smart city (jamesteohart/Shutterstock.com)

What's next for smart city tech?

Even as they experiment with automated vehicles, open data and blockchain to improve economic prospects for businesses and livability for residents, smart cities still face foundational technology challenges.

According to "IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Smart Cities and Communities 2019 Top 10 Predictions," a number of drivers are shaping cities' digital transformation, including local leaders' ability to adapt to a an increasingly digital world, turn data into insights, secure their digital assets and handle rising customer expectations – all the while straddling legacy and next-generation systems.

The five-year predictions from the IDC Smart Cities and Communities team are designed to help government leaders understand the trends likely to affect IT investments as they map out their smart city strategies. They include the following:

In 2019, the security weaknesses of legacy systems will hinder the adoption of new technologies in one-third of cities, with the connection between new and old systems posing a major security risk.

Open data sharing platforms that increase transparency and enable service improvements will be in 25 percent of larger cities. Smaller cities – those with fewer than 200,000 inhabitants – will be where highly innovative projects will be tested.

By 2021, 20 percent of major cities will have begun supporting automated vehicles, and 75 percent of major metropolitan areas will have a consolidated early warning emergency system for disaster response.

Between 2023 and 2025, IDC predicts that half of cities worldwide will crowdsource participation in budgeting and local decision-making. To improve benefits distribution, identity management, permitting and contracts management, 25 percent of state and local governments will use blockchain/distributed ledger technologies.

Smart cities should expect specific IT impacts such as the increasing reliance on open integrated platforms, cloud computing, machine-readable data and identity and access management systems. Public safety and transit projects -- currently among the most visible smart city applications -- will require fixed visual surveillance solutions  as well as 5G networking capacity to support connected vehicles and traffic management on the network edge.

It's not just the technology foundation that's shifting for local leaders. As cities adapt to evolving technology, they must also be prepared for changes in policies and partnership arrangements as well as their budgeting, procurement and departmental coordination processes, IDC said.

"The digital transformation of urban areas around the world is under way," IDC Government Insights Vice President Ruthbea Yesner said. "With investment in Smart City solutions growing to $158 billion by 2022, cities and communities must now begin to strategically think about how to tie technology innovation to outcomes and how to coordinate departmental initiatives for citywide impact."

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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