New York lays out IoT strategy

  • March 22, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

The city of New York has published an IoT strategy document covering principles, technology basics, applications in various sectors and recommendations for a healthy IoT ecosystem.

The strategy describes the landscape of this technology’s use across society, outlines the state of the Big Apple’s IoT ecosystem, and establishes a set of near-term actions essential for creating a healthy, cross-sector IoT ecosystem in New York – one that is productive, responsible and fair.

Picture from the Empire State Building press office

The release of the strategy offers recommendations to benefit New Yorkers and outlines five broad goals for near-term city action:

  • Foster innovation by creating structures and programmes that support research, testing and experimentation with IoT technologies.
  • Promote data sharing and transparency around city IoT use by engaging and informing residents about IoT initiatives, and aggregating information and data from the city’s work to make them available across agencies and for the public, where appropriate.
  • Improve governance and coordination of the city’s use of connected technologies through new policies and processes.
  • Derive value from cross-sector partnerships by supporting and pursuing opportunities for collaboration.
  • Engage with industry and advocate for communities by creating channels for exchange and advocating for digital rights.

The release of the strategy will be followed by announcements of initiatives described in the document as efforts to put the plans into practice continue. In addition to initial programmes focused on city agencies’ use, these initiatives will cover the broader IoT ecosystem.

“The New York City internet of things strategy makes a profound contribution to understanding the potential benefits and pitfalls of these emerging technologies,” said deputy mayor for operations Laura Anglin. “The NYC IoT strategy will serve as a roadmap for how to harness the positive aspects of IoT while providing thoughtful guardrails to ensure against negative applications.”

New York’s chief technology officer John Paul Farmer added: “The 2020s will be a critical decade for the billions of internet-connected devices commonly known as the internet of things. In this decade, society is poised to unlock these and countless other benefits from IoT. It is in this decade, too, that the rules of the road will be set, which is why now is the right time for us to face hard questions about the data economy, data poverty, digital rights and potential deleterious uses of IoT. This strategy provides a critical blueprint for how New York City can lead the way in striking the right balance for smart use of IoT.”

Today, New York faces a range of opportunities and challenges in fostering a healthy IoT ecosystem. Within city government, there are opportunities to build capacity to use and innovate with IoT, foster collaboration among agencies, boost partnership opportunities across sectors, and strengthen governance and coordination throughout the city. In the private and non-profit sectors, there are opportunities to support industry standards and best practices around IoT, coordinate on emerging workforce and IoT literacy needs, and support local economies and communities. In addition, there are opportunities to engage and empower residents in their interactions with IoT across society as consumers, residents or workers.

“City agencies have already done a tremendous job incorporating IoT technology in their work for New Yorkers,” said Paul Rothman, New York smart city and IoT lab director. “I’m confident that with increased and continued collaboration and coordination, New York City can deliver even greater benefits for residents while also increasing engagement and transparency on the use of this technology. There is much to be done and together we can achieve great things for the city, and the IoT strategy is a roadmap to get there.”

The strategy is built around six key principles: privacy and transparency; openness and public engagement; governance and coordination; efficiency and sustainability; security and safety; and fairness and equity.

These principles structure the city’s approach, acting as guideposts for the analysis, recommendations and actions in the document.

“New York City has already adopted powerful new IoT technologies and has seen these help reduce road crashes and fatalities, improve bus speeds and traffic flow, and ease drivers’ search for parking, as well as expand their payment options,” said NYC Department of Transportation deputy commissioner for policy Michael Replogle. “Critical to the growing need for sustainable travel options, IoT has also enabled the city to develop the largest bike-sharing system in the western hemisphere, support testing of new e-scooter services in areas underserved by mass transit, and expand car share. As we create more and better travel choices for city residents and visitors, we also expect to use this vital technology to manage and administer scarce kerb space so freight can move more effectively to businesses and residences.”

Geoff Brown, director of NYC Cyber Command, added: “IoT technology is closing the gap between our digital and physical worlds. All great innovations come with risks, but by making security and privacy cornerstone principles of the NYC IoT strategy, we keep New Yorkers values front and centre as we adopt these new technologies.”

And Jainey Bavishi, director of the mayor’s office of resiliency, said: “Cutting-edge technologies have a critical role to play in adapting New York City to climate change. New tools like interconnected sensor networks will allow us to detect and monitor flooding in real time and understand extreme heat impacts across vulnerable neighbourhoods. The increasing use of connected technologies across New York City is sharpening our understanding of localised climate threats and informing our response to emerging threats.”

IoT technology could present opportunities for New York. This technology can help government improve planning, streamline operations, reduce costs, increase resiliency, improve sustainability and respond to community needs. It can help local businesses and community organisations justify investment, optimise operations, and tailor products and services. And it can improve New Yorkers’ health, safety, opportunity and overall quality of life.

Producing these benefits and ensuring they are enjoyed equitably requires that knowledge and capacity be in place across populations and sectors to understand and use the technology. There must also be thoughtful planning and governance. And there must be transparency and engagement of those implicated in IoT use to ensure buy-in and trust as well as responsible technology usage that respects communities’ privacy and security.

The mayor’s office of the chief technology officer developed the IoT strategy to support a healthy, cross-sector IoT ecosystem in New York.

The strategy contains a brief review of prior city work in this area, followed by a discussion of striking the right balance with IoT principles, such as privacy and transparency. It details IoT basics, describing the components of IoT systems. This is followed by a discussion of how IoT is deployed both in New York and other cities around the country, with discrete sections on consumer, industry, government and community organisation applications. The strategy goes on to describe ways in which IoT presents challenges and opportunities for the city. It concludes with a set of recommendations for a healthy IoT ecosystem.