The way we think about Smart Cities is undergoing a major rethink. As smartphones reach peak saturation and the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a normal part of our lives, we expect a long overdue refocus from the technology to the people it helps. And best of all, we think the smart city movement will spread to small towns and rural communities as the technologies that drive it grow more self-contained.
Top 10 smart city trends
Whether you’re a big city or small town, becoming a smarter community is well within your reach. And the smart city trends we’re seeing will make it even easier:
1. Not just for cities anymore. Smart cities will see a shift in focus from big cities to communities of all sizes. This change is being driven by two distinct shifts in our culture. The first is the overwhelming acceptance of IoT and WiFi technologies, even in rural areas. The second is the acceptance of smart city methodologies as a practical and integrable part of community planning. Big Data is a key part of this and will be a hot topic at this year’s American Planning Association (APA) conference. We’ll also see a shift to unifying people (not just technologies) in an effort to build community.
2. A human-centric approach. We’ll see growing awareness that being a smart city isn’t all about technology but more about the fruit it bears at a human scale. Too often we focus on the silicon rather than the soul. We’ll see this start to change as smart communities become more human-centric and resilient. The goal is to enable a quality of life that is consistently secure, healthy, and meaningful. And grow smart communities that empower residents to prosper physically, spiritually, and economically.
3. More intuitive processes. As the smart city movement has grown, the vision, technologies, and realities on the ground have become layered and more difficult to deal with. To simplify this, we’ll likely see a strong drive toward more intuitive processes, including the increased use of machine learning to gather and analyze a community’s data. We’re already seeing this in the move away from traditional networking to more intuitive, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), Cisco DNA for Cities, and intent-based networking.
4. Move from CapEx to OpEx. We’ll see more communities folding smart city projects into their regular operating budgets rather than showcasing them as stand-alone investments. In response, subscription-based services will become preferred since they let communities move from CapEx to OpEx, reduce staffing needs, and lower or eliminate other costs.
5. Interoperability on the fly. There will be a growing need for instant interoperability among devices and platforms as the IoT connects more diverse technologies to ever growing network fabrics. I like to think of a smart city’s network as a hand-sewn patch quilt with a mix of shapes, sizes, and colors. At first glance, it may look chaotic. But when sewn together, it becomes quite a beautiful thing. The Kinetic for Cities platform is a great start to threading all that disparate technology and data together to create something of greater value.
6. Increased citizen engagement. There’s a definable and growing undercurrent in U.S. communities toward more citizen control in decision making. Apps will evolve to help fill this need as private and public entities partner for better outcomes. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be a key part of this, as will smart infrastructure to drive real-time collaboration tools.
7. Decentralizing control. Smart city leaders will seek to decentralize data centers, technologies, and decision making for a more human-centric approach to serving citizens. Technologies like the Edge & Fog Processing Module will drive this shift to faster and more accurate response while helping improve recovery efforts (especially after natural/manmade disasters). By pushing decision making closer to where the action is, needs can be extremely fine-tuned, helping to preserve and enhance the unique social and cultural characteristics of communities, even down to the neighborhood level.
8. Increased government transparency. Smart communities will continue to make great strides in transparency as mobile apps, now the norm, evolve to improve real-time collaboration on an individual level. By using real-time video and data sharing tools like Cisco Webex, government can invite citizens to be a more integral part of the process; to attend meetings virtually to increase transparency and allow government staff in the field to interact live with colleagues anywhere, anytime when citizen needs arise. Plus, smart city apps will evolve that will merge a multitude of processes, making citizen inquiries much simpler. Together, these advances can help increase collaboration and trust between government and the citizens they serve.
9. Greater focus on revenue generation. Being a smart city will also mean an opportunity for smarter stewardship of financial resources—and revenue opportunities. This could pave the way for greater openness by government to partner with local businesses, retailers, mobile businesses, and entertainment/tourism to spur economic growth and revenue. This will include merging public spaces and private spaces (and the technology platforms they use) to create activity zones both physical and virtual. Read more about developing public spaces for the better in this report: Digital Cities: Value at Stake.
10. Use of low-cost IoT tech to enhance public safety. As community-wide WiFi and IoT technologies become commonplace and affordable, we’ll see the widespread deployment of low-cost fabrics (like community-wide networks of sensors and cameras) to improve safety and response times. New Orleans is already doing so.
Take a Deeper Dive into Smart Cities
Interactive: The Real Value of Smart Cities
Infographic: Are you Resilient?
Video: Las Vegas talks Smart City
Resource: Smart Cities Council
Resource: 100 Resilient Cities
Resource: Smart and Resilient Cities
Resource: Cisco Smart City Solutions