From smart city grids to car-free zones and flying taxi parking lots, cities are poised for transformational updates to their technological systems and related infrastructure.
By 2050, there will be twice as many citizens living in cities than in rural areas. As the Internet of Things ecosystem matures, there will be new opportunities for city managers to learn from, influence, and optimize infrastructure, traffic, and daily living.
In the U.S., a growing number of smart city initiatives are underway.
The city of Austin, Texas debuted an open data directive in 2013, launched a series of smart city goals, and last year began trialing a city-wide 5G network. Boston created an Office of New Urban Mechanics to spearhead local public-private innovation partnerships. Las Vegas made itself a testing ground for self-driving vehicles, while NYC Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (MOTI) is overseeing a number of different initiatives, which include smart water metering, city-wide trash cans with wireless sensors, and new air quality monitoring systems.
Vietnam, Indonesia, and Myanmar have inked smart city partnerships with Japan, which has pledged to help Southeast Asian cities ease traffic congestion, introduce cashless payments, and harness environmental data to improve the quality of life. It’s an alternative to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which is dedicating billions of dollars in loans for various projects to help modernize its many partner countries.
In cities throughout the U.S., universities are starting to partner with city councils on a wide range of experiments. The Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Washington, for example are deploying a variety of sensors around Seattle to improve hyper-local weather forecasting due to climate change. But not everyone is eager for smart upgrades in their cities—Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs faced pushback from citizens regarding the company’s plan for a heavily tech-integrated smart district in Toronto, ultimately scaling back elements of their plan and agreeing to more outside oversight in response to privacy concerns.
Globally, the market for smart city projects could increase to more than $1 trillion by 2025, driven in part by multinational partnerships as well as public-private collaborations.
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