Last year at Strata New York, we spoke about the first truly connected Olympics. This year we’ve chosen an equally interesting topic: the impact of technological innovation on our cities.

The technology landscape is changing faster than ever. What’s more, access to the technology is becoming far more widespread, almost universal. Take smartphones for example (defined as a mobile communications device that can also run general purpose applications): introduced just over ten years ago, there are now more smartphone users in India and China alone than the entire adult population of the United States.

Let’s take a closer look at the year 2020; this will be a year of milestones. Today we have 25 billion connected devices. By 2020, that number will double to 50 billion – we’re adding 25 billion devices in just two years! In 2020, there will be over six billion smart phones in use and 220 million connected cars; and the global IP traffic will reach about 100TB per second. 80% of the world’s population will be connected to the internet.

The possibilities are endless. Imagine all the knowledge of the entire human race available to everyone – we are clearly heading down this path. It’s not at all difficult to imagine every student in the world having access to educational resources like the Khan Academy, Wikipedia and YouTube. Or access to eDX whose mission is “Quality education for everyone, everywhere,” or the Digital Universal Library, or the Million Book Project with a vision to provide access to “all human knowledge, anytime, anywhere.”

It’s not just education, opportunity is everywhere. e-health is becoming a reality with initiatives like Last Mile Health, providing healthcare to the world’s most remote communities. Smart grids and smart meters are transforming the energy sector, benefiting both providers and consumers. Innovation through connected technology is transforming transportation (think Uber and Lyft), and Industry 4.0 is bringing the power of connected computing to manufacturing.

Let’s not stop there. Let’s focus on our everyday lives. What about cities? Most of us live in cities; some of us live in mega-cities. Living in a city offers many benefits of proximity and diversity: food, entertainment, shopping, social events, sports and medical care. But it comes at a price. Cities consume 75% of the world’s resources and generate 80% of the greenhouse gases; and our cities are growing. By 2030, the urban population will exceed five billion people across thousands of cities. About 40 of these will be mega-cities with populations in excess of 10 million people; and about 500 will have populations greater than one million.

This is clearly an area to focus on and one where technology can make significant improvements. I see tremendous potential to transform our cities using the IoT and analytics to tackle issues like our ever-growing demand for transportation, improving energy efficiency, and making our cities cleaner and safer.

There are many smart city initiatives around the world. Let’s look at India by way of example. When people think of India, they picture elephants, tigers, snake charmers, yogi’s and holy rivers.

The reality of India is quite different (well, except for the elephants). Today’s India is the world’s largest democracy. It has more internet users than the entire population of the United States. There are 300 million smartphone subscribers, and by 2020, India will account for 36% of new mobile subscribers worldwide.

There are six mega-cities (that’s one-quarter of all mega-cities in the world) and more than 50 cities over one million population. Each of these cities has its own unique story. There are also 98 Smart City initiatives – let me take you to one of those cities.

Jaipur, India is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s the 10th largest city in India with a population of 3.6 million. Known as the City of Palaces, Jaipur hosts 40 million tourists every year.

Jaipur’s smart city vision is to use technology and analytics to enhance the quality of life for its citizen while leveraging its heritage. Jaipur’s main business is tourism and a primary goal of their smart city initiatives is to increase the average number of days a visitor spends in Jaipur. Can you think of a better key performance indicator than that? Their target is to increase this metric from 2.8 days to 3.5 days. The specific projects aim to provide seamless access to information, make it easy to move about the city and create a safe environment. There is a smart mobility project to promote the use of non-motorized vehicles and increase the share of public transportation to 45%, as well as investments in smart and sustainable civic Infrastructure, smart metering in utilities, and smart waste management – all through the use of the Internet of Things and analytics.

Connected Cities are just one example of the digital transformation being brought on by the explosion of data and connected devices. In my most recent book, “Transforming Industry Through Data Analytics” I discuss the risks and the opportunities of a truly connected world, with a particular emphasis on cities, energy, manufacturing, healthcare, and transportation. Available here.





Raghunath Nambiar

No Longer with Cisco