No city can be truly Smart, if it is not efficiently connected. Wireless networks and accessible high-speed Internet connections in a city usually result in a win-win scenario for its residents, companies and institutions. But what are the best ways to implement these strategies? The staff at Yadwire* share their thoughts on the matter.
Cities around the globe are constantly looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, draw investments and serve their residents like no other city has done before. Therefore, some cities invest over 25% of their external budgets in the “Internet of Things”, reported the International Data Corporation (IDC) in its December 2014 conference. This investment is used to develop and manage robust technologies that create sustainable, connected environments and communities.
Analysts from IBM and management consulting company Frost & Sullivan estimate a smart city technology market of $1.5 trillion by 2020, but infrastructures are expensive. Smart city leaders must drive engagement and monetize WiFi throughout residents and visitors’ entire urban experiences.
Some of the better ways to do that include:
1) Municipal growth with WiFi marketing for local businesses
Local businesses are the bread and butter of every community, and smart cities understand promoting them means promoting the city. When users log into cities’ WiFi networks and start looking up clothes or athletic activities, cities can push relevant coupons. WiFi marketing is an exceptional tool, especially when it comes to in-browser advertising that doesn’t require downloading any apps. For example, a French theater complex that used Yadwire’s technology increased sales by 16%.
Through a WiFi menu, cities can also provide previously-created textual or video guides to different sectors, including opening hours and pricing, suggesting alternatives (and more promotional offers) based on previous online behavior. Smart cities can use the data they collect through WiFi sessions to help local businesses succeed.
2) Generating better city income and happier residents with data
During their WiFi sessions, users share a lot of data with their cities and report issues in real time. Cities can take their WiFi analytics and improve these users’ lives faster than ever before: increasing the number of buses, fixing damages in urban elements like lighting, and generally creating more efficient processes to handle emergency situations. The collected data informs city officials how programs and investments are impacting residents and visitors, and what people really want from the city. As a result, cities can recruit more relevant WiFi advertisers and urban investors, and create events that support both resident well-being and city revenue.
Similarly, smart cities can use WiFi metadata to help local businesses serve residents better, and therefore earn more. For example, if a city notices an increase in people searching for vegan restaurants, it can encourage local restaurants to add vegan dishes. The city can then push notifications promoting these restaurants to WiFi users – without any additional advertising costs to the city – showing residents that their opinion matters.
3) Services, utilities and resident-city communication that works
Smart cities help bridge the gap between residents and cities, but free WiFi isn’t a gift that cities can give their residents and visitors and then let it go. WiFi is a key communication tool, allowing all parties involved to move toward a richer, more engaging, more connected future. Using cities’ WiFi, residents can report road malfunctions using interactive apps, and ask for waste management help by clicking a single button, and even pay their taxes the same way. During their session, they also get notifications from the city itself, including air and water quality reports in certain areas, notifications of weather effects on roads and services, notifications about cultural events, and information about new development plans. Connected cities can engage WiFi users even more when they conduct surveys and ask residents to weigh in on how the city can best serve them next.
WiFi isn’t a gift that cities can give their residents and visitors and then let it go
4) Improved safety and emergency management with Public WiFi
By using a city´s WiFi network, citizens may also send alerts to request emergency services, like a tow for a crashed car or an ambulance for a heart failure – and get immediate help. All it takes is one click. Smart cities with sensors spread throughout them create efficient multi-agency collaborations with faster response times. This infrastructure helps them transmit information and images to the ER through the city’s WiFi, saving critical moments that could save lives.
When city officials know of a disaster that is bound to strike soon – natural disasters, terrorist threats or a major car accident – they can send notifications to everyone who uses city WiFi at the time, to let them know what to do next in order to stay safe. Since smart city WiFi is usually used in public spaces, additional notifications can be sent, asking public WiFi users to share the safety tips they get with those that surround them, which could result in saving many more lives.
5) Education that increases engagement, branding and monetization
Other than crisis-related information, smart cities can use WiFi-specific menu bars, like the one Yadwire provides, to enrich citizens and travelers’ knowledge about the city’s history, important monuments and prominent city themes. For example, Paris, often referred to as “the City of Lights”, can offer trivia questions about how light works or the history of the French baguette. The city can offer rewards provided by local businesses, thus creating gamification that increases people’s engagement with the city and supports its entrepreneurs.
Captive portals and content injection are the new billboards, and they’re a lot easier to monetize. Using the example given above with the city of Paris, you could promote bakeries, restaurants and art shows, using location-based advertising to make it as simple as possible for people to make a purchase. But smart cities go even deeper. They encourage schools to use their WiFi to provide fun, experiential information to students about school-taught topics as they wander around the city with their friends and families. As students start to connect learning with fun, their test scores are likely to go up.
Cities can brand themselves as providers of quality education, and will be able to encourage the government and independent investors to dedicate larger budgets to its schools and students.
6) Reduced traffic jams to facilitate commutes thanks to Metadata
Many people find traffic jams pretty frustrating. Some choose where to live and work in order to avoid them, some stay an extra hour at work at the end of the day while others… sit in traffic, wondering why the city doesn’t serve them better when they pay such high taxes.
Smart cities know better. Using sensors around the city, city officials and their teams can inform residents who use their WiFi networks about the best routes to take to get to where they want the fastest way possible. Smart cities go above and beyond, directing their people to available parking spaces that charge within price ranges that specific users are willing to pay.
Smart cities know where to direct them based on previous preferences, browsing history and the errands these people need to get done – information cities collect through WiFi metadata and analytics tools. Visitors go back home raving to their friends, while residents enjoy their day to day. They appreciate how the city takes care of them and want to give back – which probably helps our next point.
7) Building community & social responsibility with content injection
Regardless of technologies, cities that are truly Smart will focus on creating communities and social responsibility. When users connect to their WiFi networks, they send out notifications that help develop that sense of social membership. For example, cities can send out messages encouraging people to be more eco-friendly. They remind them of all the newly installed bus stations and recycling bins. Cities can also send notifications on new regulations that promote equality, or provide a 1-click donation or volunteer sign up. Using content injection, they can feature nonprofits and individuals that go above and beyond to serve their community and city, plus share how residents can help.
Cities that are truly Smart will focus on creating communities and social responsibility
Smart cities can also promote the sharing economy during users’ WiFi sessions, helping residents rent equipment or housing from one another, share rides to the same destination, find people with similar interests in their neighborhood, borrow a cup of sugar or recommend a good dentist. It’s time for smart cities to develop smart WiFi strategies, so they can serve their residents better and monetize one of their largest expenses.
by Douglas Gravrel
Business Developer @ Yadwire
* Yadwire is a privately held company located in the Middle East, Europe and the USA, with resellers worldwide. The company satisfies customers’ needs on 5 continents with its patented content injection technology.