Smart city programmes are reshaping urban landscapes, helping town planners to manage transport networks and other resources more effectively. So how can the concept now be moved from the trial stage to full implementation?

In an increasingly connected world, the vision of the smart city is fast becoming a reality. Technological advances and innovative mobility models are moving the concept from the planning stage to early implementation.

While previous generations imagined flying cars and household robots, smart cities are taking more practical and less flamboyant forms, with the potential to change our lives for the better. So how are urban landscapes evolving, and what might the consequences be for businesses and citizens?

How smart cities are taking shape

As the latest Deloitte Review highlights, a wide range of pioneering programmes are allowing city authorities to become smarter in their thinking.

Autonomous vehicles can already be seen on our roads, with many new cars featuring more than 100 million lines of code.

And the concept of mobility-as-a-service is changing perceptions of how urban transport systems should work too, with Helsinki’s residents now able to book and pay for journeys across multiple providers all through a single app.

Away from transport, data analytics are also fuelling the rise of the smart city, allowing resources to be managed and deployed more effectively. Buenos Aires provides a key example, with the Argentinian capital using technology to manage 27,000 paved blocks, 56,000 sidewalks and 1,000 green spaces, along with more than a million physical objects.

A new industrial revolution

It’s true that these programmes are unevenly distributed, rather than being commonplace. But with smart cities very much at the start of their journey, places like Helsinki and Buenos Aires are showing early glimpses of what’s possible.

As their momentum builds, smart cities could ultimately trigger a fourth industrial revolution; one that’s defined by the concept of fusion. Data analytics, the ‘internet of things’, artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum computing are just some of the innovations already on the table. And by bringing together the physical, digital and biological worlds, the fusion revolution might fundamentally change both where we live and how we get from A to B.

Combining different technologies, stakeholders and perspectives means smart cities also have the ability to boost people’s quality of life. Education, healthcare, sanitation, finance and housing may all be enhanced, while urban transport could become greener and more convenient.

A more collaborative approach

With so many benefits on offer, a vital ingredient is now required to move smart cities from the trial stage to full-blown implementation – that of effective collaboration.

Companies will increasingly need to work in tandem with start-ups, their peers and the state, as traditional industry boundaries blur.

Meanwhile, government agencies will have to engage with citizens, academics and industry representatives, with their programmes spanning city, state and federal levels.

In a nutshell, smart cities are no longer confined to the realms of science fiction. Instead, as technology evolves and public attitudes shift, they offer the potential to reshape our urban landscapes and create frictionless networks.

The big question is how you can get involved and make the most of this brave new world…

This article is a summary from an editorial authored by Catherine Engelbert in the Deloitte Review, Issue 20, which includes my article on the Rise of Mobility as a Service.