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The challenges of procuring tomorrow’s Smart Cities

As populations continue to grow there is an ever-increasing government mandate not only to build new housing developments and towns in the most efficient manner possible, but also to underpin them with new technology that will bring positive benefits throughout the fabric of society. These will include bringing communities together, reducing negative impacts on the environment and helping to save the homeowner money.

These new developments with innovation woven into their core are now commonly known as “Smart Cities” and will essentially be powered by the “Internet of Things” based technology. As a concept, the Internet of Things has been around for decades; however it’s only really in the last few years that it’s emerged in main stream public life rather than just with early adopters tinkering with gadgets in their spare time. More specifically, everyday household products and services are increasingly becoming connected to the internet, offering previously unseen insight, control and financial savings; changing and enriching the way we live our daily lives as a result. The most prominent example of this is the roll out and use of smart meters for electricity and gas heating – this initiative is sponsored by the UK Government, their aim being for every home to have one as standard by 2020.

Reaping the rewards of the next wave of innovation

While the sky is seemingly the limit in terms of technology and its potential, the challenge for today’s Procurement Officer looking to build a new “Smart City” or even just help an existing town to be more interconnected, is that of trying to make sense of a solution landscape that is growing exponentially. Typically, the biggest decisions are around investing in the infrastructure that will not only help deliver benefits to the community quickly in the short term but critically will also lay the right technology foundation to be able to reap the rewards of the next wave of innovation as it surfaces over the next 5-10 years. Some of the solution options that will be offered to councils over the next 12-24 months will range from the most eye catching, like the driverless vehicles currently being trialled in Oxfordshire, to the less obvious such as the City of London recently installing internet capable LED bulbs on 28,000 street lights.

In an age of economic austerity, Procurement Officers are challenged with the unenviable task of trying to support an innovation-led government agenda in order to help transform our daily lives for the better, whilst also demonstrating that every penny is being spent wisely. The challenge of choosing the right innovative solutions that provide value for money as part of building a “Smart City”, is all too familiar for many procurement professionals across countless industries.

The importance of planning and preparation

Typically, the most successful procurements involving high levels of complexity, investment and/or reputational risk, are run by project teams that do the work up front to enable the evaluation process at the end to be relatively easy. This is particularly important where the marketplace offers a variety of cutting edge solutions, as this can present a real risk of choosing the wrong option(s). In this scenario it becomes increasingly difficult to decipher exactly which solutions will provide tangible value for money against a solution that promises a lot but turns out to just be vapourware.

Here at Commerce Decisions, whilst we recognise that every procurement is unique in its own right, regardless of whether it’s building tomorrow’s interconnected cities, a major rail infrastructure project or even a stadium for the next global sports event; what is common across all complex procurement is the importance of getting your planning and preparation right. Commerce Decisions are specialists in helping organisations to successfully manage even the most complex of procurements. In particular, we can support you in making sense of a marketplace full of potential game changing innovation, with unseen pitfalls. We can help you to engage with industry upfront as part of shaping your criteria so that you ultimately receive bids that are not only compliant but critically provide real value for money and the best possible outcome.

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