The Future Of Cities: How The Internet Of Everything Will Change How We Live



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As much as the Internet has already changed the world, it is the Web’s next phase that will bring the biggest opportunities, revolutionizing the way we live, work, play, and learn.

As reported by The Council On Foreign Relations, the next phase, which some call the Internet of Things and which we call the Internet of Everything, is the intelligent connection of people, processes, data, and things. Although it once seemed like a far-off idea, it is becoming a reality for businesses, governments, and academic institutions worldwide. Today, half the world’s population has access to the Internet; by 2020, two-thirds will be connected. Likewise, some 13.5 billion devices are connected to the Internet today; by 2020, we expect that number to climb to 50 billion. The things that are—and will be—connected aren’t just traditional devices, such as computers, tablets, and phones, but also parking spaces and alarm clocks, railroad tracks, street lights, garbage cans, and components of jet engines.

Perhaps surprisingly, the public sector has been the most effective and innovative early adopter when it comes to making use of the Internet of Everything, especially in major metropolitan areas. New and innovative solutions are already transforming green fields and rundown urban centers into what we call Smart + Connected Communities, or Smart Cities. According to IHS Technology, the total number of Smart Cities will quadruple from 21 to 88 between 2013 and 2025. At Cisco, we are engaged with more than 100 cities in different stages of Smart City development.

By definition, Smart Cities are those that integrate information communications technology across three or more functional areas. More simply put, a Smart City is one that combines traditional infrastructure (roads, buildings, and so on) with technology to enrich the lives of its citizens. Creative platforms and killer apps have helped reduce traffic, parking congestion, pollution, energy consumption, and crime. They have also generated revenue and reduced costs for city residents and visitors.

There are a number of iconic examples of cities that have put the Internet of Everything into use. They range from the ancient—Barcelona, Spain—to the new—Songdo, South Korea.


With a population of about 1.6 million people, Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city, has embraced the Internet of Everything and is reaping the rewards—approximately $3.6 billion in value over the next decade. About $1 billion of this will come from productivity improvements. Other gains are from reductions in operational, resource, and environmental costs. Still more comes via revenues from new businesses focused on innovation.

City leaders have incorporated connected technology into the mayor’s office and the city council, not to mention the water management, waste management, parking, and public-transportation systems. These technologies have contributed significantly to Barcelona’s profitability (it is one of the few cities in Europe that is running a budget surplus) and have improved the quality of life of its citizens. For example, the city has deployed free Wi-Fi and created a rich assortment of citizen and government apps. Barcelona is also using the Internet of Everything to improve the city’s water-management system (generating $58 million in savings annually), install smart street lighting ($47 million), and embed sensors in parking spaces to let drivers know where open spaces exist ($67 million).

It’s no wonder, then, that in early March, the European Union named Barcelona Europe’s most innovative city. The same month, Fortune also recognized the city’s mayor, Xavier Trias, as one of the world’s 50 “Greatest Leaders.” The publication wrote, “Barcelona has its Mediterranean port, its Gaudí treasures, and since 2011, a mayor who is busy transforming the cultural gem of Spain’s Catalonia region into the smartest ‘smart city’ on the planet. Partnerships with companies like Cisco and Microsoft are fueling development, a new tech-campus hub is in the works, and he’s connecting citizens to government services through mobile technology.”


On the other side of the globe, Songdo, South Korea, is the world’s first truly green field city developed from the ground up with sustainability metrics—economic, social, and environmental—in mind. Through the city’s network, citizens can access a host of urban services—healthcare, government, transportation, utilities, safety and security, healthcare, and education—from the convenience of their living rooms or within a 12-minute walk. Real-time traffic information helps them plan their commutes. Remote healthcare services and information reduce expenses and travel time. Remotely automated building security improves safety and lowers costs.

Through a unique public–private partnership, the city is evolving as a living lab for urban management and service delivery. It can serve as a model for other communities built from the ground up. The aim is not only to develop urban services that enhance citizens’ daily lives and reduce the city’s resource footprint, but also to deliver economic value to the city by attracting new citizens and companies. These initiatives have the potential to create true economic value over the next 15 years, including as many as 300,000 jobs and $26.4 billion in gross regional domestic product (GRDP) growth. What’s more, Booz Allen & Company has estimated that the city will be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 4.5 million tons.

How can the world make Barcelona and Songdo the norm rather than the exception?

1. Establish a process for prioritizing potential Internet of Everything initiatives based on the problems that need to be addressed.

Articulating the real benefits of such programs and then gathering metrics on those initiatives once they are launched can generate support for the programs internally and with the public. City leaders should also consider starting with replicable initiatives that have worked well in other similar jurisdictions, such as smart parking and other transportation-based projects. Transportation officials often have the requisite budgets and authority to launch scalable pilot projects, and metrics of success are relatively easy to develop and communicate to stakeholders.

2. Rethink IT investments.

This means moving away from purchasing isolated services and instead focusing on end-to-end solutions that are integrated across disparate or siloed systems. By adapting to a technology infrastructure that is application-friendly and can be automated, as well as putting in place an expansive network that can handle a multitude of devices and sensors, cities and countries can reduce costs by billions of dollars. Integrating connected technology across systems, including water and waste management, municipal processes, smart buildings, energy systems, and so on, will allow for the biggest impact.

3. Governments should start looking at IT as a value creator rather than a cost center.

Indeed, IT enables governments to carry out their overall strategies and will allow cities to thrive over the long term. In many instances, measurable returns on IT investment can be realized within a few years or less. With new connections, governments and their agencies can improve employee productivity, attracts talent and jobs, generate new revenue (without raising taxes), and also create quantifiable benefits for citizens. The Internet of Everything offers $4.6 trillion in value in the public sector alone. That number speaks for itself.

4. The world can’t be afraid of embracing technology in new ways.

This means rethinking the contract with citizens and the services IT firms and governments provide them. As the Internet of Everything evolves, the technology industry must also continuously improve security and privacy measures throughout the end-to-end value chain. We believe that industry self-regulation adhering to the highest international standards can be effective in protecting privacy and security. Such security regimes can be strengthened by innovative tools that provide users with the choice to opt in or out of programs and that help users understand how their data are collected and used.

5. Smart Cities require cooperation between public and private partners.

Such collaboration helps defray costs, solve pressing problems, and increase benefits for government, citizens, and industries. We have found that Smart Cities require five things: innovative and bold city leadership championing clear programs and outcomes across departments; hyper collaborative partnerships between the public and private sectors; information communications technology master plans and workshops to define and develop holistic and specific projects; and adherence to deadlines—perhaps one of the most important priorities. When the risks and rewards from projects are shared among partners, such as government leaders, private citizens, investors and technology companies, issues are more likely to be resolved and projects are more likely to be completed, because all parties have a stake in their investments. These partnerships are key to managing and financing projects that require advanced infrastructure and technology architecture.

6. Start piloting now.

City leaders have already shown that Internet of Everything solutions can solve difficult problems and improve the lives of citizens. And these leaders are enthusiastic about its potential to do even more. In Cisco surveys, they cited the importance of using pilots to obtain stakeholder sponsorship, prove the business case, and get the technology right. Pilots should be scalable and have clear metrics of success. Perseverance in the face of technical and political challenges can be the difference between success and failure.

To learn more about the future of smart cities, read the full article here.

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