Smart Cities, Small Businesses and Innovation

We all want to live and work in a Smart City, right?

There are images of Smart Cities everywhere, from Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) Quayside to smart cities around the world.

What makes a city Smart?  And how small businesses benefit from getting SmartER.

There is no single definition for what a Smart City is – what we have now are many incredible ideas of what information and emerging technologies can do to solve environmental, economic and social issues.

  • Smart City transportation will be more on demand, will reduce carbon emissions, reduce traffic accidents and fatalities and help smart citizens locate parking spaces.
  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are integrating solutions for affordable housing, water accessibility, education an many other concepts into the new built environments of Smart Cities.
  • The DOLL lab in Denmark is a living lab where public and private sectors can test new technologies in lighting and collaborate on best practice technologies for Smart Cities.

But how can small businesses can become SmartER?

Start with innovative thinking and data analysis.  Get everything you can together about your business – from financial statements and payrolls to marketing and advertising budgets to office locations.  Thinking SmartER is about efficiency and optimization of resources.  Large streams of data are now available about virtually everything.  Add those relevant streams to the data you have on your own business to build a powerful understanding of your business, your industry and potential markets.

Consider accessing the global market for your goods and services.  Small businesses have access to new markets all over the World.  Look at emerging and existing markets – is there a place for your goods or services?  Import/export is a two-way street – is there a company in emerging or existing markets that wants to come to the United States and do business that you can partner with?

Take a stand on how you do business and what is happening in your supply chain.  You may have heard of this as People, Planet and Profits.  I call it Organic Profits.  There really is enough for everyone.  Do you have the right policies in place to prevent harassment in the workplace?  Are you building a diverse workforce?  Especially for service businesses – are you building programs to keep your employees connected?  Tele-work, flex hours and collaborate work spaces are all ways you can build a collaborative workplace culture.  Do you have gender pay inequality issues?  Have you looked?  Bias creeps up on us, even when we think we have erased it.

Think green in every phase of your business.  As organizations, we all produce waste.  There are things we can do – go paper free in the office.  If you are still saving printed bank statements, you could consider cloud storage instead.  Even an external drive for all “paper” documents.  Are you recycling in the office?  Lead by example in green solutions – talk about what you are doing and encourage workforce participation.

Leveraging connections and building relationships.  Small businesses are stronger when we work together.  Bartering is a great way to access services and build networks.  We all need each other to survive.  Bartering has tax implications, so be sure to do the research on this.

Have you looked at how emerging technologies could optimize your business?  From just in time manufacturing to automated customer service, emerging technologies should be of special interest for small businesses.  These are new technologies for all of us – take a look at some of the best practices and at least consider how you can explore these new capabilities.  The small businesses that start integrating these technologies sooner, rather than later, are the ones who are going to be ahead of the game.

At some point, I hope we will all be living well in Smart Cities.  But being smartER isn’t about a place – it’s about a new way of thinking and being open to possibilities.

Good luck on your SmartER journey!

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