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Smart Cities: Smart skills for the future

Smart Cities: Smart skills for the future

AnalysisDigital TransformationIndustry ExpertIndustry VerticalsTop Stories

New and futuristic skills are required to fully harness the power of Smart Cities which enhance the quality and performance of urban services through technology. Roy Strik, Head of Business Development for Pearson Professional Middle East, tells us about the skills that will be in demand to make the most of the Smart City Revolution.

Rapid urbanisation is leading to smarter cities that improve the lives of citizens with the use of technology.

A 2018 report by McKinsey & Company states that the value of the Smart City industry is projected to be a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities around the globe expected to generate 60% of the world’s GDP by 2025.

The natural consequence of the growth of any industry is job creation, and Smart Cities are no different. This then leads one to ponder about the skills which are needed for a job in this industry. What skillsets does one require to be able to efficiently manage this industry?

The answer is interesting, because many studies state that 40% to 60% of the jobs that might come up in 2030 have not been invented yet.

There is an increasing demand for new and futuristic skills, such as the ones necessary to successfully manage a Smart City. In such a scenario, it is important that working professionals upgrade their skills regularly and invest in up-skilling in order to stay relevant.

Roy Strik, Head of Business Development for Pearson Professional Middle East, gives us an overview of some of the skillsets needed in order to make the most of the Smart City revolution.

The role of robotics

The use of robots in various industries has already begun. For example, in June 2018 Google invested $500 million into automated logistics for JD (the Chinese equivalent to Amazon). At the end of last year, Alibaba invested $15 billion into its own robotic logistics infrastructure.

Robots will be instrumental in the rise of hyper-connected Smart Cities. Their presence is even more critical in countries characterised by ageing populations and labour shortages that hamper operational efficiency. Singapore hotels, for example, are already using service robots to clean rooms and deliver supplies.

Tokyo, the 2020 host of the Olympics, will introduce robot taxis for flexible transportation for tourists. And closer to home, Dubai is already experimenting with the working of robots in public services, transportation, policing and surveillance, as well as targeting automation of 25% of its transportation system by 2030, all as part of its efforts of creating the happiest city in the world. 

Artificial Intelligence to boost efficiency of municipal services

AI algorithms are becoming an integral part of Smart City initiatives that aim to automate and improve urban activities and operations. While programmes may vary from case to case, most of them generally share the goals of improving living conditions, making cities more competitive and making them more environmentally sustainable.

Therefore, the use of AI is a huge driving force in digitalising cities. Gartner predicts that 20% of all citizens in developed nations will use AI assistants to help them with an array of operational tasks, and that by 2022, 30% of customer experiences will be handled by conversational agents, up from just 3% in 2017.

AI is becoming critical to the Smart City Revolution and professionals possessing these skills are likely to be in high demand as the Smart City Revolution flourishes.

3D printing and city planning

3D printing is a huge opportunity for cities to leverage technology to serve residents in new ways, without wasting either time or money.

In a Smart City, 3D printing can be employed to build houses, public buildings, bridges and more for a fraction of the cost and time taken using traditional methods.

Real life examples include the world’s first stainless steel bridge installed across one of Amsterdam’s oldest and most popular canals in the centre, GE replacing a third of the parts on an aircraft engine using 3D printing,  and Honda’s electric vehicle created entirely from 3D-printed segments.

Automated logistics in Smart Cities

Automation is a key emerging theme among all industries today as they are coming to recognise the immense operational benefits that Digital Transformation can bring. As cities aspire to become smarter, many are striving to manage assets and operations more efficiently with the use of automation.

This, of course, requires a specialised set of skills. Some examples are shipping companies using scanners and sensors to improve tracking of containers, equipment and vehicles, online vehicle inspections which enable technicians to perform proactive maintenance and more. As Supply Chain Management continues to grow as a critical business function for Smart Cities, it also makes it into the list of the top skills to invest in for the future.

Blockchain’s role in developing Smart Cities

The modern Smart City constitutes a massive web of interconnected technologies which is expected to expand even further. Gartner projects that 9.7 billion IoT devices will make up the typical Smart City by 2020.

At the same time, this collection of data must be protected from hacks and leaks. Studies indicate that nearly five million data records are lost or stolen every day, constituting 58 data records every second.

Another aspect is the fact that standards in tech infrastructure may vary, and the requirements are different in each city. Therefore, Blockchain serves as the only suitable option to provide both interoperability and security to a universal data storage platform catered to life in Smart Cities.

The UAE is already working on implementing Blockchain to provide greater insight into government processes. Blockchain may be a nascent technology, but the time to master the skills of Blockchain is already here.

Disruption has affected all areas of our life, and the world today won’t be the world we live in five years time. To remain competitive, professionals will need to ensure that they are continuing to develop new capabilities. Today upskilling takes place in many forms such as blended education, MicroMasters and other programmes which make learning flexible, portable, and cost-effective.

Newer forms of learning are linked directly to the industry and provide skills required to get onto the job immediately – either it’s professionals who seek employment or career advancement opportunities. In order to stay relevant for the workforce and Smart Cities of the future, it will be essential to invest in developing the required skillsets.

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