New initiative to study ROI of smart cities

May 09, 2019

ESI ThoughtLab, a branch of economic consulting firm Econsult Solutions, has announced a new effort to study the return on investment of smart city programs across the world. Sponsored by groups like Accenture, General Motors, CBRE, and Oracle, the group is focusing on how the cities of the future can use sensors, data, and analysis to help fully realize the beenfits of working and living in a city. The new effort will be a follow-up to research released late last year by the group on building sustainable business and financing plans for smart cities. In Smarter Cities 2025, ESI ThoughtLab surveyed government leaders in 136 global cities, as well as 750 businesses and 2,000 citizens in 11 cities deemed representative of smart cities at large. They find that smart city investments have the potential to catalyze economic growth, although social and political challenges remain.

The Smarter Cities 2025 report is rich in data for practitioners interested in learning more about the positioning of smart cities worldwide. For example, more than half of the 136 smart cities studied use technologies such as mobile apps, cloud data platforms, IoT/sensors, biometrics recognition, and geospatial technology. These technologies will be used by three-quarters of cities by 2021, according to the study. However, the report finds that nearly two-thirds of the sample cities are just slightly or moderately prepared for cyber-attacks.

The report also presents five pillars for building a successful smart city. They include:

  • Smart governance: developing a digitally enabled vision, supported by a properly staged implementation plan, an effective policy framework, and the buy-in of local stakeholders;
  • Smart economy: building an economic environment that attracts business and investment, fosters industry development, promotes e-commerce, and creates local and global trade linkages;
  • Smart infrastructure: interconnected infrastructure that optimizes buildings, roads, telecommunications, water, and other foundational services;
  • Smart talent: a strong academic and cultural foundation that attracts talent, encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, and nurtures the skills needed by the private and public sectors; and, 
  • Smart funding: ensuring that you have the funding, budget controls, private sector partnerships, and new business models in place to finance a sustainable smart city program, which ultimately will become self-funding.


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