The lure of living in a technologically advanced community appeals to many Americans, although many don’t quite understand what the term smart city means, according to a new report from CompTIA.

The Building Smarter Cities and Communities report, which surveyed both private citizens and US government officials, showed that six out of 10 Americans are interested in living in a smart city.

The report identified four factors that could shape the future of smart cities:

  1. Elevating the understanding of smart city concepts will take time, but bridge technologies–smart technologies for the home and office–could help.
  2. Moving from digital to smart requires advancements on many fronts, from technology and broadband infrastructures to workflow and user experience.
  3. Data is critical to smart city success, and it is one of the most challenging components to get right.
  4. Ensuring the cybersecurity of smart cities will require resources and a commitment to shared responsibilities.

Smart city growth is at a tipping point, with 13% of municipalities in the survey reporting a fully operational smart cities initiative, and 31% have some sort of pilot underway.

SEE: Smart cities: The smart person’s guide (TechRepublic)

Cybersecurity concerns

The report showed that cybersecurity and financing smart city projects were key concerns among both citizens and government officials, according to Liz Hyman, executive vice president of Public Sector Advocacy for CompTIA.

As more smart city initiatives advance into critical infrastructure and tap into streams of sensitive data, it’s even more important that security defenses are strong. A combination of cyber training for all employees and being agile enough to immediately address emerging threats are key.

“One of the things that is front of mind is that there are budgetary constraints in cities in terms of implementing smart city solutions. Both citizens and government officials share that concern. Interestingly, the second biggest concern for both of them was cybersecurity,” Hyman said, in reference to the report.

Only 10% of government officials surveyed feel as if their cities are equipped to manage the cybersecurity risks of a smart city. This is a concern as an estimated 2.3 billion connected things will be used in smart cities by the end of 2017, with two-thirds of these used in smart commercials buildings, transportation and utilities, according to Gartner.

SEE: The smart city security nightmare: How cities can stay awake (TechRepublic)

Funding a smart city

Financing a smart city is a concern of many citizens and government officials. Issues over funding and competing budget priorities lead the list of concerns about smart city solutions.

In early October 2017, a smart cities bill, H.R.3895, was introduced in Congress to create a federal council on smart cities to promote coordination of funding for smart cities and communities.

Hyman said, “It actually addresses how to scale up some of the existing pilot programs that are out there. It dedicates a certain amount of money for that purpose as well as for the workforce and trying to train people to prepare for smart cities, but it also has a cybersecurity working group because this is something that we’re going to have to build on, the NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] stakeholders process and on the Federal Trade Commission’s work on secure by design. There is more for industry to do in terms of best practices and really trying to develop good, sound cybersecurity policies as well as for citizens to take on good cyber hygiene.”

Smart cities are a booming business, although figures vary depending on the research firm, according to the report:

  • The smart city market is expected to grow from $425 billion in 2017 to $1.2 trillion in 2022, according to MarketandMarkets.
  • McKinsey & Company estimates the smart cities component of the IoT market by 2025 will range between $930 billion to $1.7 trillion.
  • Frost & Sullivan reports the global smart cities market will increase nearly 75% over the next three years, from $900 billion to $1.57 trillion.

SEE: How to finance a smart city project (ZDNet)

The need for a tech workforce

Having a robust workforce is essential to provide the tech support needed in a smart city. The report showed that 40% of government officials and personnel cite skills gaps and lack of necessary technology expertise as main areas of concern affecting the expansion of smart city initiatives.

“We’re at the precipice of a really connected world with sensors and all kind of things that are going to require a workforce that can connect and understand some of the intricacies of those devices. We know that by 2024 there is going to be 1.8 million open tech jobs in the United States and if we don’t prepare today for training and preparing individuals to take those jobs that’s going to be a significant gap,” Hyman said.

“CompTIA is focused on creating infrastructure that is secure and can support emerging tech like IoT and AI. But this type of infrastructure requires a robust cybersecurity workforce and CompTIA believes we must fill the cyber skills gap or risk [not] being a global leader in emerging technologies,” Hyman said.

The report surveyed 1,000 US citizens and 350 US government officials in September 2017.

SEE: 16 tech jobs that will be needed for the future of smart cities (TechRepublic)

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. Six out of 10 Americans surveyed by CompTIA are interested in living in a smart city.
  2. 13% of municipalities surveyed have a fully operational smart cities initiative, and 31% have some sort of pilot underway.
  3. A robust cyber workforce is essential to a smart city.

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