How do smart cities stay smart?

23rd February 2016
Jordan Mulcare

Smart cities use a mix of information, energy and social technologies for environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and livability. However, they need to be not just smart but agile, making technology choices that let citizens adapt and improve on solutions they implement today, according to Lux Research.

About two-thirds of the world population will live in urban centres by 2050, a migration of billions of people that will challenge today’s infrastructure and governments to maintain quality of air and water, health and safety and economic and social prosperity. Top-down technological solutions can’t support the scale and diversity of changes that will happen in that time and risk turning cities into environmental and social dystopias.

“Cities are under threat but they also remain nodes of innovation that will test, pilot and deploy technologies that address the biggest threats to humanity,” said Alex Herceg, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report titled, 'Cities as Technologies: Using Data and Analytics to Grow From Smart to Brilliant'.

“The key to success will be a learning mindset that allows open technologies, allowing cities to embrace disruptive technologies of tomorrow,” he added. Lux Research analysts evaluated technologies and providers, identifying best practices in:

  • Air, water and other natural resources. Beijing struggles with dismal air quality, while many other cities struggle with water or other natural resources. Analytics vendors are jumping in to help; IBM Smarter Water, for example, is developing networking solutions aimed at reducing water and energy use.
  • Electric, autonomous transportation. Public transit can alleviate pollution, congestion, parking, and a host of other environmental and practical ills. But the rise of ridesharing services like Uber and Apple’s rumored autonomous electric car, may be cheaper, better ways to move people and goods in city spaces.
  • Physical safety and security. Threats like earthquakes, snowstorms, crime and terrorism all worry city dwellers, but they are concerned about pervasive surveillance from police drones and spyware too. Citizen-led hackathons can provide better technologies and a balance of power, as Nairobi’s Ushahidi shows.

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