At a recent smart city IoT workshop, representatives from two regional cities with population 1M+ were on hand to field questions and give accounts of actual smart city successes and failures.
The bottom line is that truly to make a city smart - the opportunities exist, but working through the government bureaucracy will simply kill most smart city initiatives. Only the well funded - and well connected - will succeed in that environment.
So where does that leave the small players - the real innovators - like us?
I propose that the smart city citizens control and run the smart city. Even without access to government-controlled infrastructure - roads and streelights, sewers and pipes, much can be done. There is a lot that the smart city citizens - the "smart citizens" can do. Build and run private and commercial asset tracking and monitoring solutions. Monitor city air quality - a big interest to the cities and can be entirely run by private citizens. See the great air quality monitoring work by SensorUp here.
Much can be done to make cities smart that don't involve the government. Smart citizens hold the key. We can incentivize smart citizens to mount and maintain smart city infrastructure on private property.
Without going into too much detail, smart citizens can be incentivized with the nascent cryptocurrency infrastructure. But its more than just a buzzword. The blockchain offers a way to manage that all-important and absolutely critical feature of a successful smart city IoT deployment - an audit trail built on the blockchain, perfectly tracking device and infractructure activity, messages, state and ownership. With a blockchain, we can monitor data flows through smart city infrastructure and incentivize owners/operators of these gateways based on the amount of traffic that flows through them. Smart citizens will be incentivized with cryptocurrency to maintain and mount infrastructure to maximize the amount of traffic sent through their gateways. The gateways are the nodes. The proof is in the transactions. Is this where blockchain for the IoT makes its breakthrough?
An entire smart city enconomy can be built with and on a blockchain, and with zero government oversight and control. Smart cities for the smart citizens and by the smart citizens.
So what blockchain are we going to use? Bitcoin? An altcoin? Ethereum? Blockchain-alternative IOTA? Maybe, maybe a hybrid, maybe something built on top of these systems, maybe something new. This is an exciting time to be in the IoT. This is the future.