Building smart cities for real: Reflections on Smart City Expo World Congress 2019

I have been speaking about smart cities for several years now and, as part of this, I was often asked to define, “What is meant by a smart city?” However, now that smart cities are no longer just concepts, the conversation has started to shift.  Technological developments have led to a rapid rise of smart cities across the globe, with the ultimate aim to make them more livable and profitable.

Having not long been back from Smart City Expo World Congress 2019, and as is now tradition, I wanted to share my insights. It was an impressive year, with the theme being “Cities Made of Dreams”.  It was a clear confirmation to me that smart cities are higher on the agenda than ever. The 2019 event attracted not only more people than ever (more than 24,400 visitors), but also those from a broader set of organizational functions, ranging from technology industries through to policy-makers and entrepreneurs.

As people came together to discuss the most pressing issues facing cities: Digital Transformation, Urban Environment, Mobility, Governance & Finance, and Inclusive & Sharing Cities, my main thought following the expo was provoked by a new question I was asked: “What are the different meanings of the Smart City concept?”

No single smart city blueprint

This idea of the smart city concept piqued my interest – mostly because it was something I had been exploring myself.  Speaking to different teams from different cities, it’s becoming clear that what smart cities means to one city – and the stakeholders within that city – may be different from another. For some cities, businesses, and organizations, it is an opportunity to benchmark themselves. For others it is a real mission to address concrete objectives that meet a current need and for others still, it is a vision of positioning the city towards an ambition that’s still quite abstract.

All three of these three scenarios could even be in the same city and will still coexist in the future.

What’s happening in smart cities now?

This year I got the feeling that the need to address concrete objectives was what most visitors are hoping to achieve. Solutions and what they make possible were most of interest, with, “What are the concrete solutions you offer?” being by far the most popular question asked.

And the industry has moved a lot over the past few years. In fact, with 16 partners in the space, Axis alone has a wide range of solutions, which meant visitors found at least one or two solutions that met their requirements.

Future developments and trends in smart cities

We found that, when looking to invest in smart city solutions, the three top areas visitors were interested in are public safety, mobility and sustainability. This means we can expect to see trends develop that are propelled by the need to address at least one of these areas. And possible have the objective of meeting the ambition to deploy technologies that jointly address all of these challenges.

My personal ethos – and that of Axis – is that smart city development is driven by building an ecosystem. So, as you can imagine, I was delighted to see that my vision from five years ago is becoming a reality and our smart city model is one that can be replicated and further expanded in the new decade. I look forward to reviewing and comparing how far we have come over the next few editions of the event as I believe the 2020s will be the true advent of the smart city revolution.

Wondering how surveillance can help make a smarter safer city?

Find out here