From tech trends to behavioural shifts and new ways to make smart cities economically sustainable, Matthew James Bailey explores what the next five years could look like.
The drive for smarter cities is growing exponentially as municipalities tackle critical challenges in areas such as public and environmental health, safety and security, mobility and more.
We are already seeing the IoT revolution delivering on its promise, with solutions being deployed for waste management, air quality improvement, gunshot detection, asset tracking, fleet management, flood detection, parking management and more. There are even niche deployments such as the monitoring of ultraviolet radiation in warm climates. Based on these sensors, the ‘data revolution’ is beginning to improve quality of life in our communities.
However, it’s still early days and even bigger shifts are coming. These are the key trends I believe will have a significant impact by 2025.
We will start to see a new entrepreneurial mindset in city, regional and national government as ’wicked’ challenges increase.
Many cities are already starting to recognise that having city-wide data platforms will be key to optimising delivery of public services and that this requires governmental departments to collaborate better around robust cybersecurity and data governance policies.
Increasingly, though, forward-thinking jurisdictions will recognise that some challenges do not obey city boundaries and as such we will see the rise of the smart region, using cross-region data platforms and solutions for issues such as traffic congestion, resilience, disaster preparedness and emergency services.
This will require a fresh understanding of how to deliver public services effectively and require inter-city alliances and coalitions.
Living labs and testbeds will become a standard urban digital transformation innovation model. This will result in more robust validation of technologies and solutions and faster scaling of them across cities and regions.
Isolated proof of concepts (PoCs) could become redundant as cities and regions start to use supercomputers to model urban challenges, allowing a unique insight into which solutions will deliver the required impact. In combination with living labs, this will result in more rapid and cost-effective digital transformation.
Living labs and testbeds will become a standard urban digital transformation innovation model.
As some cities in developed nations struggle with digital transformation due to legacy systems, lack of funding and internal cultural challenges and politics, developing nations and smaller regions could start to move faster as they embrace change and welcome novel approaches and partnerships.
I also believe smart rural and mountain alliances will become just as popular as today’s smart city alliances, and these stakeholders will increasingly be included in regional and national digital transformation. This shift will be driven by a growing recognition that success is not measured solely in monetary terms but also through the inclusion of traditionally marginalised communities.
These are my quick-fire predictions for some big tech shifts we will see by 2025.
Data ownership will become more prominent in local and global discussions as new approaches are explored regarding citizens owning their data. Smart cities are likely to be chosen as the right market to trial new data-ownership frameworks, opening the way for new data economies, services and experiences.
Many corporations will be forced to adapt and change their approach to data ownership if they do not wish to be left behind. As AI evolves, global debate will emerge about AIs becoming ‘citizens’ within society.
The private sector will realise that the traditional sales methodology has to change in order to successfully develop revenues in the smart city market. Their mindset will adapt to a longer-term view and become more collaborative.
The private sector will participate in more public-private partnerships with city and regional stakeholders and we will start to see how corporations will economically benefit from this approach.
We will see a fresh approach to funding smart city initiatives with new players at the table, such as ‘impact investors’.
A fresh approach to funding smart city initiatives will also emerge, with new players at the table, such as ‘impact investors’ – financial organisations dedicated to stimulating social and environmental improvements. This will include new funding models where real-time data shows the value of an investment at any moment in time. This could open the opportunity for new data-based investment bonds and possibly carbon and sustainability trading exchanges.
Crucially, I believe that citizens will finally get a seat at the smart city table, thanks to the emergence of new frameworks and tools to enable them to co-create the experiences they desire within their neighbourhoods.
What do you think are the key trends to look out for and what impact will they have by 2025?
You might also like: