Cities must invest in the right smart city initiatives

Cities need to prepare early for the challenges of the future.

As a result of infrastructure headaches caused by the pandemic and increased urbanization, cities must invest in the right smart city initiatives to become resilient to these challenges, finds GlobalData. The leading data and analytics company notes that 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT) are the technologies that will underpin infrastructures, such as health, water, and broadband.

The global smart cities market will roughly double in size from $US221.1 billion in 2019 to $US442.5 billion in 2030. Upgrading broadband infrastructures to expand geographical coverage and improve download speeds will ensure all citizens can access the increasingly important digital facets of life.

Rory Gopsill, Associate Thematic Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Cities are currently in a precarious position as the pandemic continues to introduce all kinds of unprecedented challenges. For example, the fragility of healthcare systems and associated infrastructures have been exposed. One way to address these challenges would be to invest in health infrastructure such as infectious disease surveillance systems, as these will help cities coordinate their responses to local outbreaks.”

The digitalization of work, socializing, education, and shopping has accelerated, exacerbating a growing digital divide between those with access to fast broadband and smart devices and those without. Cybersecurity will be essential for protecting these urban infrastructures and citizens’ data from criminals and hostile governments.

Moreover, cities need to prepare early for the challenges of the future. Investing in robust water infrastructure will prove essential as extreme weather events caused by climate change and cyberattacks, particularly ransomware, have crippled urban infrastructures. As the planet continues to warm and cities grow ever more digitally connected, the threats posed by climate change and cyberattacks will only increase.

The pandemic’s economic fallout will make municipal governments poorer, whether through inflation, budget cuts, or both. In other words, cities have numerous problems to deal with and limited money to throw at them. Now more than ever, cities will need to carefully choose the smart city initiatives in which to invest.

Gopsill adds: “The infrastructures that can tackle these problems are underpinned by AI, IoT and connectivity technologies such as 5G. For example, in 2021, Atlanta used AI-enabled IoT sensors provided by Olea Edge Analytics to identify malfunctioning water meters, saving water and money in the process. BlueDot’s AI-based infectious disease surveillance platform notified Chicago of the original COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan four days before the WHO first publicly referenced this event. Sunderland was named Digital Leaders 100’s UK smart city of the year in recognition of its use of 5G and broadband infrastructure to expand connectivity and address the growing digital divide. AI, and ML more specifically, is central to cybersecurity processes such as network traffic analysis and malware classification.

“In addition, digital twins will be another important tool with which cities can combat these challenges. For instance, digital twins of water infrastructures such as pipelines can improve maintenance with improved fault detection. Digital twins of entire cities can be used to simulate, and better prepare for, disasters such as the spread of infectious diseases and extreme weather events.”



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