By Eric Woods
The latest report on smart cities from Navigant Research forecasts that annual smart city technology investment will reach $27.5 billion by 2023. Total cumulative investment over the next decade will reach almost $175 billion. This dynamic market is evolving rapidly as cities become more familiar with the relevant technologies and the growing range of solutions available.
The report highlights a number of important themes that will shape the broader market over the next 12 months and beyond, including:
- Engagement with all citizens - Smart city pilots around the world are demonstrating the benefits of technology innovation to citizens, but there is an urgent need to see more projects that make a real difference across broader elements of the city. Smart city discussions need to become more inclusive if the momentum behind the market is to continue. City leaders must find ways of connecting smart city ideals with the day-to-day concerns of citizens, including developing new forms of engagement, using analytics to better understand actual needs, and benchmarking services to better demonstrate innovation-led improvements in areas such as public safety, transportation and health.
- Realizing the potential of big data - The ability to harness real-time, highly granular data across a wide range of city operations and services is changing the way the urban environment is managed and experienced. This is why the benefits offered by big data for city management are generating so much excitement. But city managers still have the major challenge of ensuring that data is fit for purpose and is used appropriately. Above all, managing and analyzing large data sets and developing insights for effective policymaking or operational improvements require skills that are in short supply, particularly in the public sector. Meeting the skills gap for data analytics will be a significant barrier to city innovation.
- Building resilience - Resilience is an increasingly important attribute of the smart city. Resilience can be characterized as the ability of cities and communities to quickly recover from catastrophic events and other threats to the stability and well-being of the city. Resilience requires a deeper understanding of the normal operations of a city and its vulnerabilities, so it is better able to cope with extreme events. In turn, that new understanding and the new approaches to planning and management can inform many aspects of a smart city strategy, including cross-agency collaboration, security, social inclusion and the use of data analytics.
- Finding the right standards - Smart city standards are less about regulation and more about consistency, repeatability and enabling integration and collaboration across multiple domains such as transportation, sustainability and public safety. Some substantial products are starting to appear like the City Protocol, the United Kingdom’s Smart City Framework, and the Smart Cities Council’s own Smart Cities Readiness Guide, and more will emerge over the next 12 months. Such initiatives can help accelerate the adoption of smart city solutions, reduce the risks to cities and suppliers and make it easier for successful projects to adapt to new contexts.
From vision to deployment
The common thread across these four topics is the need to move from ideal models of the smart city to deployments of solutions that have an impact across city operations and on the lives of the majority of citizens. The potential for smart city technologies is immense, but they need to be grounded in the actual workings of many more cities if that potential is to be realized. These developments suggest cities are at least moving in the right direction.
Eric Woods is a research director at Navigant Research, a part of Navigant Consulting, Inc.