A survey of 10,000 people around the world about what smart city services they would both pay for and use.
Image: Capgemini Research Institute, Smart Cities Citizen Survey, April 2020

Many cities are still in the planning phases of the smart city journey. Both residents and officials hope this digital transformation will create good jobs and a better quality of life. A new study of 10,000 citizens and 300 city officials finds that cities should start with small, useful projects to establish a successful track record and grow from there.

Capgemini Research Institute conducted a smart cities survey in April 2020, which included surveys as well as one-on-one interviews. The resulting report, “Street smart: Putting the citizen at the center of smart city initiatives,” analyzed which services people are most likely to use and to shell out money to do so. Considering the barriers facing smart city projects—lack of tech expertise, limited funding, and unclear visions for this work—selecting the right place to start is crucial for success, according to the report.

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These smart city initiatives showed up in the upper right hand corner of the willingness to use and willingness to pay chart:

  1. Automated connectivity of buildings to emergency services
  2. Remote patient monitoring for older citizens
  3. Smart home energy consumption tracking
  4. Centralized building energy automation systems to control hearing, ventilation, and AC
  5. Smart card of app-based access to public transport
  6. Real-time water quality monitoring

Cities around the world are testing each of these projects. In Seoul, the U-Health platform uses devices in the homes of older adults for remote health monitoring.

In the Cape Fear region of North Carolina, Duke Electricity has installed smart meters to allow residents to track hourly power consumption. London’s RE:FIT program retrofits public buildings with energy-saving measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels.

Panorama Tower in Miami has a dedicated high-speed fiber optic network dedicated to building automation and security features. The building management system monitors and controls more than 1,500 pieces of mechanical equipment.

Berlin has a public transport app that includes all modes of transport, including subways, buses, trams, bike sharing, taxis, and ride-hailing services. Stockholm is working with Ericsson and telecom Telia Company to monitor water quality and watch for spills and leaks.

The CapGemini study looked at 44 services in seven categories

  • Citizen services
  • Electric utility
  • Public healthcare
  • Public security
  • Transport and mobility
  • Waste management
  • Water utility

Matthias Wieckmann, the head of digital strategy for the city of Hamburg, Germany, said that cities should choose small and useful to start the smart city transformation.

“It is best to start with smaller, focused solutions that provide a good example of visibility rather than starting with a big overall solution for everything,” he said in the report.

The researchers also asked residents what disadvantages of city living would cause them to move, ranging from health and quality of life to sustainability issues. People named the high cost of living as the biggest problem at 52%, with high levels of pollution (42%) and lack of public security (40%) coming in second and third.

The study also found that 73% of residents who had used smart city initiatives are happier with their quality of life in terms of health issues like air quality.

The CapGemini analysts recommend that cities use these guidelines when planning and implementing smart city projects:

  • Prioritize sustainability and resilience
  • Identify high-potential use cases
  • Establish clear rules for the ethical use of data
  • Make collaboration a priority from design to implementation
  • Increase citizen participation in smart city work