Analysts have been predicting big growth of connected devices during the next few years, but while those numbers are expected to reach eye-opening proportions, so, too, will the numbers of people moving into urban areas, which could lead to even greater changes in how cities operate.

According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, www.frost.com, come the year 2025, more than 58% of the world’s population, approximately 4.6 billion people, will take up residency in urban areas. This influx of people is forcing cities to look more seriously at the prospect of becoming “smart cities.”

By the year 2020, a convergence of industries is expected to create market opportunities worth $1.5 trillion, with the greatest spending occurring in Smart Governance and Smart Education. As a result of increased use of technology, competition will grow and companies expected to take advantage of this are those with diverse business interests.

Smart Cities are based on eight different “smart” areas: governance, building, healthcare, mobility, infrastructure, technology, energy, and citizens. It is being estimated that by 2025, more than half of the 26 cities expected to have incorporated at least five of the eight elements will reside in North America and Europe. The efficiency of these elements is at the core of what will help these cities operate more effectively. An example of this is the integration of eHealth and mHealth systems designed to improve healthcare management.

Ravi Krishnaswamy, vice president, energy and environment practice, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, believes smart cities will leverage new technologies to strengthen the landscapes of cities’ utility systems with a focus on “transforming the power grid.” In an effort to keep up with the changes, utility companies will develop new service packages for their customers.

A main driver of the smart-city movement will be the IoT (Internet of Things). Items considered to be critical in making a smooth transition to a simpler living experience include low cost sensors, cloud computing, advanced data analytics, and mobility. The city of Santander in Spain is an example of how easy things can work as it has implemented a smart trash collecting system using sensors to indicate if bins need to emptied or not. Use of the sensors has led to more efficient garbage pick-up saving both time and money, while also being good for the environment since less carbon emissions are involved.

Use of technology in healthcare can have a positive impact through the lowering of labor and operational costs; however, challenges in the form of a lack of suitable resources could linger for some time.

Yet, for all the good that can occur by becoming a “smart city,” costs and current infrastructure could be the biggest hurdles to overcome for cities trying to implement smarter technologies. Current funding for these projects comes from special development funds and public-private sector partnerships.

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