I recently moderated a panel at the Smart Cities Connect Spring Conference and Expo on the topic of “Getting Smart About Trash.” On the panel with me was Larry Schneider, Director of Transportation Operations for the City of Fort Collins, Colorado and former Streets Superintendent of the City for over 38 years, and Steve Goldsmith, the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the 46th Mayor of Indianapolis, Indiana from 1992 to 2000, and former Deputy Mayor for Operations of New York City.

The panel was a wide-ranging discussion in which we got into the weeds on everything from how your city can become smarter (and how you can use your municipal fleet to become proactive, not reactive, in addressing the day-to-day issues of your city), to how Rubicon is working to end waste, in all of its forms, to the pain points of government procurement that can unintentionally slow the rate of civic innovation.

During our discussion I spoke about Rubicon’s holistic mission to end waste, in all of its forms, not just in terms of materials going to landfill, but wasted time, wasted tax dollars, and wasted human potential.

Smart Cities Connect to End Waste

For cities, the notion of ending waste should be front and center, as is true for Fort Collins, CO; Irving, TX; Spokane, WA; and the dozens of other cities with which Rubicon® has announced smart city partnerships in the last two years. Ending waste should be the underpinning of any municipality’s smart city mission. When cities use their existing assets—such as garbage trucks, street sweepers, and snow plows, to not just perform their traditional services, but also to gather data about things like community conditions and infrastructure conditions—these cities are maximizing the ROI of these vehicles, and improving the quality of life for citizens across all zip codes.

During our panel Larry, Steve, and I spoke about the importance of sticking to the basics when it comes to improving the lives of a city’s citizens. This mission has a technological underpinning, which we embrace wholeheartedly at Rubicon—we are a technology company first and foremost—but this technological underpinning must work to enable better, more cost-effective implementation of these core areas above all else.

We spoke about how cities can fall into a trap of focusing on new, exciting ideas based on incremental improvements in the everyday lives of their citizens—such as the idea behind blanketing a city in free WiFi, or making a city’s public telephone booths internet-enabled—without looking toward what can actually make a substantial difference in their citizens’ lives. This includes providing on-time trash and recycling pickup, cleaning the streets, removing snow, and fixing potholes, road cracks, and damaged sidewalks in a timely manner.

This is an example of a city’s tax dollars at work, and it shows. During the panel Larry noted that “Rubicon’s street sweeping program with Fort Collins is helping us end waste in terms of the wasted time of drivers through inefficient operations, as well as wasted organic matter, such as grass, leaves, and dirt, which is now being swept up and sent to composting facilities instead of landfills.”

Ending our discussion, Steve spoke about what the future of smart cities means for city governments, and their citizens alike. “The unheralded opportunity for smart cities,” noted Steve in the closing moments of our panel, “is in enabling public servants to do their job better and more efficiently.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I look forward to seeing you at the next Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn to stay ahead of where you can see me speak, or reach out to me at michael.allegretti@rubiconglobal.com.

Michael Allegretti is Chief Strategy Officer at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.