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Smart Cities study sheds light on expectations of citizens and businesses in world’s major urban centres

Smart Cities study sheds light on expectations of citizens and businesses in world’s major urban centres

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Nutanix, a leader in enterprise cloud computing, has announced a new report sponsored by Nutanix and compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit, entitled Accelerating urban intelligence: People, business and the cities of tomorrow, which explores expectations of citizens and businesses for Smart City development in some of the world’s major urban centres. While globally, Smart Cities have the common goal of improving urban living, what this looks like in action varies from place to place.

The study analyses survey data from over 7,700 residents and business executives in 19 large cities around the world, including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dubai, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Stockholm and Zurich, as well as cities outside of the European region, to reveal how their priorities differ and align.

Responses differ from city to city, but overall, the study finds that citizens want Smart City initiatives to make public services more affordable, while businesses want them to be more efficient and reliable. However, nearly as important for both groups is that smart initiatives produce greener, cleaner environments in which to live and work. Many individual demands of respondents — such as more renewable energy options, cleaner air and water, more efficient waste recovery and smarter energy tariffing — all contribute to more liveable environments for citizens and workers alike.

Key findings from the study are:

  • Priorities differ between developed and emerging-world cities. Developing Smart City solutions to ease the blights of unemployment, crime, poor sanitation and rubbish accumulation are especially high priorities in places like Johannesburg, Mumbai and São Paulo. Respondents from developed-world cities place stronger emphasis on improving transport efficiency, reducing road congestion and making services more affordable.
  • Big dreams for big tech. Wariness of large technology firms may be on the rise due to negative media coverage about privacy scandals, disruptions to jobs and other factors, but most respondents want their cities to be involved in Smart City initiatives. Citizens expect they will create job opportunities and executives hope they will spur innovation and create new market opportunities.
  • Inevitable trade-offs to urban intelligence — particularly involving data — should not deter its development. Over two-thirds (70%) of business respondents say the ability to access open government data is vital to their business. Nearly as many executives (69%) say they are willing to share more data to secure the benefits of Smart Cities. Most citizens, too, are ready to share data with their governments if it means smarter public services. Some seem ready to compromise on privacy as well: two-thirds (66%) believe facial recognition technology will do more good than harm when used to fight crime.
  • Some Smart City expectations will be tough to meet. Citizens’ hopes for job creation and those of executives for new business opportunities will be difficult for Smart City programmes to fulfil, according to experts interviewed for the study. Transport and other services may be more efficient and cleaner, but not always cheaper. City officials must try to manage expectations for what smart initiatives can deliver.

There are few large cities in the world that do not have an office, programme or set of initiatives focused on delivering Smart City solutions. Today, mayors and other public officials base their appeal to voters partly on their ability to deliver technology-enabled services that will improve the quality of urban life. City offices, technology companies, research institutes and other organisations generate considerable media content — articles, videos, press releases, reports — extolling the benefits of smart technologies. Perhaps as a result, urban residents have a positive view of what Smart Cities can deliver: 71% of citizens and 81% of business executives believe that their Smart City will be an appealing place to live.

But do city officials, technology companies and others understand what residents really want from these initiatives? We consider some of the expectations from the citizens of Zurich, in particular:

  • Top ways cities can improve their development of smart initiatives – Citizens of Zurichemphasise keeping Smart City initiatives within budget, while businesses want public authorities to plan for the long-term and also ensure new Smart City services are easy to use. Better long-term planning is the most oft-cited plea of London, Riyadh and Stockholm residents.
  • Improving affordability – Paris and Zurich are two of the most expensive cities in the world, according to the survey. Improving the ability of energy and water utilities to vary pricing according to usage is the top expectation of citizens when it comes to Smart City programmes.
  • The Green Imperative – One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for all people to have ‘access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy’. Citizens in Zurich expect Smart City programmes to enhance environmental sustainability by expanding the availability of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

While the technologies that underpin many existing or planned urban projects are hardly exotic territory for most people, they need to address the fundamental problems of everyday urban life. When asked to choose from a menu of technologies most integral to their town’s Smart City initiatives, the vast majority select 5G mobile, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and IoT. The same is true of business respondents, many of whom also point to data analytics and cloud computing.

Residents expect the outcome of Smart City efforts to include greater efficiency and the reliability of services. They’re also hoping for improved public transport, a greener and more sustainable physical environment, and a plethora of new business opportunities for local firms.

“Smart city initiatives need focus and achievable objectives,” said Andrew Brinded, Vice President and EMEA Chief Operating Officer at Nutanix. “There’s little point in projecting too far ahead and talking about driverless cars or robots. Citizens and businesses want services that will impact them now. They want improved environmental sustainability, improved recycling capabilities and improved transport infrastructures, but they also want it at reduced costs. It can be a delicate balancing act for city leaders, between delivering improved services and saving money.

“For example, Zurich is typical of the challenges Smart City developers face. While the majority of people in Zurich believe that Smart City initiatives should keep local service costs in check and deliver low-cost transportation, they also want the city to incorporate the most advanced technologies. It’s a prioritisation challenge but one that needs a strong technology footing. Without a robust, secure, dynamic cloud and wireless infrastructure, cities will be limited in what they can achieve.”

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