While the pandemic accelerated digitization, the ongoing armed conflict in Eastern Europe intensifies the problems arising with the energy consumption. It also fuels the threat of cybercrime and increases the necessity of IT security.
Local municipalities face daily challenges due to the convergence and heterogeneity of their numerous services, accommodating many different professions, including: Civil registry, local police, fire department, daycares, schools, city planning, tourist information, leisure and sports, garbage collection, road constructions, health services and many more. The IT infrastructure and communications equipment is oftentimes not unified and outdated. A multitude of different devices of various makes and models swallow a lot of energy, and diverse software programs make matters complicated: Collaboration is obstructed, work is more difficult than it needs to be and the costs are unnecessarily high.
During the health crisis, digital deficits have become quite apparent since many companies reverted to remote work and telework. Businesses are oftentimes well-equipped with collaborative tools and digital equipment while public institutions might only rely on analog devices such as the fax machine or legacy devices. Issues arise quickly: Incompatible interfaces, no unified maintenance processes, different integrators and operators are all factors that result in lengthy and tedious procedures.
IP telephony optimizes processes while it improves quality of service and communication. It further lowers the phone costs so that companies can expect a lot of savings. Businesses may eliminate parts or all of the monthly phone contract charges. Calls between departments, remote workplaces or distributed sites are free of charge, even when using mobile phones that are integrated into the PBX. What’s more: With the integration of mobile devices, users can make and receive calls using their very own phone extensions, just as if they were in the office. The phone number is no longer restricted to one single end device. With ISDN being entirely phased out across Europe in the upcoming years, there is no alternative anyway.
Scepticism towards digitization may stem from the consequences that automation can bring about. Personal contacts might diminish or even disappear altogether and transferring bureaucratic tasks or official correspondence to online services is a real threat to certain jobs. While it will take training and time to get used to new ways of working, the benefits are that digital and collaborative tools will save time and improve daily processes and overall service. Repetitive tasks are no longer necessary, so that other important tasks can be carried out. The right tools and devices open up an entirely new digital world: Mobility and telework, online city council meetings and virtual classrooms are just some of the manifold technological possibilities and the smart city is born.
Just a few years ago, the idea of a virtual council meeting would have seemed quite far-fetched. A modern and comprehensive solution for collaborative communication should include features such as softphones, video conferencing, chat messaging, screen sharing / application sharing and much more. Further, it should be possible to add new developments or to adapt to changing communication requirements without having to rely on external services, creating unwanted dependencies.
Just as private businesses are struggling with the crisis on the energy market and skyrocketing prices, municipalities and local authorities are facing the exact same challenges. Checking the own energy consumption is the only short-term solution to reduce energy costs. Therefore, it is a priority to optimize the communication infrastructure. One option is to move from hardware to the cloud in order to reduce the carbon footprint. When selecting hosted services on servers in European data centers, data protection compliant to EU law will be guaranteed. Desk phones can be replaced with softphones and instead of going on business trips, video conferences may be a sensible alternative.
Due to the diversity of technologies, devices and interfaces used, municipalities are particularly vulnerable to cyber risks. Cyber security has to be prioritized in order to avert the threat of ransomware. Even though All IP brings about many advantages, communications systems may be an easy target for cyberattacks since the systems are connected externally to the internet. Therefore, municipalities should ensure to opt for European solutions that adhere to European data protection regulations. All security mechanisms, encryption methods and protocols are natively included within the innovaphone PBX, protecting the different communication channels on a broad scale.
There is no question, turning a municipality into a smart city is a long-term project. There may be numerous challenges, depending on organizational, technological, environmental and human factors. The efforts will be worth it, a new communication system will save time and money, improve the work and services provided by employees, citizens will appreciate the improvements new technology brings about and the implementation of mobile applications will allow quick and flexible access to the various services and departments.