It’s true: Smart cities are more than a trend–they’re the wave of the future as the world becomes more urban, with 60% of the population expected to live in cities by 2050.

Smart city technology spending reached $80 billion in 2016, and is expected to grow to $135 billion by 2021, according to a report from the International Data Corporation (IDC). This is happening because cities are digitally transforming to improve environmental, financial, and social aspects of urban life. The IDC defines smart city development as: The use of smart initiatives combined to leverage technology investments across an entire city, with common platforms increasing efficiency, data being shared across systems, and IT investments tied to smart missions.

To find out what’s next in smart city technology, TechRepublic talked to several experts in the field as part of a roundtable discussion. Participants included:

  • Stan Humphries, chief analytics officer, Zillow Group
  • Chris Penrose, President of IoT Solutions, AT&T
  • Christina Bechhold Russ, Principal, Samsung NEXT Ventures
  • Glenn Lurie, president and CEO, Synchronoss
  • Sameer Sharma, global general manager of Intel IoT’s new markets, smart cities, and intelligent transportation business
  • Leigh Tami, chief performance officer and director, performance and data analytics, City of Cincinnati
  • Ian Campbell, CEO, OnScale
  • Erik Vesneski, business development manager of IoT, WWT
  • Ben Beinfeld, public sector business development manager, WWT
  • Charlene Marini, vice president of strategy, IoT services group, Arm
  • Eddie Garcia, director of worldwide sales and marketing, Milandr, Inc.

TechRepublic: What are some of the key trends that you think will occur in smart cities in 2019?

Chris Penrose: Smart cities will use network technology in new ways to engage citizens, such as gamification. City residents will get points for things like paying their water bill on time, recycling, reporting potholes, and for taking public transit instead of driving. Those points will be redeemable for discounts on services, or VIP access to events in the city.

Leigh Tami: Smart cities are finally starting to come of age–we’re just now hitting the one to two year implementation mark in many cities, where we’re able to see whether or not these “smart” technologies have actually saved money, improved service delivery, or had a noticeable impact on community quality of life. I think one of the major–and most valid–critiques of the current smart city model is its emphasis on technology and data over, and in many cases, at the expense of, solving problems pertinent to real community needs–implementation of public Wi-Fi with varying levels of adoption/success is a great example of this. Many cities are starting to turn toward principles of human-centered design as the framework for evolving as, or becoming,”smart cities.” I think moving forward (and in 2019), we’ll see smart cities become cities that spend time, energy, and creativity building cities for people as users, rather than rushing to adopt the newest smart technology.

Sameer Sharma: It will be a breakthrough year. We will see a move from pilots/proof of concepts to at-scale implementations. As with any first wave of adoption, this will result in exciting breakthroughs and early learnings. There will be citizen impact; in general, citizens will be more engaged and will push city leaders for impact. Millennials and social media will play a more vocal role in the smart cities conversations and start influencing electability. Equitable access and growth will be a key focus. The focus will move from an umbrella conversation to the top specific use cases: public safety, transportation, resilience and sustainability, and new business models. Infrastructure with vision/sensing capabilities will become real. Teamwork makes the dream work. A global fraternity of cities will start manifesting itself. We will see a much greater trend of cities reaching out and sharing key learnings. The cross-pollination of human talent between public and private sector as it relates to smart cities will be visible. This will help accelerate the overall adoption.

Glenn Lurie: We’re going to see a smart city breakthrough in 2019 which will bring with it a wave of services from the connected car, to the smart building, and more on the smart home. But, these smart applications are connected individually, and do not have interoperability, therefore are essentially disconnected from each other-which is a massive missed opportunity for consumers. Although, a single platform that would allow for the management of a single connected life experience is not a reality today, and may not be for some time, the smart city will emerge as the umbrella with successful use cases-including smart buildings, connected cars, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure, and smart grids-that demonstrate problem solving and move us closer to a truly connected life. Carriers will also move forward to find ways to setup and sell new services, and drive incremental revenue quickly to capitalize on this.

