Walter Westphal
CEO
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Expert Contributor

Smart Cities Mean Multiple Business Opportunities

By Walter Westphal | Tue, 03/29/2022 - 15:00

The European Commission defines smart cities as places “where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunication technologies for the benefit of its inhabitants and businesses.”

By 2050, cities will be home to almost 70 percent of the world’s population. Compared with today, this will add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas. The world’s cities occupy just 3 percent of the Earth’s land but account for almost 80 percent of energy consumption. These growing urban centers face increasing environmental pressures and infrastructure needs.

The EU has formulated a smart city framework and the US has proposed a smart city-related economic stimulus plan, which mainly covers strengthening infrastructure construction and promoting application projects. Japan has launched its national IT development plan three consecutive times. South Korea has launched its Ubiquitous-City (U-City) national strategy planning. Singapore has also proposed a “smart country” construction strategy. More than 1,000 smart cities have been launched or are under development around the world and more will emerge in the future.

Most of the technologies necessary for transforming cities into smart cities are developed and promoted by multinational technology firms as part of their corporate strategy.

The core infrastructure elements in a smart city include all city operations, such as water and electric energy supply, waste management and recycling, efficient urban mobility and public transportation, robust and fast internet, digitalization of public services and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens, health and education services.

The technologies adopted to enhance the efficiency of cities generate enormous amounts of data, which when collected can be used to create a number of entrepreneurial opportunities. Further, open data can foster economic progress by enhancing entrepreneurial activity and encouraging new product and service development. By allowing citizens to access data, governments can thus stimulate innovative businesses and services that deliver social and economic value. The main purpose of smart city design based on big data technology is to realize the intelligent management of the city. At present, the design of smart cities based on big data technology needs further development and has not reached a mature stage. Therefore, there is no unified standard for the system integration of a smart city based on big data technology.

While helping cities acquire necessary technological progress, firms also benefit significantly when such technologies are implemented. First, they can capitalize on the technology market and, second, the IoT devices installed in cities help generate enormous data.

Cities have shown an interest in sharing their big data with citizens and startups in order to allow them to create IoT interventions to provide public services more effectively and sustainably.

Smart cities offer two different types of entrepreneurial opportunities. First, the technology market opens up avenues for smart city service providers to innovate and introduce new technologies. Second, once the technologies are adopted, they collect enormous data that can help to identify new business opportunities.

In addition, several cities are coming forward to offer a conducive environment for their citizens to address their own problems by creating technological innovations. Individual citizens have shown interest in identifying or creating such opportunities in cities. It is not only the corporate firms that benefit from smart city opportunities but also the startups that grab the opportunities they identify as a part of the smart city development.

Smart technologies run on data and cities generate infinite amounts of it. Data is generated by public transit systems, energy demand, crime incidence, waste disposal, weather patterns, and many other aspects.

These huge amounts of data only become useful when applications turn them into useful and actionable information. Open data platforms do exactly that. They come from centralized open data portals to specialized real-time information platforms. They allow for safe storage and adequate access to the different data sources that power a smart city, and they can provide the raw material for ongoing innovation.

City governments do not have to provide every type of application and service themselves. There is room for private-sector companies, state-owned utilities, universities, foundations, and nonprofit organizations to contribute.

One of the key aspects relates to the collaborative role various organizations represented by individuals with different backgrounds need to play. Smart cities need a mix of visionaries, engineers, business leaders, policymakers, proactive citizens, and communities. They can facilitate more smart behaviors in response to growing urban problems. Government, the private sector, citizens, and universities need to come together to build smart cities.

Creating smart cities with science and technology strengthens the government, jointly promotes social progress, benefits the people with information, balances development in all aspects, and comprehensively improves social benefits. The development of smart cities is based on data. If there is no data, no data transmission, no data processing, no storage, and no reprocessing, not to mention intelligent management, which is ignored in many places, there is no way to develop smart cities. In the future, with the gradual promotion and continuous operation of smart cities, the smart city development platform of service providers will play a leading role in accelerating the transformation toward more, better and cost-efficient smart cities.

Photo by:   Walter Westphal