Smart cities will need tech workers

Smart cities tech will boost jobs in analytics, cybersecurity and more, CompTIA says

Federal aid package calls for $220 million a year for smart cities

By Matt Hamblen

The smart cities movement has garnered major backing from heavy hitters in the tech field, including the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) based in Washington. The group represents 2,000 companies and 3,000 academic and training partners.

One major focus CompTIA made at the Smart Cities Week conference in Washington in early October was the number of tech jobs that will be needed by cities to grow their smart tech and services capabilities in coming years.

CompTIA estimates that 1.8 million information technology jobs will open up in the U.S. by 2024. A number of those jobs won’t require a four-year degree.

“Smart cities will generate jobs we haven’t even thought of yet,” Liz Hyman, executive vice president of public advocacy for CompTIA, told me in an interview.

Several smart city tech employment sectors will be available for infrastructure, cybersecurity and analytics. For infrastructure, cities will need large teams to help deploy Internet of Things sensors on streets and buildings for smart traffic, lighting, water, security and more. With those sensors, best-in-class cybersecurity software will be needed. An immense amount of data will also come off those sensors that needs to analyzed by qualified tech personnel.

At Smart Cities Week, one of the major themes was the need for cities to internally begin analyzing data generated by city agencies within each city, but also across jurisdictions. Panelists at one session on the opioid addiction epidemic discussed ways that data analysis and sharing could help multiple jurisdictions learn about pill mills where addicts gain access to opioids.

CompTIA is taking a comprehensive approach to the smart cities movement, with a grounding in reality. Because funding, data privacy concerns and technology integration will be difficult, “the move to smart communities will happen in measured steps, not great leaps,” said Tim Herbert, senior vice president of research at CompTIA.

The association recently released results of a smart cities survey of 1,000 U.S. households and 350 U.S. government officials.

About 40% of government officials said there is a skills gap and a lack of needed tech expertise for expanding smart cities initiatives beyond pilot projects.

Both government and citizens in the survey said their biggest worries were finding needed funds to build out smart cities and the potential cybersecurity and privacy problems that might ensue.

Citizens in the smart city survey put a premium on improved Wi-Fi and broadband, air quality monitoring, better water resource management, energy efficiency and disaster monitoring and response.   It came as no surprise to city officials attending Smart Cities Week that 60% of citizens in the survey said they would be interested in becoming a resident of a smart city, but only 26% said they were familiar with the concept.

On the federal level, CompTIA supports the Smart Cities and Communities Act of 2017 which is designed to help coordinate the various federal agency smart city initiatives.

The act would also create a technology demonstration grant program. Introduced on Oct. 2, the act would set aside $220 million a year to replace outdated infrastructure with smart tech for such projects as connected roadways, environmental sensors and data analytics. It is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, and U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene, D-WA, and Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM.

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