By 2050, the UN (United Nations) estimates 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, meaning an additional 2.5 billion people will rely on the infrastructure of the world’s largest cities.
But roads, bridges, and electrical grids aren’t the only types of infrastructure we need in order to accommodate the influx of people living in our cities. Ensuring citizens can connect with one another, with businesses and with the city itself is critical, and that means investing now in the technology that will make it possible.
Many cities are already investing in critical areas to improve these connections. In some cases, corporations are driving these investments; in others, local governments are taking the lead on funding. But even so, no city currently has the infrastructure to sustain the expected population growth throughout the next five decades.
Here’s where I believe city governments and the corporations that want continued connections with consumers will need to invest to create a truly connected city:
Edge computing. In the same way we talk about the cloud as revolutionary technology today, edge computing represents the technology of tomorrow—an innovation that will power the connected city. The adoption of edge computing should be a natural progression. With more people and more devices closer together in urban areas, connecting them and harnessing their processing power should become easier. However, as leaders explore the technology, it will be necessary to think about how to manage this new infrastructure. Instead of several enormous facilities to manage, municipalities will need to consider the hundreds, if not thousands, of smaller assets that will make edge computing a possibility.
5G. There’s a reason why many U.S. cities are already preparing for 5G deployments. The demand for connectivity has never been greater, and if cities want to leverage solutions like automated ticketing for transit and mobile payments for parking, 5G will be key. It’s also going to be the backbone in making edge computing a reality. While it’s nearly impossible to predict whether 5G will be enough to carry our society all the way to 2050, it’s a critical component for the connected city of tomorrow.
IoT and connected machines. More people in urban areas means more machines—and more connections. The connected city of the future will rely on IoT (Internet of Things) for everything from monitoring traffic to keeping an eye on power grids. According to Cisco, the number of connected devices will surpass 50 billion by 2020 — a staggering number in itself, but a number that will pale in comparison to the connected urban centers of 2050. Cities need to start thinking about how to connect all of the infrastructure that powers them today in order to meet the needs of a larger citizenry.
Modern cities are smarter and more connected than ever, but it’s clear major investments are necessary to prepare for tomorrow. By thinking about edge computing now, and investing in 5G and IoT, cities have a much better chance creating a more connected future.