What to Know About Geospatial and Smart City Planning

While the definition of a “smart city” can vary widely, generally, it applies to urban environments or communities that use data-driven technology to build infrastructures that allow for increased equity, mobility, and overall quality of life. This data is collected with tools that are constantly connected to cloud databases that keep information to be used to make decisions in real-time. Generally, this data should be available and accessible to city and organization leaders involved in smart city growth – and much of the data tends to be geospatial.

What Geospatial Really Means

Geospatial is the overarching term for all data related to and conveyed on a map and can be visualized in two ways. Vector data applies geometric shapes for location and the outline of geographic features like cities, roads, and waterways are represented by points and lines. Raster data uses scanned digital or aerial and satellite images and leverages stair-stepping to report data as pixels or grids over an image. Examples of geospatial technology include GIS, GPS, remote sensing, and beacon technology.

At its most basic use, geospatial information system (GIS) tech is used to make maps of geographical areas, store information, and layering it to give users a wide-angle view. At a more complex level, this technology can answer a range of questions posed and discovered using geographical and attribute data: How many competing businesses are within one mile of the town’s center? What is the walkability from certain neighborhoods to a business? How accessible is the business from the highway?

Geospatial and Smart City Planning

Although fully automated, truly “smart” cities are still years from being completed, geospatial and GIS tools are already being implemented to improve infrastructure and quality of life. Transit and transportation systems in metropolitan cities all over the country use geospatial intelligence systems and technology to monitor the condition and progress of thousands of miles of underground and above-ground subway tracks. Drones with GPS capabilities are also used to check on all the conditions instead of manual inspectors traveling dangerous tracks.

Utility companies also use geospatial technology. Municipal water providers use geospatial mapping to improve infrastructure and optimize location-based projects. GIS technology captures images that track water levels, environmental conditions, and weather patterns that may impact the water supply for communities. Government organizations use geospatial technology in several ways. Detailed mapping information of cities and communities prioritize improvement projects and keep community members safe while doing so. The military has been relying on special technology for decades to protect the country and its assets.

Tapping Into Public-Private Partnerships

To continue progressing and innovating smart cities, it’s critical to understand the dynamics and advantages of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the geospatial field. PPPs allow the costs of investment to be spread over the lifetime of the asset and, therefore, allow infrastructure projects to be brought forward in years compared to the pay-as-you-go financing that is typical of many infrastructure projects.

Since satisfaction metrics can be built into the contract, these partnerships encourage a strong customer service orientation. Because the destination, not the path, becomes the organizing theme around which a project is built, PPPs enable the private sector to focus on the outcome-based public value they are trying to create. One of the biggest benefits of PPPs for smart city planners is that they can lower the cost of infrastructure to the public entity by reducing construction costs and overall life-cycle costs.

Working With Experts

Growing a smart city is a complex dynamic process, and the right GIS platform can become a cornerstone of that growth. Make sure you’re working with a team of experts that will work closely with your team to create that platform — like our team of geospatial experts.

We are committed to providing services and platforms for geospatial solutions, seamless one-feature-one-time map production, world-class city wayfinding, and integrated public transport information, all of which help a smart city grow and thrive. Join our team today and learn how to help develop your career by developing GIS tech that drives smart city progress forward.