10 predictions for smart city priorities in 2020

IoT projects will slow down and cities will have to decide if 5G is best for vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, IDC says.

Over the next decade of smart cities work, there will be fewer IoT projects, more citizen input, and more communication between cars and infrastructure, according to the smart cities team at IDC.

City leaders will build digital trust in new technology by setting clear data-use policies as the first step in the technology procurement process. 

SEE: 5G: What it means for IoT (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

Although climate change did not appear on the predictions list, Ruthbea Yesner, vice president worldwide government insights at IDC, said it is a huge driver of smart city work. 

"Cities are looking at how anything from communications to technology can build community resilience and help them respond and adapt to this changing environment," Yesner said. 

IDC predicts that by 2023 cities and governments will spend $196 billion globally on smart cities work. The biggest spending categories are fixed visual surveillance, public transportation, and smart lighting.

IDC's 10 predictions for smart cities work in 2020 fall into five main buckets: 

  • Public safety
  • Data use
  • Talent issues
  • Digital trust
  • Macroeconomic impact of technology

The full list is below. The IDC smart cities team discussed predictions 1, 3, 4, and 10 during a recent webinar.

SEE: Tech Predictions For 2020: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

Roadblocks to IoT success

IDC's predictions start out with a stark description of the challenges many city leaders face with IoT projects: In 2020, 10% to 30% of IoT will fail to launch or scale due to weak performance metrics, poor understanding of products, and lack of funding. 

Yesner said that IDC has found that more than 35% of cities have deployed an IoT project while 12% said they had developed but not launched it.

In a survey, city leaders said IoT projects stalled or died because of lack of internal skills, limited budgets, and a lack of understanding of the technology's benefits. Yesner said there are many roadblocks to success, including a lack of staff and resources.

"Some of these didn't meet expectations because the outcomes were too broad or not measurable," she said.

Yesner said that assumptions often didn't match the reality of how cities work. One example of expectations not matching results is a popular project of converting incandescent street lights to LEDs. Yesner said that because many U.S. cities pay a flat fee for electricity, officials did not see a cost savings for using less electricity.
 
"You see energy savings from the conversion but you don't get benefits from programmability and dimming because you're not adjusting costs based on metered energy," she said.

SEE: Smart cities: A business leader's guide (free PDF)

Yesner also said that many products from vendors are untested, immature, and oversold. 
 
In a related IoT prediction, IDC thinks that by 2023, 20% of cybersecurity incidents will stem from Smart City IoT device deployments, which will lead to double-digit increases in cybersecurity software and staff training budgets. 

Cities  need a sensor strategy that addresses use cases, data protection and physical and cybersecurity plans, she said. 

More data ethics policies

Alison Brooks, an IDC research vice president for smart cities and communities, said that cities will respond to increasing skepticism around surveillance technology by establishing clear data use policies.

In No. 3, IDC predicts that 75% of next-gen public safety technology procurements will have specifications preemptively scoped by strict policy frameworks. Prediction No. 4 addresses data policies.

Brooks said that residents mostly accept "intelligence everywhere" data collection in a consumer capacity, but not when the state adopts a similar approach. She said that privacy advocates are concerned with the increasingly broad surveillance of citiezen's daily activities and potential misuse of biometric data.

"This includes social media monitoring, predictive policing, cell-site simulators, automatic number plate recognition, drones, and gun detection," Brooks said.

To respond to these concerns, cities will start to develop "carefully worded and strictly scoped policy frameworks that delineate acceptable use." Setting data-use policies should be the first step in the tech purchasing process.

"Policy is going to have to precede tech procurement and IT will have to work with more stakeholders to de-risk implementation," she said. "Agencies will need to keep project objectives very simple, restricted and measurable."

Yesner said that cities have to build community engagement into every project to ensure ultimate success and even funding.

"If you're going out to a bond to pay for this work, part of the funding process becomes engaging and educating the community," Yesner said. 

5G vs. DSRC for vehicle-to-infrastructure communication

IDC's prediction No. 10 highlights a challenge cities face in making it easy for cars and trucks to communicate with city infrastructure like stop lights, crosswalks, and stop signs.
  
A few years ago when municipalities started investing in vehicle-to-infrastructure technology (V2I), dedicated short-range communications was a viable choice. Now that 5G is becoming more available, cities are now stuck in the middle of the debate between two standards. 

Max Claps, research director of IDC government insights, said that some automakers are split with some using 5G technology—BMW, Mercedes, and Ford— while others including GM and Volkswagen using DSRC.

IDC predicts that by 2025, 25% of major cities worldwide will have picked one standard or the other and installed V2I infrastructure.

"We recommend that cities work closely with regulators and car manufacturers to make sure the eventual road map minimizes the cost of investment," Claps said.

He said that cities also need to take into account how will services, storage, and apps will need to scale over time.

"Vehicle to infrastructure connectivity is only as good as the data and the content that is transmitted over endpoint to endpoint exchanges," he said.

Another IDC 5G prediction is that by 2024 75% of all large cities will use 5G to scale key services including real-time crime centers, V2I connectivity, and smart stadiums.

IDC Worldwide Smart Cities and Communities: 2020 Predictions 

1: In 2020, 10%–30% of Smart City IoT projects will fail to launch or scale due to ill-defined outcomes or KPIs, poor understanding of vendor offerings, and/or inadequate funding and stakeholder engagement.

2: By 2021, 20% of cities will use composite indexes to assess the value of initiatives, such as predictive policing, mobility as a service, and personalized care.

3: By 2021, in response to pressure from citizens and advocacy groups, 75% of next-gen public safety technology procurements will have specifications preemptively scoped by strict policy frameworks.

4: By 2022, 50% of large cities will develop data ethics policies that define how and what data can be collected, used, and shared.

5: By 2023, 25% of successful Smart Cities digital twin platforms will be used to automate processes for increasingly complex, interconnected ecosystems of assets and products.

6: By 2023, 20% of cybersecurity incidents will stem from Smart City IoT device deployments, forcing double-digit increases in cybersecurity software and staff training budgets.

7: By 2024, 90% of greenfield cities and 20% of existing cities globally will adopt digital space planning capabilities and new zoning regulations to realize the benefits of the growing sharing economy.

8: By 2024, 70% of city data scientist jobs will be unfilled, resulting in increased investment in robotic process automation and AI-native systems, which will exponentially grow data capabilities without adding headcount.

9: By 2024, one-third of all Smart Cities use cases will be impacted by 5G, and 75% of large cities will use 5G to scale key services such as real-time crime centers, V2I connectivity, and smart stadiums.

10: By 2025, 25% of major cities worldwide will have installed connected vehicle infrastructure using either 5G or DSRC as countries and regions settle on one standard or the other.

Also see

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IDC's 2020 predictions for Smart Cities work includes this illustration of when each prediction is likely to come to fruition.

Image: IDC