How do the cities of today serve the needs and demands of the digital individual and the digital enterprise? The connected nature of our world today requires cities to be far more than they always were.
Cities used to be organic things, basically permanent campsites set up around a few much-needed natural resources or on defensible locations like hills or islands, or at the junction of existing transport routes – but what happened from then on was largely ‘make it up as you go along’. Infrastructure would spring up based on a fundamental need for survival and trade rather than with any long-term plan in mind. Today, that’s all changed.
Fifty-four percent of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, a trend that is only set to grow. By 2045, the number of people living in cities will increase 1.5 times to reach 6 billion. Cities are currently responsible for over 80 percent of global GDP, demonstrating what vital commercial hubs they are. And as city populations grow, the systems and services cities provide to those people will need to evolve too.
Smart cities are in their relative infancy around the world now but are on an upwards trajectory. Technology now powers lighting systems to make them more environmentally friendly, and digital solutions are helping make parking cars safer and more organized – tech is basically improving public services in general in smart city initiatives.
A recent example of how Orange has helped drive this transformation is in Paris, where the Sequana project simulates flooding of the river Seine so emergency services and other bodies can practice for major incidents. A cloud-based tool enables them to collaborate, share documents and work on them simultaneously to mitigate risk and pre-empt problems.
So, the next step forward is how we address the expectations of the digital individual and leverage the capabilities of the digital enterprise into our cities to exponentially increase the benefits, advantages and possibilities they offer – using digital technology.
Cities from the future and for the future
Theories have been put forward that the future of mankind will no more be defined by countries and borders but by the world’s big cities and that cities will shape our future. And the future of the city will depend on its use of technology. Gartner forecasts that there will be more than 1 billion smart homes around the world by 2017, and cities will need to have the intelligent infrastructure in place to power that level of digital living.
There are already a number of cities around the world that are some way along the path to digital living. In Korea for example, Songdo, which was built from the ground up in 2005 using It was built from the ground up in 2005 using $40 billion of investment, is home to sensors planted around the city which monitor everything from the day’s temperature to traffic patterns and inform residents of what they can expect from their day.
In Qatar, intelligent infrastructure supplied by Orange utilizes real-time data to help manage scarce resources such as water or energy, while smart metering technology is helping significantly reduce waste and help manage demands.
Demand for digital services rising
A recent research report by the Institute of Engineering and Technology in the UK showed that 29 percent of the public feel ‘intelligent’ streetlights improve safety, deter crime and save energy. 25 percent are interested in buildings that generate their own energy, 23 percent believe sensors embedded in roads and buildings which measure traffic flows, predict congestion, and adjust traffic lights and signals, would be most useful. So there is clear public buy-in for digital solutions which make our cities safer, more environmentally friendly places to live and work.
This demand on display in India, where the country’s smart city initiatives are leveraging Orange digital solutions to have a direct impact on road safety. In Patna, intelligent systems monitor and detect traffic violations and speeding, while in Tamil Nadu, a similar digitally-powered scheme has helped save over 120,000 road traffic accident victims through timely interventions. Digital solutions are also in place to help with disaster recovery in the event of floods for example in densely-populated areas of the country.
Powering a green future
Another of the aims of digital cities is to positively impact the environment. Cities currently consume somewhere around two-thirds of the world’s energy, and are also responsible for over 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – so there is a need to make them greener. Digital technology can help; solutions like smart parking for vehicles has a green impact, since vehicles can spend less time driving around looking for somewhere to park – the technology takes care of it. Smart grids will make cities more energy efficient, as will intelligent buildings in the enterprise world. The global market for smart energy solutions for smart cities is forecast to grow from $7.3 billion revenues in 2015 to $21 billion by 2024 – digital cities are committed to being sustainable.
Living digitally, thriving completely
Ultimately the technologies that have emerged to power digital living are part of a wider plan, which is to make our cities great places to live, work and play – but also to make them attractive targets for investment. I love the ideas that are going into smart cities now, solutions and services that are designed to empower digital individuals and enhance digital enterprises.
There is a wealth of potential there, and technology can involve and engage more citizens than ever. Digital technology can help cities succeed more than ever today and down the line – innovation always attracts investment and that investment will help to power sustainable digital living.
This article first appeared on LinkedIn here.
Helmut joined Orange Business in 2007 to head up Europe and Russia. He is now CEO of Orange Business.