Erik Vesneski: Security, resiliency, scalability, and sustainability will need to be incorporated into the foundation of any IoT or smart and connected strategy. The IoT Application Enablement Platform space will go through significant changes via mergers, acquisitions, and organizational failures. Next generation law enforcement, UAV usage (drones), and next-generation war fighter projects will increase significantly. Increased automation, improved efficiencies, and artificial intelligence usage will increase in 2019 in manufacturing, utilities, and higher-education.

Ben Beinfeld: As IoT matures, and increasing levels of investment are required in sensors or related equipment, much more scrutiny should be applied to defining the potential costs and benefits of IoT or smart city initiatives. Those projects with a clearly positive ROI, and relatively quick time-to-value, should be prioritized or focused on.

TechRepublic: Which technologies do you predict more smart cities will adopt in 2019?

Bechhold Russ: As end points continue to multiply, a rapidly swelling volume of data will need more bandwidth. There will be additional urgency around 5G deployment, particularly case studies demonstrating its uses and value. Networks will equally require new mechanisms to direct the increase in traffic, with distributed and edge computing and storage solutions garnering the most interest. Much as in the consumer smart home, there are a wide variety of vendors offering many independent services. Integrators offering easy to evaluate “bundled” solutions will garner interest from cities eager to implement technology, but struggling to select and implement.

Stan Humphries: Driverless cars will change the future of smart cities as they enable more workers to move to growing cities for high-paying jobs, or at least create an efficient way to commute between areas with affordable housing, and areas with good jobs.

Charlene Marini: Smart cities look to improve revenue streams and citizen engagement. Expect drivers for smart cities to mature from just cost reductions (e.g. LED lights or better waste management) to better citizen engagement and more revenue streams, such as red light violation detection, Wi-Fi hotspots, 5G services, smart towers, crime detection/analysis, and information broadcast, with the help of advanced technologies like computer vision and machine learning.

TechRepublic: Which technologies will we see becoming more mainstream in smart cities in 2019, and why?

Sharma: 5G infrastructure deployment will start changing the game. AI/edge computing, data insights, EV charging, and autonomous vehicles will round up the technology inflection points to make smart cities real. Across IoT, approximately 45 percent of data will be analyzed at the edge. This will apply to cities as well.

Ian Campbell: 5G will make our cities smarter. From fully autonomous connected cars to the explosion of potentially trillions of IoT devices that are expected to enter the network over the next 10 years, 5G has the potential to bring today’s emerging technologies to the mainstream. We expect major US cities of the future to have the infrastructure to support cars, buildings, people, and things as they all communicate and interact with each other in real time, with very low latency.

Eddie Garcia: Cities will demand that smart city and IoT networking platforms be open-source and cloud-based with the ability to integrate with various billing and city management systems. In addition, open-source platforms will allow them to choose which sensors and devices fit their needs best instead of being siloed to a single vendor. Cities want to be smart AND save money. Thus, multi-function LoRa/LPWAN sensors for motion, light, temperature, humidity, etc., will increase in adoption due to ease-of-use, long battery life (up to 10 years in some cases) and low-cost. As more US states legalize marijuana, the market for smart energy solutions, like smart electric meters and lighting, will continue to grow. This energy-hungry industry is under pressure from states and municipalities to more effectively manage energy consumption. Given the recent increase in mass shootings, public safety/security applications will gain momentum and interest. Cities like Colorado Springs, CO have begun to implement gunshot and other catastrophic event detection sensors to improve response times and receive information in real-time. Smart transportation solutions like radar and smart parking sensors will continue to grow as more cities limit the use of gas-powered vehicles and encourage bike/scooter sharing.

Beinfeld: Cities will succeed if they invest in developing a smart city roadmap and strategy tailored to best address their priorities, or use cases and allow for a smart city to scale (vs. point solutions). This will require a high level of innovating thinking and collaboration between different agencies, service providers, procurement/contracts offices, and community stakeholders. Key components of data are the currency of a smart city and there is value in developing a data governance and normalization strategy across the enterprise, from legacy data sources living in silos within city agencies, to IoT-type data from sensors, to external sources. Smart cities need to be inclusive in their strategy. One approach is to encourage small and startup technology companies to build software and develop insights around smart city data.

SEE: IT leader’s guide to the rise of smart cities, volume 3 (Tech Pro Research)

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