Companies in multiple industries are already beginning to alter their existing product and service lines to suit changing urban markets – from utilities that are rolling out smart meters and introducing dynamic pricing schemes to real estate developers that are integrating automation systems, sensors, and mobility options into their properties.
Comprehensive communication networks are at the heart of any smart city’s technology base. It takes extensive 5G and LPWA networks to accommodate applications that require high bandwidth and low latency (such as autonomous vehicles) as well as applications that need only low bandwidth but rely on long-distance connections and low energy consumption. These networks require substantial capital investment, but the exponentially rising number of IoT devices is increasing the market for cellular connectivity.
Going beyond the communications layer, some telecoms have been using their relationships with local governments to branch into partnerships that are focused on more generalized smart technology implementation. Funded by a grant from the European Union, Telefónica, for instance, drove the installation of 12,000 sensors in Santander – sensors that are connected to Telefónica’s communications backbone, securing long-term utilization of the company’s network.
Vodafone is supplying many law enforcement authorities with body worn cameras, a technology that requires high bandwidth because it entails live-streaming tremendous amounts of video data to operations centers. Other telecoms are offering solutions such as smart parking and waste management systems. Furthermore, telecom operators are offering their residential customers smart home hardware or smart features embedded in routers, integrating new features into broadband subscriptions.
Although it is posting explosive growth in cities worldwide, e-hailing has relatively limited penetration with certain audiences – and new vehicle concepts could help the concept breakthrough with them. Most commuters, for example, find e-hailing too expensive to use regularly. Many business travellers who could afford it want to work on the ride but find it impossible using pooled options. The right kind of shared minibuses, with space for storage, WiFi, folding work desks, and privacy screens or headrests, could work for these segments. At the same time, families with children as well as elderly and disabled riders would be more likely to take more flexible vehicles with easy entry, generous storage space, and seats that can be reconfigured.
Moia, Volkswagen has designed an all-new electric vehicle concept to bridge the gap between taxis, shuttle vans, and buses. Other automakers are expected to follow suit. In addition, the concept of vehicle personalization is likely to change. In the past, car manufacturers could achieve compelling margins through personalized hardware such as alloy wheels. But shared-mobility providers will look for more durable, standardized models that can withstand wear and tear from passengers. Digital means of personalizing the car for passengers, such as seamlessly integrating their smart devices and “digital identity” or offering value-added services, will assume greater importance.
Lastly, vehicles will also need to help drivers navigate the new urban environment. Many new vehicles already feature real-time road navigation and smart parking, and these types of offerings will continue to evolve. Commercial trucks, too, will need to be able to tap into smart city systems such as load pooling and urban consolidation centers.
Smart technologies can yield massive improvements in efficiency and capacity for infrastructure providers. They provide detailed, real-time information on how assets are being used, enabling infrastructure providers to plan and manage capacity more effectively. Smart city applications can smooth the use of public assets over time, either by enabling real-time pricing schemes or by giving users a better view of current utilization. Congestion pricing, integrated multimodal information and real-time traffic information minimize overutilization of the current road network, thus reducing the need for new construction.
Competitive advantage will thus shift from those who can quickly build basic infrastructure at scale to those who can provide more intelligent infrastructure. In addition, predictive maintenance solutions let operators detect fault patterns and send early warnings before systems fail. They minimize costly downtime, preventing incidents such as power outages, water-main breaks, and transit disruptions. The Hamburg Port Authority feeds data from building sensors and from shipping and container companies into a SAP-enabled big data platform. This helps determine what kind of preventive and predictive maintenance is needed to manage an extensive network of roads, bridges, and waterfront structures, ensuring the smooth flow of traffic in and out of the port.
On the revenue side, smart city technologies can help infrastructure providers implement new, more dynamic pricing models and optimize incidental revenues. Parking operators can dynamically manage utilization and pricing across multiple garages, while airport operators can track passenger footfall to refine physical layouts, guiding more travellers to shops and optimizing advertising placement.