The smart city is a somewhat nebulous concept. There is no absolute definition, but rather a process or series of steps by which cities become more livable, resilient and able to respond quicker to new challenges.
In its latest report, IHS Technology defines a smart city as one that has deployed, or is currently piloting the integration of, information and communications technology (ICT) solutions across three or more sectorsenergy, transport, physical infrastructure, governance and safety/security functionsto improve efficiency, manage complexity and enhance citizen quality of life. IHS expects there will be at least 88 smart cities worldwide by 2025, up from 21.
IHS forecasts annual investment on smart city projects will rise from the current $1 billion to $12 billion in 2025. Other smart city forecasts tend to be broader in their definitions. Navigant Research forecasts global smart city technology revenue will grow from $8.8 billion annually in 2014 to $27.5 billion in 2023, while Frost & Sullivan expects the global smart city market will be valued at $1.565 trillion in 2020.
While most analysts say a city with smart meters does not alone make it smart, the European Union (EU) classifies 240 of the 468 cities in the 28-nation bloc with 100,000+ inhabitants and at least one smart city characteristic as smart cities. The European Commission identifies Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain), Copenhagen (Denmark), Helsinki (Finland), Manchester (UK) and Vienna (Austria) as the most successful in the EU.
Due to binding environmental targets, there tends to be a green focus in Europe when augmenting existing infrastructure with smart technology. In Copenhagen, for example, sensors are attached to bicycles to detect CO and NOx levels, while in Spains Santander, soil-humidity sensors detect when land requires irrigating to reduce unnecessary use of water.
In January, the Commission launched its Grow Smarter program, demonstrating 12 smart city solutions, including systems to optimize transport management and integrate renewables with urban power grids. The five-year program is being driven by three lighthouse citiesStockholm, Barcelona and Colognethat have five follower citiesGraz (Austria), Suceava (Romania), Valetta (Malta), Porto (Portugal), Cork (Ireland) which will learn from these demonstration areas.
While the combined Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) region represents the largest number of smart cities at present, within a decade Asia-Pacific will take the lead, says IHS. By 2025, Asia-Pacific will account for 32 smart cities by 2025, Europe will have 31, and the Americas will contribute 25.
India is perhaps the one to watch. In July, Indias new Prime Minister Nahendra Modi announced plans to build 100 smart cities, including seven along the $90 billion DelhiMumbai Industrial Corridor, using a mixture of publicprivate partnerships (80%) and publicly-funded infrastructure investment (20%). One city already under construction is the $10 billion Gujarat International Finance Tec-City.
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