Smart Cities Need Smarter Citizens: Millennials Should Take The Lead Now
Source: Forbes on March 31, 2018 | Andrew Arnold
Over $14.85 billion have been spent on smart city initiatives in 2015. By 2020, the figure is expected to double and reach $34.45 billion.
According to a report by BitcoinNews, over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and this number is expected to increase to 66% by 2050. As the urban density increases, we need new ways to create better living environments; regulate pollution; energy consumption and overall efficiency within the ecosystem. Leveraging technology for that is an obvious choice. Because they are digital natives and, as a group, so tech forward, people might assume that millennials are at the forefront of the movements towards “smart” living.
In reality, that is not entirely true. But in order for smart cities to thrive, millennials will need to take the lead and become more active participants in the urban initiatives.
Smart cities don’t work without IoT and millennials are not on board yet
The Association of Energy Services professionals estimated that 85% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 don’t own any smart home devices. This may be partly because student loan debts and mortgage costs make it challenging for them to buy homes. These are young people who are closer to the college loan payment issue than their older cohorts. They are not looking for smart homes as much as they are looking for the most favorable lending environments. One of these, of course, is the FHA mortgages that feature a lot of flexible loan plans for their unique needs.
Also, even where millennials do own smart home devices, most do not take part in utility supported energy management programs. This means that they are not participating in or benefitting from some of the key parts of smart cities such as optimized energy consumption or peer-to-peer electricity trading.
Worse, one might assume that these numbers skew so low because there are some millennials still attending school or just starting their careers. These younger millennials may be living on campus, in apartments, or with their parents. As such, it is possible that they would not have the opportunity or resources to own such devices or participate in such programs.
The only problem is that these ownership and participation rates do not go up for older millennials. Instead, it appears as if millennials are not prioritizing these things.
Lack of empowerment could be an issue
Only 15% of people believe they have any say so in smart city planning and initiatives. True or not, this perceived lack of power and influence could be a real roadblock to participation. Millennials who believe smart city planning isn’t for them will likely believe it is designed to benefit others and not them.
This perception is a shame because successful smart cities exist because planners understood the need to involve citizens in the planning process as well as in any ongoing changes. Cities like Toronto, have leveraged professionals from a variety of backgrounds to help develop a city that meets the needs of all of its citizens.
In the United States, the success of the smart city depends on the millennial voter. Not only do millennials need to be involved in running and planning smart cities. They need to vote in support of policies and politicians that will repair and rebuild the crumbling infrastructure that is such a problem these days. Infrastructure is one of the key requirements to implementing technology in cities. Best case scenario, they exist as technological islands.
Why care about smart cities? Millennials stand to benefit most
More than anyone else, it is millennials who are using the services that are impacted by smart city initiatives. They are the most reliant on connectivity. They are commuting using their own vehicles and public transit. They are the ones whose daily lives are most likely to be impacted by changes or breakdowns in these systems. They are also most likely to be aware of issues, and to have practical ideas about fixing those issues.
Because millennials are now the largest percentage of working adults, they also stand to benefit economically. Smart cities are clean and they run efficiently. This makes them especially attractive to overseas investors as well as tourists from places like China where consumer spending on western tourism has increased.
So how can millennials overcome doubt and take action?
There are several things millennials can do to start and support smart cities. The first is to understand that the beginnings of a smart city initiative may not be called a ‘smart city’. The foundation for these movements often start smaller. They begin with smaller projects and initiatives. According to DEEP AERO, drones are already being used as eyes in the sky by Richland County Sheriff’s Department to assist their officers on ground for rescue operations and capturing people facing criminal charges.
Building on that, a simple effort to create social network and community alert system can be the start of a smart city initiative. Another example would be creating a policy to make city’s buses and trains wi-fi enabled. To take part in, start, and build on these actions millennials can:
Become involved in local level politics and play a role in existing resources