Imagining IG in Tomorrow’s Smart Cities

George Despres

For several years, smart cities have been evolving. They’re expected to transform urban management; smart cities will drive energy use optimization, proactive building maintenance, transportation efficiencies, municipally connected citizens for improved urban services, water and waste management, urban renewal, tourism and capacity improvements. According to Smart America, cities are expected to invest $41 trillion over the next 20 years to tie their infrastructures to the internet of things (IoT).

Data generated by these improvements will be staggering and, of course, will need to be managed by information governance professionals. This begins with an inventory of the data sets involved (such as GPS), which can come from many different parties. A consolidated data hub or lab management will be an IG requirement, and this responsibility will likely spill into public and personal data domains. Pilot projects can be expected to vastly expand, in terms of their data output over time.

The smart city records and information manager will need to engage many parties — from citizens and private technology partners, to policymakers and planning boards, to municipal agencies and cloud brokers, to regulatory agencies and others. RIM professionals will need to understand and differentiate the contractual (or non-contractual) differences between citizen data and the customer data models that are more familiar to many of us.

Data security and sensitivity is, and will be, a major smart city concern. Partnerships between cities and technology companies will need to be forged and monitored carefully in order to ensure that third- and fourth-party data custody is secure, transparent and adequately masked on delivery. Smart city systems and components will need to be hardened against cyberattacks that could render disastrous results. On the other hand, public data will need to be made available, and a new breed of FOIA requests can be expected. Smart cities will also need to dodge the creepy, “Big Brother” reputation when reporting collective data on people’s personal habits and whereabouts.

Other challenges await. Rotating city council members and bureaucracies can make data governance harder for the IG pro, with an evolving regulatory environment complicating this further. Open data can be abused, enabling criminals to prey upon unlit and unoccupied streets, for example. In addition, each IoT product will present its own system-level integration challenges for optimal data delivery.

Of course, data retention management will be required. Factors like increasing use of alternative energies may gradually make traditional energy data obsolete. Other categories of records — like system audit records and third-party contractual records — will need retention management, though some may fall under existing schedule coverage. How long will traffic, noise, waste, temperature, deterioration and other stats need to be legitimately retained? Records related to sensor placement, inventory and maintenance will need scheduling, as well. Will big data fans lobby to retain all smart city data “just in case” they may offer novel correlations in the future? IG pros must be ready for this over-retention challenge.

Smart city records and information managers will need to understand the processes driving the IoT-enabled municipality. For example, trash receptacle fill rates will inform efficient collection routes. Street vendors may register and contract their kiosks with the city through blockchain platforms. Pay-by-phone apps (which could take the place of parking meters) will require data provisioning from the app vendor, the municipality and possibly citizen opt-ins. The IG pro will need to account for these data creation and consumption nodes, which may change with new technology and needs.

As Sam Ransbotham notes in the MIT Sloan Management Review, “Cities will have problems getting smart, but lack of data probably won’t be one of them.” Urban IG professionals and their many partners need to be prepared to take on this tidal wave of data in order to navigate multiple relationships and apply traditional RIM and IG values to new (and evolving) environments.

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