The recent conferences Smart Cities Week (Silicon Valley) and Smart to Future Cities showcased the importance of smart cities in different regions. An obvious difference between the two events is that while both were centred on smart cities, Smart Cities Week (SCW) had a stronger focus on the North American market while Smart to Future Cities had a stronger focus on the European one. While the location of the events (Santa Clara, California for the SCW and London for Smart to Future Cities) clearly was key in shaping attendance and focus an important lesson to be learned is that local and regional ties, culture, and ecosystems are bound to play a significant role in the development of individual markets.
Cities and authorities attending the Smart Cities Week included among others, Philadelphia, Seattle, Austin, and San Leandro; while cities attending Smart to Future Cities included, among others London, Moscow, Cork, Genoa, and Amsterdam.
Both events tackled some of the key themes which are shaping the future of the smart city market. Out of the multiple topics which were discussed during the events such as the role of city governments and the need to break silos, IHS Markit highlighted some of the most relevant discussions and thoughts emerging from these conferences.
Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley
Location: Santa Clara, California, United States
The Smart Cities Week provided food for thought on multiple issues. For instance, during the conference there were discussions on what are steps and challenges that leading cities such as Seattle and Philadelphia are taking to develop their smart city initiatives. The role and developments of specific vertical applications and sub-segment were also addressed with panels about smart water, mobility, and analytics.
Key takeaways from the exhibition floor and the agenda are as follow:
- There are multiple ways to build a smart city and various cities are following different approaches according to their needs and their assets in order to continue or start their journey into smart cities. For instance, while some are testing various solutions others see an extensive communication infrastructure as an essential element on which to build their smart city. Any city can work towards a smart city goal: size does not matter and cities of different sizes and with different financial muscles can all work to become smart cities and launch new initiatives.
- Smart kiosks are on the rise: as showcased by the company Ike on the exhibition floor such a solution will grow in importance given its ability to directly connect the smart city to the citizens through information and services and the ability to use an advertise based business model to sustain itself.
- An effective business model guaranteeing long term financial gains and sustainability remains a key obstacle which needs to be solved. As shown in the “Solution Dialogue Session: Procurement Tools and Financing Strategies for the Smart City”, there are multiple ways to invest and monetise solution though there is still no single solution to fits all challenges. Savings generated by the improved performance and operational efficiencies are still the main financial gain of many smart city applications.
- As highlighted in the opening key note speech, the smart city market is rapidly developing and expanding in what is de facto “a race”. Such a competition will bring out the best solutions and models. Nevertheless, this race could also bring unwanted consequences and according to IHS Markit there is a risk that some cities, towns, and citizens will be left behind.
Smart to Future Cities
Location: London, United Kingdom
The event debated multiple issues including the future of mobility, the opportunities and challenges in using data, the role of analytics and cloud, and the relationship between a smart city and the energy and resource efficiency category.
Key takeaways from the exhibition floor and the agenda are:
- Smart lighting is one of the strongest vertical applications within the smart city market due to its potential for savings and due to the role that the lighting infrastructure can assume to aid the creation of a smart city. The benefits that can be provided by smart lighting go beyond savings: lights can be used to improve the citizens’ sense of security but also to shape the visual impact of a city for instance through the lighting of monuments. According to IHS Markit, the challenge for companies moving from lighting into other verticals is how to create strong business cases for non-lighting applications such as environmental monitoring. Expanding in those verticals applications where there is the higher demand and synergy will define the market.
- Sharing data and opening datasets were also key topics of the conference. Along the idea of sharing data questions were asked about the role and need of standards with discussions on the needs and challenges of an industry where multiple companies and groups are “competing” to establish standards. While collecting and opening up data is the clear future for most cities, questions remains on what is the best and most useful data to share and what are the ethical or privacy implications of using this data.
- The mobility of tomorrow and the role that cities must assume to shape this sector was also debated. The mobility of tomorrow is a composite scenario where the industry and the cities are tightly working together. From shared mobility and the expansion of mobility as a service, to electric vehicles and their impact on the requirements of the existing grid, to the potential and obstacles of fully automated vehicles, the mobility of tomorrow has the potential to heavily shape society from healthcare to attracting businesses and offices.
- Start-ups must be accounted in the smart city market as their agile approach and their ability to develop new solutions can pave their way among the giants of the markets.