generation.

Charlotte, NC In 2013, then-Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee identified community engagement as a critical driver for the city to become a destination where people want to live, work and play. A new smart city vision was born — one where engagement and collaboration center on open data technology and policy for the common good of Charlotte. The city’s foray into growing an open, smart city ecosystem started with the foundation of Open Charlotte, an open data portal that accommodates all operational data — both spatial and nonspatial. Open Charlotte supports the data needs of the city’s departments and businesses, as well as the Code for Charlotte Brigade, a unique group of citizens, designers and developers who use technology to help solve civic and social problems. Today, Charlotte’s smart community initiatives include an open-data policy that sustains current and future efforts, and a Smart City Cabinet program. Through the program, staff are pioneering the use of data, analytics and business intelligence technology to make better data-driven decisions.

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Conclusion With the right process, people and technology, any community can become a smart community. From the smallest towns to massive cities, location technology helps organizations share information to drive initiatives and improve services. By using the right tools, defining your community’s goals and following the core tenets, you can start putting your smart communities strategy to work today.

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Putting s Smart Communities Strategy to Work


When Esri was founded in 1969, we realized even then that geographic information system (GIS) technology could make a difference in society. Working with others who shared this passion, we were encouraged by the vast possibilities of GIS. Today our confidence in GIS is built on the belief that geography matters - it connects our many cultures and societies and influences our way of life. GIS leverage geographic insight to ensure better communication and collaboration. Explore our website to discover how our customers have obtained the geographic advantage by using Esri software to address social, economic, business, and environmental concerns at local, regional, national, and global scales. We hope you will be inspired to join the Esri community in using GIS to create a better world. www.esri.com @esriSLGov

GovLoop’s mission is to inspire public sector professionals by serving as the knowledge network for government. GovLoop connects more than 250,000 members, fostering crossgovernment collaboration, solving common problems and advancing government careers. GovLoop is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with a team of dedicated professionals who share a commitment to the public sector. For more information about this report, please reach out to info@govloop.com.

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Putting s Smart Communities Strategy to Work

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