According to a report from the ‘National League of Cities’ (NLC), 66% of urban centres in the United States are investing in smart city initiatives. Over $80bn is been spent in 2019 with the aim of improving areas like healthcare, transportation, and security.
Some of these projects will enable better citizen engagement, the expansion of the metering services and carbon reduction initiatives. All are intended to make life better through an intimate blending of digital and physical factors.
The complexity of smart city technology is matched only by the possibilities it brings to improve lives.
Although the future growth of smart cities is certain, at b-things our clients tell us there is a trio of defining issues needing to be resolved to ensure their ongoing success.
It takes more than a single technology to create a smart city. IoT applications managing environmental services require more than just data and sensor management. To enable efficient drainage within cities, for example, smart city technology may need to measure none traditional factors like water-flow or tidal swell in a digital context. These often require real-time measurements for either forward action or analysis against other sources of live analytics. These data sources will inevitably rely on multiple connectivity – which is the core of IoT. This could include every from 5G down to SMS and everything in-between.
Creating platforms that can integrate such an unconventional range of factors across so many technologies in real-time will remain at the cutting edge of smart city development but is essential for the concept to prosper.
The merging of the sharing economy within the world of smart cities brings both network and data security risks. In many instances, data associated with smart cities may be sensitive. This will be especially true in areas such as health and social care, where smart city applications can improve lives for vulnerable people. Gaining access to this data for businesses (wishing to innovate and create applications) may be difficult. The public will need to feel confident that their data is safe. Failure to tackle the security issue will hold back smart cities as businesses face gaps in data that affects the end product. IoT platforms within smart cities will have to be permissions based and be able to integrate preference whilst maintaining high levels of security.
The NLC report is a positive signal of local government investment in smart cities. It is a step in the right direction. It’s noticeable though that the majority of cash is been spent on more familiar applications like smart meters, intelligent traffic signals, E- Governance applications, Wi-Fi kiosks, and RFID sensors. Investment in even more transformational applications like fully integrated patient care and in-home monitoring remains, for now, off the radar.
Innovation in IoT still comes at a financial risk. Indeed, overall, 70% of IoT applications don’t turn a profit-making investment (unsurprisingly) the principle defining factor in the success of IoT applications that would be needed to build a true smart city.
By their nature, IoT applications are exploitative and reactive. Their functions subject to data from a wide range of factors and human behavior. They require ongoing optimisation based on the data they collect. This affects the investment opportunity because ‘ongoing optimisation’ across traditional platforms can be very costly and often impossible. The high rate of failure of IoT application business cases could translate to the lower growth of smart cities.
Overall, it’s an exciting time for IoT and for smart cities. The NLC report paints a positive picture of adoption by cities in the USA which is replicated in other territories. However, the issues around technology, security and investment require innovation to make sure smart cities prosper and citizens realise their benefit.