More than one year ago, on March 2021, the research company ESI ThoughtLab released Smart City Solutions for a Riskier World, a forward-looking study that provides city decision-makers with an evidence-based playbook for driving better social, environmental, and economic outcomes in today’s transformed world. A team of 30 economists and subject matter experts assessed the impact of technological, economic, and demographic shifts on cities.
The research, based on a survey of 167 city leaders from 82 countries around the world, dramatically underscores the vital role of technology, data, partnerships, and citizen engagement in enabling municipalities to help give rise to a new class of cities-Cities 4.0.
It was based on rigorous analysis, including in-depth phone surveys of smart city leaders around the world. The full list of cities, which includes Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Bangkok, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Washington, DC, Cairo, and Libreville, can be found by visiting www.citysolutions.riskierworld.com.
Urban experts and economists at ESI ThoughtLab benchmarked the cities on the use of smart technologies, data analytics, partnerships, and other levers of change across their urban ecosystems to develop this ground-breaking data and analysis. The research company also correlated and integrated data on city services, demographics, and quality of life from the World Bank, Numbeo, IESE, and other well-respected sources. To gain a citizen perspective, ESI ThoughtLab is also conducting ongoing AI-enabled sentiment analysis of residents of 10 representative cities around the world, which is publicly available on www.citysolutions.riskierworld.com.
All data and results from the study were reviewed by an independent advisory board of city leaders, corporate executives, and academic experts, including representatives from sponsoring companies Axis Communications, Bentley Systems, Cisco, Deloitte, Hatch, Honeywell, Intel, The International Finance Corporation, Microsoft, NTT, and Oracle.
Rise of Cities 4.0 & technology investments set to fuel change
ESI ThoughtLab researchers found that 20 of the 167 cities surveyed meet the definition of Cities 4.0 - cities that excel at leveraging technology, data, ecosystems, and partnerships of all kinds, including those with businesses, universities, citizens, and communities. As a result, Cities 4.0 are further ahead in smart city initiatives than other cities. For example, they widely deploy 14 smart city projects versus an average of seven for other cities and they have superior infrastructure, better public transportation, roads, parks, healthcare, and digital connectivity.
The 20 Cities 4.0 identified in the study are Aarhus, Athens, Baltimore, Barcelona, Berlin, Birmingham, Boston, Copenhagen, Helsinki, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Moscow, New York, Orlando, Paris, Philadelphia, Singapore, Tallinn, and Vienna.
The research also found that cities are investing in an array of smart technologies. The largest investments are being made now in cloud (87% of cities), mobile (85%), IoT (81%), biometrics (72%), and AI (66%). Over the next three years, the technologies posting the largest increases in investment will be digital twins (+164%), 3-D printing (+125%), augmented reality/virtual reality (+63%), and data warehouses (+50%).
Here's how the research team defined the stages in making a city smarter:
Steps to becoming City 4.0
Finally, the main finding of this survey is that there are 4 steps to becoming a City 4.0 and they are, as follows:
Critical skills are needed in smart city project management
For a city to successfully go through these steps and become a city 4.0 the skills and appropriate qualifications of the people involved in this process are necessary. This is also the goal of the Skills4Cities project, being implemented by the Cluster Sofia Knowledge City and partners. Posts about this project and on this topic can be found on the cluster site as well as on the blog at the project website. Interesting conclusions can also be drawn from the data in our survey HERE.