Smart Cities -- A $1.5 Trillion Market Opportunity
Source: Sarwant Singh, Forbes Magazine
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “India is to be found not in its few cities, but in its 700,000 villages.” Though that may at one time have been true, it is no longer the case. With about 30 country dwellers moving lock, stock and barrel every minute from Indian villages to become city dwellers, not many villages will be left in India by end of this century.
Towards the end of the last decade, our planet achieved two remarkable feats. First, our human population crossed the seven billion mark and for the first time in history, 50 percent of the world’s population was living in urban areas. This is expected to accelerate to 60 percent before 2025, globally; with the Western, developed world reaching an 80 percent urbanization level during this time frame. Urbanization has become so important that it has elevated some cities, like Brussels, Seoul, Bogota, and many more, to be even more important than the countries themselves contributing to over 40 percent of the country’s GDP. Interestingly, the UK has already demonstrated its efforts in focusing on this Mega Trend of urbanization and city as growth hubs with the creation of a new ministry role called the “minister for cities.” This person is tasked with unlocking the economic potential of cities, thus giving them more empowerment and freedom to do so.
As we further congregate in cities, it has become more important to make cities not only green, but also efficient. As a result, we are now seeing some early examples of what I would describe as eco-friendly cities. There are several cities that are focusing on specific aspects that help it run efficiently, such as on their transport, energy and waste management. In example, implementation of smart grids is being pushed heavily for smart energy management. Major energy companies like GE are building and operating smart grids for cities such as Atlanta for a monthly fee through a cloud platform.
While smart energy is essential, it is not the only aspect of a Smart City. A more coherent view of what exactly a Smart City is was made by my team at Frost & Sullivan, who scanned through numerous Smart City projects and initiatives currently undertaken globally and found some key parallels among them. We identified eight key aspects that define a Smart City: smart governance, smart energy, smart building, smart mobility, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart healthcare and smart citizen.
It took us some effort to narrow down the definition (as none existed) and we eventually defined Smart Cities are those that have least five out of the eight “smart” parameters listed above. Those cities that are only implementing a couple of these are what we define as eco-friendly cities, like Nice in France. There are several Smart City projects out there like Masdar, but these are too small in our definition to be termed as an actual city. In 2025, it is expected we will have around 26 global Smart Cities which will feature five of the eight aforementioned parameters. Around 50 percent of these will be located in North America and Europe.
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