Government agencies across the U.S. and around the world are making progress as they experiment with a new generation of smart-city technologies that improve efficiencies, expand services, and reduce costs. While the concept of "smart cities" holds tremendous potential, many challenges remain.

A new report titled, "Building Smarter Cities and Communities," from technology association CompTIA provides interesting insights. CompTIA researchers surveyed 350 government officials and found that nearly three-quarters of them 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, who serves as CompTIA executive vice president, with a focus on public advocacy.

More Funding and Expertise Needed

Funding challenges are the number one concern for government officials considering smart-city projects. CompTIA noted that, "Most government entities have little wiggle room within budgets to shift funds from critical government services to investments in new areas, such as smart cities."

But money isn't the only problem. Cybersecurity related to smart cities is another top concern, and perhaps even more difficult to overcome.

Calling cybersecurity "mission critical" for any successful smart-city initiative, Hyman explained: "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, CompTIA found that 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.

Old telecom infrastructure is another obstacle. CompTIA reports that 7 out of 10 municipalities with a smart city initiative or pilot underway report having to make upgrades to their telecommunications infrastructure before proceeding.

Other challenges the research found involve management and direction. These issues revolve around building a business case for a smart city project; finding government and community leaders to champion the effort; and, deciding which initiatives are most worthwhile.

Next Steps

The CompTIA report concludes that four major factors will continue to influence the timeline for building smart cities:

Elevating the understanding of smart city concepts will take time, but "bridge technologies" -- including smart technologies for the home and office -- can help.

Making the leap from digital to "smart" will require advancements on many fronts, from technology and broadband infrastructures to workflow and user experience.

Collecting, managing, and securing data properly will be absolutely critical to smart city success.

Keeping smart cities cyber-safe will require resources and a commitment to shared responsibilities for security.

The full report on "Building Smarter Cities and Communities" is available directly from CompTIA to registered users.

Additional information and resources are available from the Smart Cities Council, which is hosting the Smart Cities Week 2017 conference in Washington, DC, this week.

Making Progress

Wondering who's working on smart-city products and services?

Some of the companies exhibiting at Smart Cities Week 2017 include: Amazon Web Services, AT&T, Batelle, Bosch, CIVIQ, Comcast, CompTIA, Dell EMC, DLT, Deloitte, EY, Fybr, HERE, Hitachi, Itron, Mapbox, Parsons, Pennoni, Qualcomm, Seat Pleasant, SyNexxus, Verizon, and Victor Stanley.

And in Innovation Alley at the show were: Ameresco, Canada, Connected Nation Exchange, CIMCON Lighting, CityBase, Commsignia, CommuniThings, Databuoy, Echelon, Gannett Fleming, German Federal Ministry of Education, IES, IKE Smart City, Inrix, LimeBike, Localintel, netLINK Controls, OpenDataSoft, RadioLocus, Ruckus, S&C Electric Company, Smart City Media, Ubicquia, Waycare, and the Wireless Infrastructure Association.