A new blueprint for internet of things adoption by municipalities offers up three models for the ownership and operation of IoT networks for smart cities.
The Municipal IoT Blueprint report comes via the Wireless SuperCluster of the Global City Teams Challenge, operating under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It was created as a way to help cities make sense of the opportunities and challenges in IoT, according to David Witkowski, who serves as the co-chair of GCTC Wireless Cluster and is co-editor of the blueprint together with Tony Batalla, CIO of the city of San Leandro, California.
The blueprint, available as a free pdf, says that IoT networks have the potential to greatly improve municipal operations on a number of fronts. But first, cities have to decide how those networks will be owned and operated.
“Perhaps the most fundamental decision government agencies will make regarding IoT networks is how the IoT network will be built and what the business model and ownership structure will be,” the blueprint concludes. It lays out two specific options and a third “catch-all” category, including:
–Build and own. This would be similar to a traditional procurement model, where a government agency puts together specific requirements for an IoT network, puts it out for competitive bid and contracts with a company to build the network according to those requirements. The government agency would pay for the entire cost of construction and installation, and have sole ownership of the completed systems.
The blueprint considers these to be several advantages to this approach: the likelihood of lower operating costs, and a lack of constraints on how the network could be used by the government agency — new services could be easily deployed. But the trade-offs are high capital costs, ongoing operating costs and the need to have access to staff with the necessary engineering skills to operate and maintain the network — although the operations and maintenance may end up being contracted out in many case, the report noted.
-The subscription/5G model assumes near-term, widespread availability of cellular IoT network capabilities, such as narrowband IoT and Cat M, from mobile carriers, as well as options like LoRaWAN from providers such as Comcast’s Machine Q.
“At some point in the near future government, agencies will be able to subscribe to these IoT network services in the same manner that they do cellular plans for mobile devices today,” the blueprint says. “The cellular companies would construct and own the IoT networks and government agencies would procure services from whomever they preferred to on the open market.” Advantages include ease of deployment, no upfront capital costs for the network build, and no need for engineering teams for the network. The trade-offs include the probability that subscription costs will increase over time, and that the government agency would be restricted to whatever uses are outlined under its contracts, and/or need to sign new contracts to launch new services.
–Public-private partnerships. The blueprint frames this category as a catch-all for ownership models that don’t fit neatly under the previous two categories, but acknowledges that it is most likely to take the form of public-private partnerships for IoT projects — which could take many forms. A government agency could agree to be an anchor tenant on a privately-built network and in exchange, gain greater say over the network design and specifications. Or, the government could build an IoT network and leases service to local companies.
Regardless of the ownership and operating model that a municipal body chooses, the blueprint says that “it is crucial to have the right mix of staff at the table right from the start to ensure every aspect is covered. Cross-functional teams, including key decision makers from public works, information technology and innovation, planning, legal, executive management, technical commissions, citizen’s advisory committees, and elected officials should be created to manage these deployments to increase the odds of success.”
Read the full blueprint here.
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