Smart cities will use technology to transform urban environments. Cities are leveraging internet pervasiveness, data analytics, and networked devices to improve cities’ economic, environmental and social trajectories. This viewpoint examines the trajectory of smart cities, describes their significance to service providers and recommends ways in which service providers can drive growth in smart cities.

The Growing Challenge

In 1900, around 15 cities in the world had populations of one million people or more. Today, the number of cities meeting this mark has grown to 450. Cities currently host 50% of the world’s population and by 2050, this percentage will grow to 66%, or seven billion people. The trend toward more populous cities has been accompanied by a trend toward greater urban density.

Cities have always faced economic and social pressures. However, today’s spiking urban populations are overwhelming many traditional solutions. Simply building more housing will not solve poverty and inequality. Simply hiring more teachers will not solve the problems of education. Moreover, uncontrolled use of natural resources is severely harming our environment. Cities need to find better ways to support future urban growth.

The Building Blocks of Smart Cities

Pervasive internet connectivity, data analytics and networked devices can support healthier economic, social and environmental urban growth. Cities are epicenters of technology adoption. Over half of all mobile traffic is already in cities and is expected to grow to 60% within two years. Cities can leverage this momentum to strengthen communication among citizens and cities, predict patterns to inform urban planning, incentivize and orchestrate new behaviors and even automate physical infrastructure such as vehicles and transportation systems. Network technologies will transform how cities operate.

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