Will COVID-19 act as a vital driver for the future of Smart cities?
In recent times, smart cities have become a business opportunity and the topmost priority for most of the governments around the world. A futuristic city featuring smart lighting and electric vehicle integration to charging and Wi-Fi hubs across cities, and more is now on nations’ growth agenda. Besides being powered by technological solutions, these cities will also drive sustainable developments for growing urbanization challenges worldwide. Harnessing the benefits of digital transformation and data, these urban landscapes will enable happy living of its residents while pushing for further technological innovations. Thus, the government authorities need to have a strategic layout on how to communicate the same to attract investors and collaborators.
According to a new forecast from Frost & Sullivan, spending on smart city technology is expected to grow from US$96 billion in 2019 to US$327 billion by 2025. While earlier, the UN had predicted that 68% of the global population is estimated to reside in the urban areas by 2050, the analyst firm suggests that an uncertain post-pandemic situation will compel cities to focus on developing collaborative, data-driven infrastructure for use in healthcare, public security services and more. Meanwhile, smart cities are forecast to generate business opportunities worth US$2.46 trillion by 2025. Though there aren’t any smart cities at present, Frost & Sullivan expects at least 26 smart cities to be established by 2025, with Amsterdam, Seoul, Singapore and Copenhagen as the frontrunners. It also mentions that 16 of the 26 leading cities are expected to be in North America and Europe, with the rest in Asia and Oceania.
According to an official statement by Malabika Mandal, Visionary Innovation Group Industry Analyst, Frost & Sullivan, smart cities will focus on data-driven and connected infrastructure, which will lead to higher adoption of technologies like AI and 5G. These cities will prioritize more on digitalized services and build a strong data analytics infrastructure that shall lead to an increased spending toward technology. Currently there is no proper definition for what a smart city shall constituent, however, Frost & Sullivan describes it as one with “active and verifiable pursuits” in at least five of eight areas. These are smart governance and education; smart healthcare; smart buildings; smart mobility; smart infrastructure; smart technology; smart energy; and smart citizens.
Apart from the aforementioned, a typical smart city framework will include leveraging video analytics for traffic management, network convergence for delivery of high-speed internet, built-in IoT sensors in street lights, electricity grids, traffic signals, automation of the data collection and distribution processes, edge AI and more. It will also require strong comprehensive smart city plans to reinforce cybersecurity measure to protect the devices from hacks and data thefts.
The Frost & Sullivan report predicts more than 70% of global smart city spending by 2030 to be from the United States, Western Europe and China. Archana Vidyasekar, Visionary Innovation Group Research Director at Frost & Sullivan, remarks that the strategy of being technology-first, optimistic and focused on ‘smart’ is critical now more than ever. Since COVID-19 caused colossal damage to nations’ public health, it also was instrumental in propelling nations to adopt disruptive tech practices. Archana continues, “Smart technologies offer innovative solutions that can reverse the damage and bring some respite, if not normalcy. For instance, digital contact tracing can play a critical role in empowering citizens with knowledge of COVID-19 impacted areas and promote safer urban movement.”
Some analyst firms opine that COVID-19 can skim spending on smart cities due to budgetary pressures and challenges. On the contrary, research from the US Conference of Mayors found that investing in infrastructure, including technology, is US mayors’ top immediate and long-term priority for economic recovery.