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Smart Cities: The Next Big Thing


The smart city is a concept most industry folk understand, as this idea is generally viewed through the lens of technology and data analytics. But in reality the definition—and implementation—of smart cities is much more elaborate.

While any smart city needs to have a data-based infrastructure system, to be truly “smart” it must also integrate numerous other city functions such as energy, buildings, mobility, government services, citizen involvement, healthcare, and/or infrastructure such as roads.

Understanding the smart cities concept and what it will take to make it a reality is the focus of new CTA research created in partnership with United Parcel Service (UPS) entitled The Evolution of Smart Cities and Connected Communities. The key findings clearly illustrate the role of technology, but highlight the equally important contribution of political leadership and most of all the citizens of a given community. Technology-wise, opportunity abounds with the global smart cities market expected to reach $34.35 billion by 2020.

The overarching goal of smart cities is congruent with smart homes – just on a community-wide scale. That is to say, while smart homes take care of their occupants, smart cities aim to transform residents relationships with their city by building communities that take careof citizens.

The rising demand for smart cities is driven by a series of diverse constraints, challenges and opportunities. However, with 70 percent of the world’s population forecast to live in cities by 2050, the need for sustainable, livable world cities is essential for a prosperous future. Today, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Helsinki, London and Seoul are leading examples of smart cities under development.

The city-state of Singapore aims to be the world’s first “smart nation,” leveraging one of the highest mobile and broadband penetration rates in the world. The centerpiece is a Smart Nation Platform, which brings together data from a nationwide sensor network. Collected data will be fed into an open data platform, as well as a dynamic 3D “Virtual Singapore” model that will allow city planners to test-bed concepts; analyze traffi c and pedestrian flows; and run simulations. Research firm IHS predicts there will be at least 88 smart cities worldwide by 2025, and Asia-Pacific will account for 32 of them.

The benefits of smart cities are manifold, but—almost universally—the starting point for smart city projects is transportation. Why? In most cases, city dwellers’ number one issue is transportation and traffi c congestion. From a policy and funding standpoint it’s a natural fit.

Beyond transportation, the benefits are both direct and indirect such as lower costs and improved resiliency of city operations, greater security, reduced pollution and fostering economic development. Despite these enormous societal benefits, creating smart cities faces challenges and risks that can be summarized as cybersecurity, lack of standards, and governance and budget issues.

To make smart cities a reality, the research recommends planners follow a doctrine centered on four basic tenets: Commitment, Collaboration, Consistency and Community—the four C’s of smart city development. More, these guidelines underpin principles such as ‘maintaining a commitment to entrepreneurial programs’ that are critical to achieving smart city development through delivering innovative urban or public services enabled by technology. In other words, embrace disruptive innovation.

Technologies showcased at CES 2017 like 5G, AI and self-driving vehicles will play a strategic role in enabling smart cities in the years to come.

Steve Koenig

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