Smart City: From Drawing Board to Building Site

Weather, topography, population, budget and cost of living are among the factors that influence the design, build, and finance of smart cities. Read to find out more  on what it takes to make these complex projects a reality.

CREF Inc. at a glance

  • An international banking group that directly provides equity infusion, tailor made debt vehicles and Green Energy Grants for ground up construction projects in Smart Cities and Energy Development projects.
  • All financing is designed on a tailor made basis for each project, and the company works in the range from $15 million to $900 million US dollars per project.
  • In 2018, the company is celebrating its 18th year of international banking and development.
  • It’s based in Sewickley, PA and have offices in Cameroon, Africa, and are opening three more offices in New York, Bucharest, Romania; and Berlin, Germany.
  • It has 13 employees and is looking to expand to 20 employees by the end of this year.

Never a day goes by without someone discussing what they think “smart cities” are and what infrastructure is needed in order to make all the pretty digital images on social media come to life.

Terry L Smith, CEO and President of CREF Inc., an international banking group that finances smart city projects.

Unfortunately, most people do not have the correct background, knowledge, and training to actually know and understand what a smart city is, or what infrastructure is needed to make each building function correctly and each city operate at its peak performance to reflect all those pretty photos shown on the internet!

So, to enlighten all those good folks who mean well, and who are seeking to either obtain a connection or a job interview, permit us to clear the air on these matters…

First, a blast of reality for all to understand: YOUR PROJECT WILL NOT BE DONE BY FRIDAY!!!!

Second, less that 5% of all “smart cities” projects are actually in the development stage!


“All those pretty and exciting photos that are overloading the internet are images of what they hope to see, and not actually reality!”


These projects are NOT designed and developed over night; rather, it takes many talented people from many walks of life to determine what is needed for each project on a case-by-case basis, along with many months of design, testing and re-configuring and the never ending “Change Orders” long before you see the finished product!

The design, development, installations and maintenance of these technologies is determined by many factors including, but not limited to the following:

  1. Budget;
  2. Topography;
  3. Weather;
  4. Population;
  5. Present and Projected Growth of the Area;
  6. P3 Cooperation (Public-Private-Partnership); Partnership is a KEY FACTOR!!
  7. Transportation;
  8. Cost of Living;
  9. Social Activities;
  10. Educational Opportunities;
  11. Security, and many others as well….

Third,  any successful development project – no matter where it is – begins and ends with superior “state-of-the-art” infrastructure!

Whether you are bringing in clean running water and sustainable electrical power to the world’s most remote village, or redeveloping a major metropolitan city, each project begins with the design and development of infrastructure!

It is the technology that you do NOT SEE is what makes a building operate at its peak levels of performance and permits the sizable reduction in energy costs, or ease the flow of pedestrian and vehicle during rush hours, or improve the safety in our communities, enhance world-wide communications from your watch, smart phone, and so on…

As we are involved with many developments around the world, we spend the majority of our time discussing the wants and needs for each specific project with the owners or government officials. And most are surprised at the time needed to make their development project live up to what they hope and want to see as a finished project.

Our advise to all is to make sure the time and resources needed to make their project come to life are spent correctly, and not leave them wishing they spent more on design and not on the publicity!  Countless projects never leave the drawing boards due to lack of understanding that it is the technologies that make the end result have the “WOW FACTOR” and actually function accordingly to the needs they are trying to fulfill…

Spending the time and funds necessary to determine the best solutions to achieve the best results are critical factors differentiating between a successful development and one that never sees the light of day or ending up being a disappointment – leaving all wishing they could start all over again!!

Fourth,  although data centers are a critical part of making a city smart, but in an ACTUAL smart city, the majority of the data stored goes unused!

This is due to many factors including not having the proper staff to decide what is worthwhile data, and what is not.  Having the necessary time to decipher the data gathered and use it correctly is crucial.

Also, have we gone too far with gathering all the data that we have, and are we invading the privacy of our clients and the general public as well are critical considerations. Everyone has a right for knowledge, however, who controls this knowledge is key!!!

Fifth,  Training and Development.  As all this development of technology and building of structures is going on, we need to make sure that the educational aspects are not lost along the way!!  Technology is great when it works, and in spite of our best efforts and wishes that all technology will never fail, we all should know better than to think that it won’t!

We need to keep the skill levels updated along with the technology. As we all know, everything will either break or malfunction sooner or later, and we need educated and skilled people to solve these issues.  Education shall play a key role in the advancement of smart cities and our universities and technical schools will also need to keep up with the times!

The topics, discussion points and experiences are from our own experiences, and we welcome any and all intelligent replies and conversations!

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