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Smart technologies trigger virtuous circle of economic growth in cities

By using these technologies to transform and interconnect their urban ecosystem, government leaders aim to deliver a myriad of benefits to their stakeholders.

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ESI reports that the speed of technological change in cities has been brisk.
ESI reports that the speed of technological change in cities has been brisk.

Preliminary findings from a smart city research initiative finds that most cities are seeing major economic, financial, and social benefits from their investments in smart technologies.

 

But the study of 100 worldwide metro centres by ESI ThoughtLab also warns of greater cyber risks, if digital innovation is not managed properly.

 

Range of Smart solutions

 

According to the Building a Hyperconnected City study, two fifths of cities (38 per cent) deploying smart mobility solutions are bolstering customer satisfaction. Meanwhile, one third (32 per cent) are improving productivity and delivery times for business.

 

Likewise, 45 per cent of cities deploying smart environmental and energy initiatives are improving citizen health, 44 per cent are reducing pollution, and 43 per cent are stabilising energy prices.

 

ESI reports the speed of technological change has been brisk. Public wi-fi, Internet of Things, cloud, and mobile technology are now pervasive across cities, used by more than nine out of 10 them in its study.

 

Other commonly used technologies include biometrics (83 per cent of cities), AI (82 per cent), and blockchain (66 per cent). Robots and drones, 5G, augmented reality, and distributed computing are promising new technologies, which are still in earlier stages of investment, it notes.

“Our research shows that hyperconnected cities – ones that use technology to transform and interconnect their urban assets – generate demonstrable ROI for their economies”

By using these technologies to transform and interconnect their urban ecosystem, government leaders aim to deliver a myriad of benefits to their stakeholders. These include creating new business opportunities, filling talent gaps, improving public health, reducing crime, boosting productivity and addressing income inequality.

 

These benefits work together to deliver a virtuous circle of economic prosperity, business growth, and social well-being, ESI claims.

 

“Our research shows that hyperconnected cities – ones that use technology to transform and interconnect their urban assets – generate demonstrable ROI for their economies,” while providing enormous improvements in living and business conditions,” said Lou Celi, CEO of ESI ThoughtLab and director of the study.

 

The ROI on smart initiatives

 

These same smart programmess also generate economic and financial gains that not only cover the cost of investment, but also provide tangible returns. Except for predictive policing, all 62 smart city initiatives studied showed positive investment returns. The smart city dimensions providing the largest gains include:

  • mobility and transportation: kerb management (4.5 per cent), congestion charging (4.3 per cent)
  • energy and water: dynamic electricity pricing (4.8 per cent), renewable energy (4.3 per cent)
  • environment: optimising waste collection (4.1 per cent), real-time water quality monitoring (3.9 per cent)
  • public safety: first aid alerts (5.6 per cent), gunshot sensors (4.8 per cent), real-time crime mapping (4.7 per cent)
  • governance: digital business licensing (5 per cent), digital payments (4.6 per cent).

However, if not managed effectively, these smart initiatives can also expose urban areas to higher cyber risks. For cities in the survey, the total cost of cyber loss events over the last year averaged $3.4m, with 10 per cent suffering losses between $10m and $20m. More than half of the cities said that they were not well prepared for cyberattacks.

 

Biggest vulnerabilities

 

The biggest vulnerabilities cited were financial and payment systems (54 per cent of cities), IT infrastructure and telecoms (51 per cent), and mobility and transportation (40 per cent). To cope with rising cyber risks, 82 per cent of cities plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets next year, 39 per cent by more than 10 per cent.

 

The study is based on a benchmarking survey conducted over the summer of 2019 by ESI ThoughtLab and a cross-industry coalition of sponsors, including Deloitte, Oracle, Stantec, Pennoni, Eaton Lighting, NTT Group, Nokia, Cognizant, Visa, and Microsoft.

 

The sample consisted of 100 worldwide cities engaged in smart city initiatives. Cities varied in size from 123,000 to over 24 million residents and represented a range of income levels, regions, and stages of economic development.

 

Full findings from the study will be released in November 2019 at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona.

 

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