Cities around the globe are increasingly striving to become smarter. As they take on 21st century challenges — including the strain of growing populations, social tensions and environmental issues — with shrinking budgets and failing infrastructure, urban areas are turning to advanced information and communication technology (ICT) to help ease their burdens. Smart cities are the future.
Innovations such as cloud computing, the "internet of things," and artificial intelligence in automated vehicles or in smart sensors promise to enhance the quality of life for residents and commuters all over the world. These technologies stand to make services more efficient, promote economic development and improve sustainability. But the more cities use advanced ICT in their communities, the more vulnerable their infrastructure will become. To ensure cyber resilience in the cities of tomorrow, each metropolis will have to assess its competencies, capabilities, and capacities and invite local residents to participate in the effort.
The numerous examples of smart city initiatives underway cover a wide range of domains, including transportation, energy, public safety, environmental monitoring and waste management. London and Singapore, for example, use smart technology to manage traffic flows and avoid chronic congestion. The advent of self-driving cars will further increase road safety and average driving speeds. Smart lighting in Barcelona, Spain, meanwhile, adjusts brightness levels according to weather conditions and time of day. The technology not only ties into the city's sustainable energy plan, but it also improves public safety: City officials can turn street lights up in an instant to help emergency personnel respond to a traffic accident at night.
Of course, smart city initiatives are complex endeavors and depend on many stakeholders over an extended period of time to see them through. Investment is incremental in some applications: Cities may add smart technology only to existing infrastructure to ensure they can implement it quickly. Swiss authorities, for instance, intend to boost rail network capacity by up to 30 percent by hooking existing rail lines up to advanced data analytics and ICT. As a result, trains will travel more quickly, more frequently and more safely — all while conserving energy. Other projects require a greater investment of time and money. A private consortium, also in Switzerland, plans to build a fully automated nationwide underground logistics system in the country by 2030; the first 64-kilometer (40-mile) segment alone will cost upward of $100 million.