Smart cities strategies 2020: What will and won't happen

Dec. 19, 2019
ABI Research’s '2020 Trend Report' identifies the key smart cities market trends that will deliver in 2020 – and the ones that will not.

In 2020, the concepts of digital twins, urban modeling, resilience, circularity, smart urban spaces, and electric micro-mobility and micro-transit will be integrated into a comprehensive urban agenda and strategy that will define the character of smart cities of the future, reports global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.

“After a tumultuous 2019 that was beset by many challenges, both integral to technology markets and derived from global market dynamics, 2020 looks set to be equally challenging,” says Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer at ABI Research.

In its new whitepaper, entitled 54 Technology Trends to Watch in 2020, ABI Research’s analysts have identified 35 trends that will shape the technology market and 19 others that, although attracting huge amounts of speculation and commentary, look less likely to move the needle over the next twelve months.

Per ABI Research's report summary, the study's highlights are as follows:

What will happen in 2020:

Cities will develop advanced urban strategies:

Already in 2019, cities have developed deeper insights into high-priority challenges and approaches to address those. Many have started to develop a narrative centered around five holistic focus areas: digital twins and urban modeling, resilience, circularity, electric micro-mobility and micro-transit, and smart urban spaces.

“In 2020, these concepts will be further galvanized and integrated into a comprehensive urban agenda and strategy, very much defining the character of smart cities of the future. But they also help address short-term challenges. The adoption of micro-mobility in the form of electric bike, scooter, and motorcycle sharing significantly reduces both air pollution and traffic congestion, arguably the two biggest issues cities are grappling with today,” says Dominique Bonte, Smart Cities & Smart Spaces Vice President at ABI Research.

This represents a short-term solution awaiting widespread adoption of electric driverless vehicle sharing by 2030. It does, however, prompt city governments to reorganize public space to accommodate these new smart mobility modes. The wider safety and sustainability questions are starting to be approached in a more structural and fundamental way, respectively focused on resilience (readiness and responsiveness) and an approach based on circular economy concepts (resource self-sufficiency and recycling maximization).

“Finally, the digital twin and wider urban modeling concepts will provide a fertile environment for the mass adoption of basic IoT connectivity technologies, informing and enhancing static 3D models to become real-time replicas of the cities’ physical assets, in turn, enabling further efficiency and resource utilization improvements, scenario analysis, generative design, and preventive and real-time maintenance,” Bonte adds.

What won’t happen in 2020:

Translating strategies into technology solutions and partnerships:

“Translating these high-level paradigms into practical technology implementations will continue to elude all but the most advanced cities, such as Singapore and Dubai. Issues include technology life cycle uncertainty – if or when to adopt new technologies like 5G, LPWA, AI, blockchain, and driverless mobility – anticipating upgrade cycles, repurposing systems across multiple verticals and use cases, and learning how to efficiently implement open IoT platforms,” Bonte explains.

At the same time, the wider ecosystem dynamics toward which smart cities and the overall government technology sector are gravitating are increasingly defined by technology marketplaces (Geotab), open data sharing platforms (Transport for London, HERE’s Open Location Platform), vendor accelerator programs (Qualcomm), public-private partnerships (SharedStreets), sharing economy leverage, and a long tail of smart city technology startups and system integrators.

This represents a major challenge for cities in terms of aligning internal organizational structures to enable efficient participation in this new market constellation.

Furthermore, against a background of a continuing challenging economic climate, cities will put more emphasis on ROI or, at the very least, will want to optimize where their investments are going. This will require vendors to provide detailed information on what their solutions can achieve in terms of cost savings and tangible benefits for citizens and enterprises alike through both general awareness building and quantitative tools.

More concretely, vendors will have to tailor their business models toward CAPEX-free “as-a-Service” offers, while at the same time providing financing support, either directly through their own financing or Venture Capital (VC) divisions or indirectly, helping discover new funding mechanisms and opportunities.

For more trends that won’t happen in 2020, and the 35 trends that will, download the 54 Technology Trends to Watch in 2020 white paper from ABI Research.

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