A new study has found that cities should be aiming to become ‘hyperconnected’ rather than just ‘smart’ as cities could collectively enjoy a return on investment of as much as US$60 billion if they were to become fully hyperconnected.
The study by economists evaluated 100 cities from 52 countries and concluded that hyperconnected cities make better use of energy and resources, as well as offering citizens improved safety, health and wellbeing.
“Cities that leverage new digital technologies to transform and securely interconnect critical elements of their urban ecosystem can potentially unlock massive levels of economic, business, environmental and social benefits,” explained Mike Daly, Communications Specialist, ESI ThoughtLab.
Cities were analysed in terms of their use of technology, cybersecurity, data and analytics, and also assessed on the connectedness of their citizens.
Examples of hyper-connectedness include public Wi-Fi, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, and mobile technology, which are used by more than nine out of 10 cities in the study.
Other commonly used technologies include biometrics (83 percent of cities), AI (82 percent), blockchain (66 percent), and telematics (52 percent). By combining this technology with available data, cities are making the most of smart buildings, roads, energy grids, water systems, mobility and transport.
Barcelona is highlighted for leading the way in hyper-connectedness by successfully promoting citizen engagement with its technology initiatives, and thus avoiding so-called ‘tech-lash’–when citizens rebuke new technologies. The city has a democratic digital platform called Decidim.Barcelona, which is used by 400,000 citizens to debate urban solutions, participate in decision making, and shape future policies.
Becoming hyperconnected is not without its challenges. Procurement procedures, lack of funding and failure to engage citizens with new technology are some reasons cities struggle to succeed in achieving hyper-connectivity.
ESI’s Daly advises: “Making the business case and monitoring performance of ROI is critical if you want to get key stakeholders on board with your plan for building a hyperconnected city.”
ESI is a thought leadership and economic research firm that helps business and government leaders cope with transformative change. The study was completed with the backing of several corporate sponsors including Nokia, JLL and the Re-imagining Cities Foundation.