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Today, over 54 percent of the world’s population resides in urban areas. With 1.4 million people added to the urban population every week, this number is estimated to rise to nearly 70 percent by 2050. While this shift is poised to create immense opportunity for communities and businesses alike, it will also bring about new considerations in urban planning. Taxed energy systems and overcrowded mass transit are just a few of several issues that must be addressed in the dated infrastructure of urban areas today. One of the most promising solutions for city planners is creating “smart” urban environments, or smart cities, that use technology to improve quality of life for residents and create better systems and structures to support urban growth. Smart city technology will enable everyday objects to become intuitive and more connected, increasing the overall economic, social and environmental efficiency of the urban ecosystem.
Denver is known as one of the most innovative, forward-thinking cities in the country. Despite that, our city still faces many challenges, including:
Smart city initiatives can help address these issues by:
The market opportunity in this space is tremendous. According to a report from Persistence Market Research, the smart cities market, comprised of transportation, utilities, buildings and smart citizen services, is expected to reach $3.48 trillion by the year 2026. The digitization of cities will affect everything from energy and housing to education and healthcare. The ultimate objective for a smart city, however, is for these industries to be interconnected under one centralized “brain” that allows them to work together. Smart cities will require intelligent infrastructure, public-private partnerships and accessibility for residents to succeed in today’s rapidly growing urban landscape.
Until recently, infrastructure referred solely to physical assets such as roads, streetlights and sewers. However, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, as cities continue to modernize, it is important to consider smart infrastructure as the invisible data networks that connect, enhance and control physical fixtures. These include:
With the advancement of the 5G network, a key smart city enabler, smart infrastructure will be supported by high-speed connection, quicker response times and increased data storage capacity.
The Power of Public-Private Partnership
Putting smart technologies to work in cities will require a new level of partnership among government, corporate and investor stakeholders. Organizations from a variety of sectors – such as construction, telecommunications and transportation – will play critical roles, as will relatively young industries such as artificial intelligence, clean tech, cybersecurity and renewable energy. As reported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, various global smart city initiatives are driven by public-private partnerships:
Accessibility and Personalization
To create a sustainable urban environment, city planners must ensure smart city technologies are accessible to residents. Through smartphones, TVs, tablets and wearable devices, residents must not only be aware of, but also comfortable with, the smart infrastructure around them. From individualized temperature and lighting controls, to customized retail experiences, no two lives in smart cities will be the same. Voice assistants, “smart” signage and responsive streets in smart cities will allow people of all ages and abilities to thrive in the urban ecosystem.
Smart cities have the potential to reduce the negative impact of urban population growth by employing technology to lower energy usage, reduce traffic delays and stem water loss. By implementing smart technologies, business leaders and local governments can form public-private partnerships to reshape urban environments and fuel economic growth. Investment in the modernization of cities, while crucial in facing short-term urban challenges, will also lay the foundation for a more sustainable place to live, work and do business for future generations.
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©2018 Bank of America Corporation
Bob Larkin is Senior Vice President,
Global Commercial Banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch.