By 2025, it is expected that approximately 58% of the world’s population – or 4.6 billion people will be living in urban areas. The process of urbanization has become so important that it has become a catalyst in the transformation of major cities to smart cities, including Barcelona, New York and Amsterdam.

Through the convergence of industries, smart cities are expected to present market opportunities worth USD 1.5 trillion by 2020, with the Smart Governance and Smart Education segments to have the greatest spending. This convergence of technology will also lead to the convergence of competition, with companies with multiple business interests to benefit most.

There are 8 key elements that define a Smart City: Smart Governance, Smart Building, Smart Healthcare, Smart Mobility, Smart Infrastructure, Smart Technology, Smart Energy and Smart Citizens.

By 2025, it is estimated that there will be over 26 Smart Cities featuring at least 5 of the 8 mentioned elements; with more than 50% located in North America and Europe.

One key characteristic of smart cities is the efficiency underlying the various aspects that help it run more effectively, be it Energy, Infrastructure and Healthcare. For example, the implementation of eHealth and mHealth systems is being encouraged for better and smarter healthcare management.

However, cost and existing infrastructure remain the key factors influencing the development of smart cities. Most smart cities initiatives are currently being funded by special development funds as well as public-private sector partnerships.

With the unique challenge of balancing the needs of the various stakeholders, it is expected that governments will take the lead in guiding the transformation of smart cities. For a smart city to be successful there is a necessity to adopt a structured approach, focusing on open collaboration and infrastructure.

Smart Energy
Smart cities will leverage several new technologies that are likely to alter the city-based utility landscape.

“Through the application of technology in areas such as energy recovery from waste and managing energy efficiency, the focus for smart energy will remain on transforming the power grid.” says Ravi Krishnaswamy, Vice-President, Energy   & Environment Practice, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific.

To meet this demand and differentiate themselves, utility companies will look to tailor their various new service packages for their customers.

Smart Technology
The Internet of Things (IoT) is also anticipated to be a key technological driver for smart cities, where ‘fun’ meets ‘function’. Implementation of devices or processes such as low cost sensors, cloud computing, advanced data analytics and mobility are expected to aid the transition to a seamless living experience on a large scale. Examples of cities which have successfully implemented Smart city technologies include Santander in Spain.

“In smart cities, the combination of IoT and Cloud Technology is expected to spur the creation of an entire cloud-based ecosystem serving stakeholders such as end-users and innovators. However, cloud security will remain one of the key challenges faced,” noted Andrew Milroy, Senior Vice-President, ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific.

Smart Healthcare
Although technology is expected to have a positive impact in the healthcare sector through the reduction of labor and operational costs, the healthcare services in smart cities will remain challenged by the scarcity of suitable resources.

“The application of technology such as telehealth, mobile and digital health will give rise to smart healthcare cities, where the focus will be on improving the operating efficiency and achieving cost savings while maintaining quality,” says Dr. Milind Sabnis, Director, Healthcare Practice, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific.