How the IoT is Changing Citizen Engagement Models

Smart street lights
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Explore the many ways local governments are changing citizen engagement models through the Internet of Things.

The term Internet of Things (IoT) has been generating significant buzz in the private sector for the past few years. It has also sneaked its way into the lexicon of public leaders, and into the predictions and trend analyses generated by public sector think tanks.

What does this latest buzzword mean, and how does it affect your digital communication strategy?

The proliferation of the IoT marks the next significant evolution in digital messaging and citizen engagement, and smart cities need to learn to embrace the IoT and leverage the power of its possibilities to improve their citizen relations and help them service their communities better. It is time to start preparing your community, and your engagement model, for the future. Embracing the next evolution of citizen engagement and the IoT means playing an integrated, relevant role in citizens lives.

What is the IoT and How Does It Impact Citizen Engagement Models in the Public Sector?

The IoT refers to the increasingly commonplace interconnectivity of everyday objects turned Internet-enabled devices. Think everything from personal home assistants to wi-fi enabled sensors in public parks that collect smog data. If you are wondering what smart refrigerators and personal fitness tracking devices have to do with citizen engagement, the answer is everything.

For local governments responsible for communicating critical information that will impact the daily lives of their citizens, the need for a diversified communication strategy has been essential for a decade. The IoT, however, is changing the number and variety of touchpoints available to reach citizens, and the popularity of such outlets. For this reason, local governments must start rethinking how they define citizen engagement to include all the ways that digitally-connected citizens are receiving information, searching for content, sharing with one another and engaging with brands, service providers and their local government.

How to Offer Citizens Meaningful Services Using the IoT

If you are still unsure how your city, county, village or township could benefit from leveraging the IoT to embrace the next wave of citizen engagement, consider these scenarios:

  • Facility Cost-Control. Internet-enabled HVAC systems installed within local government facilities can send data to a central hub where heating and cooling systems can be optimized to ensure idea; comfort for citizens when buildings and rooms are in use and minimize wasteful spending.
  • Encourage Tourism. Digitally connected cities can make available mobile app push notifications and text messages to notify nearby residents of ongoing local events, favorite venues and volunteer opportunities.
  • Voice-Accessible Website Content Management. Allow a staff member with mobility issues to add an event to your municipal website’s event calendar using a voice command given to an Amazon Echo personal home assistant.
  • Predicting Weather-Related Hazards. By using data sensors in riverbanks, experts can warn government officials of rising water levels that could indicate an impending flood risk for nearby residents.
  • It Encourages Park Exploration – Geocaching has been used to encourage local exploration for years, but imagine the limitless possibilities of integrating IoT into your local treasure seeking activities. Imagine allowing participants to obtain clues via integrated smart devices such as a personal home assistant, access custom maps using smartwatches or connect with other players using social video platforms.
  • Public Transit Convenience. Community buses, trains and trolleys fitted with GPS tracking technology would enable commuters to know the exact location of public transit vehicles at all times to better plan their commute.
  • Monitor Pollutants. Smart sensors placed outside of public facilities can monitor the air for increased levels of pollen, smog, and other pollutants, and notify civic leaders as well as citizens that have subscribed to receive air-quality alerts.
  • Keep Younger Generations Engaged in Local Parks and Rec – The average teen spends a considerable amount of his day using technology like smartphones, tablets and gaming systems. By integrating smart technology or IoT connectivity into your community parks, you will find new ways of engaging with younger generations using the technology and tools they already rely upon to communicate and connect in their world.
  • Gamify Community Health – Using IoT technology, communities can encourage citizens to take part in community-wide fitness challenges. Citizens can track their steps along public trails and monitor their heart rate, pulse and weight to make improvements to their health. With data aggregated on a community level, public health experts can identify trends in community health issues and identify opportunities to offer additional valuable health service to citizens.
  • It Allows for Data Analysis – How many people come in and out of your parks every day? Imagine if sensors could track the number of visitors at each of your parks throughout the day. With such data, you can learn how to optimize available programs and activities based on peak usage times, seasonality and program popularity.
  • It Can Maximize Visibility – The latest smart lighting sensors not only help to optimize visibility and safety in your public spaces, they can be adjusted remotely in response to weather, traffic and ongoing events.
About the Author

Ben Sebree is the Product Director of CivicPlus. He leads the product’s strategy and overall vision. He holds Bachelor degrees in Management Information Systems and Human Resources, and an MBA from Kansas State University. He has over ten years of experience in the technology space with six years focusing on digital transformation and enterprise platforms. Throughout that time, Ben has had a multitude of experience working with government entities of all sizes, enabling them with platform functions facilitating integrations, FOIA requests, DoD records management compliance and software accessibility.

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EfficientGov seeks expert insights to share with civic leaders. The views and opinions expressed in our guest columnist articles are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or opinion of EfficientGov.