What would cities of the future look like?

50% of the global population lives in an urban area, a figure bound to increase to 70% in 2050. It will immensely pressure existing resources and increase the demand for services. According to experts, a crucial component in creating smarter cities that are ready for growth sustainably is by implementing infrastructural, energy-efficient innovations.

Are future cities more green, more efficient?

The EU Smart Cities Marketplace platform and the Smart Cities Information System (SCIS) claim an investment of €585.3 million, matched with investor interest. The EU is pulling all stops to reach its goal of a climate-neutral 2050, which is at the very heart of Europe’s Smart City projects and is in line with the European Green Deal. So, one can contest that smarter cities are good for the planet. How and in which aspects? We have rounded some of the usual suspects.

Smart grids and smart meters

In terms of sheer volume and network coverage, smart grids and smart meters have a sense of urgency to them. That’s why rolling out and implementing smart meters was highlighted in the EU’s Carbon Neutral long-term plan. The EU has also connected almost 80 percent of European households in 2020, despite COVID-19 timeline setbacks. In countries with mandated rollouts (UK, France, Spain etc) national regulators and governments have been able to achieve full deployment. In inactive countries, especially the Eastern Bloc states, budget constraints are discouraging the launch of small pilot projects even.

We had covered several aspects of smart metering and data hub before.

EV charging infrastructure

E-mobility is another big component of smart cities that requires heavy investment. The development of charging infrastructure in Europe focused on integrating a smart route planner for the entire network. EasyCharger, for instance, has a tool called Intelligent Route Planner’ which will help electric vehicle drivers to plan their route according to the EV charging station network. Recently Lisbon (Portugal), one of the lighthouse cities in Europe, announced that it is planning to use €40 million of its Smart City investment funding into building an e-mobility fleet for itself.

In our previous blog, we covered other aspects concerning a robust EV network in Europe.

Being More Energy Efficient

Being efficient in terms of energy is part of a smart city’s DNA. And that’s why many lighthouse cities in Europe are diverting their funds big time into it. Case in point — Burgas (Bulgaria) has invested around €175 million in retrofitting their buildings alone.

Why wouldn’t it, since 40% of the EU’s total energy consumption is said to be by building? Approximately 35 million buildings need to be retrofitted by 2030. Prospero Group Events will bring you experts in this matter, such as Carlos Menendez Gozalez, Head of Product Distributed Generation, EDP, Spain to share his views on maximizing energy efficiency in buildings and districts through smart management. Join the conversation here <link>.

Money and Smart Cities

A cashless society where the importance of physical money is low is also seen as digital innovation. Sweden’s lower crime rate is being linked to its reduction of physical cash dependency. Post-COVID-19, integrating digital payments to businesses has become the new normal for most enterprises, big or small. That and voice-activated commands (like the Amazon and ExxonMobil collaboration), the proliferation of IoT (internet of things) devices and 5G connection have all been catalysts to promote a truly cashless society. Globally, digital wallets are hoping to cash in $10trn by 2025, an 83% rise compared to 2020.

Roadblocks for a Digitally Sound Smart City

Scaling Digital Infrastructure: Urban cities are usually the first to adapt to digital changes, but they are susceptible to legacy infrastructure and scalability issues. Another add-on challenge is the level of digital expertise and technical know-how needed to manage all this.

Seamless Digital Communication with all Stakeholders: One of the major hurdles is to bring slightly fragmented solutions to scalable energy-efficient, interoperable, carbon-neutral smart city solutions for smart cities. For smart cities to work properly, the different departments (like waste management, energy, utilities) should work with each other seamlessly and be able to exchange data without compromise personal security.

Security
Smart cities are meant to be independent of security threats yet, there have been more cyber attacks since COVID lockdown, mostly in top lighthouse cities. This makes us wonder about the current state of expertise on security, privacy, and risk within smart cities.

Who pays for it?

One of the major reasons there aren’t many smart cities is due to budget constraints. Only 16% of cities globally are self-funded. In most case scenarios it is a mix of public and private funds, grants including that of the European Union, as well as public-private partnerships.

London and six other European lighthouse cities recently made headlines by reaching an investment milestone of €250 million. A majority of it goes to building retrofits (around €200 million); smarter mobility (€45 million); and in the upkeep of urban data platforms (€5 million).

What perhaps baffles many would be the financing models for supporting the technological transition in urban cities? One of our speakers will cover this extensively at the “Smart Cities 2021” virtual conference organized by us on 17th & 18th June. Register today!