Data use by smart cities will grow by more than 140% by 2027

Smart city, 5g, internet and networking technology
Sheila Zabeu -

March 16, 2023

Today, 55% of the world population lives in urban areas, a share that should reach 68% by 2050. In the United States alone, this percentage is already 83% and should reach 89% in the same year, according to the United Nations. Faced with this frightening scenario due to its numbers and its potential consequences, we must rely on innovation so that these environments offer quality of life and are healthier and also more sustainable. For this, they need to be more intelligent.

More than just cement blocks, asphalt, poles and cables, cities need an essential element to gain intelligence: data. The use of data by smart cities is expected to grow by more than 140% between 2023 and 2027, according to a report by consultancy Kaleido Intelligence, which studies the connectivity market. And with data, we will see more and more cellular connections in Internet of Things (IoT) projects in smart cities, which are expected to increase at a compound annual rate of 17.9% between 2022 and 2027, reaching a plateau of more than 122 million, with particularly high growth in the next two years.

The largest number of connections will be found in smart lighting applications. It is predicted that more than 161 million lights will be interconnected to a cellular connection. According to Kaleido Intelligence, many will be served by gateways, with a single cellular connection relaying data to and from many lights, which will rely on non-cellular technology at the endpoints. This emphasizes the need for interoperable data protocols to simplify data transfer between technologies.

Relatively high data traffic is expected to travel over these connections, even when an LPWAN is deployed, because of the number of endpoints in the networks. This will require effective Edge Computing to limit data flow – in some cases, the study estimates, this will reduce data transfer by more than 80%.

Intelligent traffic management will be responsible for generating the highest connectivity revenues, mainly due to the use of video. Revenue per airtime in this sector is expected to exceed US$900 million by 2027, up from US$292 million in 2022.

“Intelligent traffic management represents, for several reasons, one of the main elements of smart cities. Traffic routing decisions can be based on air quality data and parking availability. However, care must be taken to comply with data privacy and other relevant laws, which will require smart networks to direct data only on a need-to-know basis,” notes James Moar, author of the Kaleido Intelligence research.

Also, according to the study, Europe and East Asia are the largest markets for smart city technologies, which are occupying government agendas due to sustainability initiatives in municipal planning and operations.

Necessary, but not sufficient

The concept of smart cities has proven to be necessary for the future of societies around the world, but not sufficient. Smart lighting and even smart rubbish collection, traffic control and autonomous cars are some examples of technology that will certainly compose the scenario of cities in the future, however, they do not represent the definitive solution. It is necessary to go further.

According to the World Economic Forum’s article on urban transformation, in an ever-changing world, cities need to be dynamic and adaptable. Adaptable cities set out to balance life and livelihoods, resilience and sustainability, and all the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental conditions that need to be continuously analysed and adjusted in practice.

There are three main steps to developing an adaptable city:

1. Establish a vision of what an adaptable city is, which may vary from case to case. Some characteristics are fundamental and should be present in all cities, such as the ability to adapt, obviously.

One example of adaptability is dynamic kerb management. Cities today manage kerbs by signposting and restricting them to certain specific uses, such as parking cars and bicycles, deliveries or even charging electric vehicles in large urban centres. There are already solutions that allow dynamic management based on kerb data, with variable pricing depending on time or other factors.

2. Design adaptability, considering both digital and physical elements of the city architecture. Adaptability in the software universe can use approaches such as cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence, digital twins, software defined networks, among others. Physical adaptability can be achieved with approaches such as modular design and construction, multifunctional design, robotics, drones and rapid integration and interoperability techniques or dynamic provisioning.

3. Build or renovate city infrastructure with intrinsic agility. The digital and physical enablers mentioned above will help to have intrinsic agility and ensure project adaptability throughout the operational life. In terms of integration, it is important to use a platform model where more technological elements can connect and be used, similar to mobile app shops. This will ensure innovativeness of the adaptive city and more services for citizens.

With these technological building blocks making up the adaptable city, we can even imagine it as a software company, which will also have the challenge of maintaining the governance and orchestration of the platform model, the article concludes.