Will your city get smarter in 2015?

Earlier this week we highlighted some decidedly mixed opinions from around the globe on how smart cities progressed in 2014. The results came from an informal survey of city leaders, smart city vendors, academics and others who attended our Smart Cities Now forum in San Diego and/or are registered SCC members.

In this second installment we're looking ahead to trends our survey respondents expect to see this year, plus insights on the smart technologies they believe are most important to citizens. We'll also link you to what other forecasters are predicting for the smart city sector this year.

2015 smart city trends
With India's aggressive plans to build 100 smart cities, here's an interesting perspective from Sumit Kaur, former chief architect for urban planning in the city of Chandigarh administration. Among other trends, she anticipates 2015 will see:

  • Large-scale energy efficient buildings using latest technology and materials to minimize carbon footprint
  • Further advancement in e-governance, surveillance and redressal
  • Large-scale use of solar energy
  • Comfortable, reliable and energy efficient mass public transport dovetailed with para transit, feeder services  and pedestrian and cycle friendly last-mile connectivity

Tony Mallichan, a principal advisor to city regions in the UK, says he anticipates "increased confidence to start taking the first major steps to becoming smart (evidenced by the increase in large technology systems procurement (IoT), BI & Analytics, CRM and cyber security, etc."

Roy Adams, an independent urban planning consultant in France, expects to see "a growing application of digital technologies by municipalities in discharge of city functions, accompanied/pushed by growing penetration of the big ICT companies -- IBM, Cisco, Siemens etc." He expects utility providers to do the same to cut waste and improvement efficiency of management and delivery.

SCC Chairman Jesse Berst says he expects to see a steady move away from single-purpose point solutions to multi-purpose platforms in the smart city sector this year. "Yes," he says, "cities will continue to launch small, quick-to-implement projects. But they will base those projects on multi-purpose networks and multi-purpose software. That way, they can quickly and inexpensively leverage that infrastructure for future projects, saving both time and money."

What do citizens want?
Realizing city leaders have a lot of stakeholders to answer to, infrastructure needs to address and limited budgets, our survey asked which smart technologies resonate most with citizens. There were a lot of votes for smart energy and water. One company president suggested smart energy because it's "common sense and tangible for all citizens to see daily in cost of fuel." But there was also a comment that smart energy sounds complicated and is too hard for the average person to grasp.

Smart transportation and smart parking were mentioned frequently. "Most are frustrated by longer commutes and clogged highways," noted David Leingang, a manager with a traffic solutions company. "Using technology to reduce that will have immediate visible impact to Joe Citizen."

It's probably no surprise that public safety also resonates with citizens. As one respondent put it, in a world of unrest and growing terrorism, people want to feel safe -- and smart public safety technologies can help.

The case for connectivity
Council Chairman Berst believes the first task of any city in 2015 is to ensure that it has access to the gigabit highway. Once that infrastructure is in place, it can begin layering smart city applications on top.

In centuries past, he notes, a city had to be near a river to be a center of commerce. When railroads arrived in the 1800s, cities with a connection prospered while those who were bypassed withered away. When freeways arrived in the 1950s, cities with close access had a competitive advantage. Those without easy access saw jobs and talent move away.

"In the 21st century," Berst says, "ultra-fast broadband fills a similar role. It is the 'highway' for 21st century commerce. Cities with gigabit connections have a significant competitive advantage. Those without will fall further and further behind."

More on 2015 forecasts
Researchers from IDC Government Insights compile a top 10 list of smart city drivers. No. 1 on their 2015 list is smart city maturity; they believe cities will seek performance standards to benchmark and track their progress. Resilience is also on the IDC list (which you can read in its entirety here). IDC anticipates severe weather concerns will drive collaboration between public safety and sustainability programs as well as between cities. By 2018, IDC expects a 30% increase in urban predictive IT investments as part of the resiliency efforts.

Machina Research offers a list of 2015 predictions for the M2M and Internet of Things space, highlighted on M2MWorldNews.com. Among them: breakthroughs in smart city service developments. The researchers expect to see "some real commercial success stories in smart cities, especially from services that save money." They mention street lighting as a good example. The full list appears here.

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Liz Enbysk is the Council's Editorial Director. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

3 resources to help cities get smarter:

  1. Smart Cities Readiness Guide
  2. Smart Cities Financing Guide
  3. Smart Cities Open Data Guide