In some industries, the pandemic has cast a shadow on the future. How will sectors like hospitality and retail recover from the pandemic-driven recession? Will industries still feel the economic effects of COVID-19 in 10 years’ time? While the smart-city sector will undoubtedly also be affected, it may also become a more urgent focus for governments that want to ensure they represent the cutting edge in technology that enhances quality of life. From healthcare and first response to transportation and infrastructure (both physical and digital), smart city solutions are going to be as needed, if not more needed, than ever. Smart city startups will help fill this need in the coming years.

The smart cities market is expected to grow from $308 billion in 2018 to $717 billion in 2023, according to MarketsandMarkets. Connected consumers and a changing world are increasing the demand for smarter public safety, smart infrastructure, and citizen engagement, and startups like Digi.City are out to help facilitate this and more. Digi.City facilitates smart-city education and partnership and ecosystem building, provides resources for cities themselves, and organizes events that promote smart cities. Through its efforts, the startup is helping cities develop tools, showcase best practices, and bring people together who can advocate for policies and programs that move smart cities forward.

Emergency response is a key part of providing a good quality of life to citizens, and the IoT (Internet of Things) is helping cities improve their first-response systems on a number of levels. One Concern is a Palo Alto-based startup that aims to make disasters less disastrous by leveraging AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning). One Concern’s AI-driven “disaster science” helps cities assess and improve their disaster preparedness, improve disaster response, and mitigate situations after they’ve occurred. Alertus Technologies is another startup company aimed at advancing smart cities’ emergency response efforts. The company offers customizable emergency-notification products and solutions not only for government but also for schools, industrial companies, and healthcare providers.

PropTech startups and smart building solutions are also going to help push smart cities forward. Chicago-based startup Livly has made apartment building management and maintenance smarter and easier by simplifying tasks and facilitating communications among tenants, landlords, and maintenance personnel. The company raised $10 million last year and an additional $8 million in funding this year, proving its perceived value to investors in an increasingly connected and increasingly urban world. Spaceti is an IoT platform for the enterprise that increases transparency for physical workspaces. In a society recovering from COVID, this building-management system will help building managers adjust to the new normal, which may include preventing the circulation of pathogens through the air by controlling HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and air quality systems and by monitoring occupancy and social distancing in realtime.

In the future, all cities will be smart cities by today’s standards. Data will flow from citizens to businesses to governments to buildings to infrastructure via sensors and connected devices. This all-encompassing connectivity will improve quality of life in many ways. To get there, though, innovative companies need to step up with solutions that solve real-world problems in cities. And, even in a pandemic, startups that promise smarter, more efficient operations are taking a critical step toward this future.

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