The world’s greatest cities are bidding to become ‘smart’ cities. At the heart of this urban modernization are sensors, the data from which will be the oil that makes those cities run effectively. Two closely connected factors are critical for smart cities to succeed: citizens’ trust over the stewardship of their data, and the looming cybersecurity threat. The irony is the smarter cities become, the more they may be at risk of cyber attacks.
The debate over Google offshoot Sidewalk Labs’ plans for Toronto’s waterfront area demonstrates that mistrust of Big Tech means citizens will no longer allow the use of their data to be taken for granted and nor will regulators. In Barcelona, officials insist smart cities are not defined by technologies but by people. Technology is just a means to an end.
By 2050, the challenges facing humanity will be lost or won in cities. By then, nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, against 50% now. Increased urbanization is already causing infrastructure headaches for cities which will only get worse. This is driving the creation of smart cities, a market that will be worth $833bn by 2030, by our estimates, up from $441bn in 2018.
Smart cities’ future infrastructure will rely on the analysis of data relayed by the sensors in buildings, infrastructure, transportation, and power grids, enabling city authorities to make critical decisions in real-time. The foundation will be smart city applications and platforms, whose governance, agility, and flexibility will be what makes a smart city smart.