New Digital Banking
Pave the way for a hyper-connected societies. (The image is for illustrative purposes.) Image Credit: Supplied

Urban residents and businesses are embracing technological innovation faster than many cities can react. With digital change happening at hyper- speed, urban leaders need to act now to bridge the widening technology gap between their cities and stakeholders.

Cities adopting smart technologies are already seeing less crime, congestion and pollution, as well as improvements in public health, productivity, and living conditions. Data is at the core of successful smart city innovation, according to new research from Oracle and economic and urban research consultancy ESI ThoughtLab. The “Building a Hyperconnected City” study found that cities are drowning in data from advancements such as Internet of Things (IoT).

It projected that there will be more than 30 billion connected devices generating data by 2020. For cities to become truly “smart”, they must have a cloud infrastructure in place to extract, integrate, and analyze this data to glean the insights needed to enhance everything from citizen services to building projects.

But becoming a smart city is no longer enough, particularly if public leaders expect to keep citizens on board. To unlock the full economic, social, environmental and business value from technology, cities need to morph into hyperconnected urban centres. Those that use the latest technologies to transform and interconnect key areas of their ecosystem — from roads to cars, buildings to energy grids, citizens to government, and cities to cities.

Tech alone won’t do it

Hyperconnected cites unlock the greatest economic, business, and social value by leveraging technology to transform and securely interconnect key areas of their urban ecosystems. Measuring the use of smart technology is not enough. To create the Hyperconnected Cities Index, we looked at four pillars of city transformation: technology, data and analytics, cybersecurity, and connected citizens.

To underpin each of the four pillars, we used data from several survey questions, calculating a score for each, and then normalizing and combining them to arrive at a pillar score. We then aggregated the pillar scores into an overall index score. Based on these scores, we stratified the cities into three categories: implementer, advancer, and leader.

The report surveyed 100 cities across the US, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and elsewhere. Abu Dhabi and Dubai were recognised by the study as one of the World’s Top Hyper Connected Cities making progress on interconnecting urban ecosystem and realising benefits.

Better returns for sure

According to the study, the average return on investments in hyper-connected initiatives ranges from 3-4 per cent. As cities become more interlinked, their RoI grows: cities just starting out realize a return of 1.8 per cent for implementers and 2.6 per cent for advancers, while hyper-connected leaders see a 5 per cent boost.

That can translate into enormous returns ranging from $19.6 million for implementers to $40 million for advancers and $83 million for hyper-connected leaders.

Other key findings include:

• AI, Blockchain and biometrics are increasingly pervasive: Cities are using these technologies in key urban areas, such as IT infrastructure and telecoms, mobility and transportation, payment and financial systems, and physical and digital security. City leaders need the right technology platforms and applications to implement and leverage these tools and capabilities.

• Cybersecurity requires careful planning and is expensive when not implemented properly: The study revealed that half of the 100 city leaders surveyed do not feel adequately prepared for cyberattacks.

Starts at the top

Hyperconnected leaders are highly sensitive to the needs of citizens and actively engage them in city issues. A large majority of leaders ensure that stakeholders know the value of smart city projects, stay engaged, and provide input. About two-thirds also take steps to ensure that disadvantaged populations, such as the poor, handicapped, or digitally illiterate, stay included and involved in smart city programmes.

While physical and digital security top the list of priorities, citizen engagement and satisfaction have risen as a Top 5 goal. Thirty-three per cent of innovative leaders in North America have appointed “Chief Citizen Experience Officers”. and 20 per cent of advancers have a Chief Citizen Experience officer. Connecting with citizens, businesses and other stakeholders is key to galvanizing and sustaining support. These cities may consider looking at investing in this area to further progress – secure investment and resources to drive implementations.

Do more with your data. Those in the Middle East that are more advanced in the areas of data management – the technology and IT infrastructure – are seeing greater quantitative and qualitative returns.

Arun Khehar is Senior Vice-President – Business Applications, Middle East, Africa and India at Oracle.