Can you really tell by simply looking at a city whether it is Smart? The answer is probably – No. That’s because most of the current smartness in cities is in assortment of sensors, actuators, and beacons that make certain things informative and predictive. They are generally visible only to specific agencies, companies, or applications and their impact is felt within a single function. Take for instance optimization of waste collection. Enevo is a Finnish company that uses smart wireless sensors to gather fill-level data from waste containers. Instead of having fixed schedules for waste collection, approximately six times a day, it makes it a demand-based, calling for a pick up once every other day and producing approximately 40% in savings. This is great! The nascent smart infrastructure is still very disjointed though. Many of the solutions operate in silos.

But the promise is real. Cisco and other SaaS companies are working on horizontal, multi-service infrastructures in order to form large scale, holistic smartness for urban areas. The early versions of these platforms are already enabling many of the smart things to come together and communicate with one another. The successive versions, building on the promise of the Internet of Everything (IoE), are expected to also begin sharing useful information to ordinary residents of the cities, connecting physical objects to each other and to people.

We will begin feeling the real power of IoE and going smart, once, we have a vast network of objects and users communicating with each other. Imagine our roads, bridges, and traffic signs start communicating to our vehicles, which also communicate with each other and other modes of transportation, which communicate to the energy sources, which communicate with the meteorologists, which communicate back to the roads, bridges, and the traffic signs. Then, before you are up in the morning for work, your alarm clock adjusts your wake up time based on the real-time traffic, transportation, and weather conditions.

An integrated multimodal transportation system will give us options for traveling to work based on the convenience and speed of the transportation. If the weather conditions are favorable, it will have an option to draw a route that includes driving, biking, and walking.

Alternatively, if the weather conditions are rough, it will draw a route that avoids expected congestion and keeps us dry by using several enclosed modes of transportation. And all of this before we even take into account the autonomous cars, which will be ruling our roads within the next decade.

That’s our future. Yet, no city has been coronated as the King Smart City. There are some who have done a great deal as I had presented in my Smart Cities – the Next Trillion Dollar Opportunity blog. They are building and investing in the infrastructure and solutions to realize a Smart City.

For them going Smart is a win-win situation. They have a huge economic consideration. Bringing about efficiency will increase their productivity in Technology, Energy, and Logistics, thus reducing spending and leaving more resources available for investment in people and provisions that grow and generate more opportunities and bring convenience for residence, while decreasing health hazards from environmental mismanagement. The Guardian reports that nearly $5T public sector value gain is expected from going smart. Here is the breakdown:

  • Smart buildings – $100B
  • Gas monitoring – $69B
  • Smart parking – $41B
  • Water management – $39B
  • Road pricing – $18B
  • Better employee productivity – $1.8T
  • A connected militarized defense – $1.5T
  • General cost reduction – $740
  • Increased revenue – $125B

A Smart City will be a flourishing city that is efficient and productive, with citizens who are experiencing convenience and have abundance of opportunities to build and grow their intellectual, network, and financial capacities. With all this in place, differentiating the Smart from Normal won’t require a blog!