The City Stack

What is a stack?

From searching Google, we get the definition: a pile of objects, typically one that is neatly arranged. "A stack of boxes."

From this neatly arranged pile of objects, computer scientists and developers realized that neatly arranged coding platforms offered optimized interoperability and thus they adopted the term stack. The LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) stack, certainly one of the most well-known stacks, is a classic example of the sum being greater than the parts. 

TechStacks did a great job breaking out the functional pieces of the typical software stack, among others listing out: programming language, databases, server software, etc.

Background: Why a stack?

Like a typical software stack, cities need a stack of organized offerings. Thinking through what pieces are needed, who the relevant players are in that space, and how they might evolve over time is the goal.

Before even getting to the what, let’s answer why. Why does a city need a stack, versus piecemeal software? 

First is a pragmatic understanding of the limitations of offerings. A city’s crisis management system, for example, is ill-suited to be measuring traffic data. So an understanding of a software’s core offering as well as its API importing/exporting capabilities helps inform how it plays with others.

Second is for the city to identify partnerships that already exist between offerings which can unlock additional capabilities. For example, Numina is a hardware solution whose sensors mount on light poles. To the extent they're already modeling data with companies like CitieSense and Stae, a municipality would be well-served to know this as they select various vendors.

So, why now?

As cities' technology budgets increase, city planners and other officials tasked with gaining greater insights in a municipality need to understand not only what offerings are capable of delivering value, but also which ones compliment the others.

As smart cities' influence is continuing to grow, using a common framework to identify opportunities will also start to separate winners from losers. Both in terms of strategic partnerships and in API-sharing across the landscape, now more than ever a stack is needed for the smart city.

Proposed stack: Data, Engagement, Environmental, and Transportation (DEET)

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Unlike the "LAMP" stack, we want more focus around capability and less on specific vendors. As cities will have varying budgets, there is no "one-sized fits all" approach, however, we posit that all cities engaged in 21st century management need DEET systems. DEET systems communicate across the stack as previously discussed.

Think we blew it? Missed a domain or topic? Great! We'd love to hear from you. Please drop a line at invest@carbonventures.vc.

We strongly encourage and actively desire comments and feedback related to this. It is our intent to gather specific suggestions of companies and/or missed topics to include in version 2.0 of this story which will include a landscape map similar to the one here for machine intelligence.

Jason Cahill