Feb 17, 2020 - Technology

The next decade of smart city growth

Illustration of a smart city wired up with lights
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Transportation and energy upgrades are expected to be the big drivers of smart city spending over the next decade.

Why it matters: Global spending on smart city projects will reach nearly $124 billion this year, an 18% increase over 2019, according to IDC, a market research firm.

The big picture: Singapore, Tokyo, New York and London are expected to be the biggest spenders (~$1 billion each) on smart city projects this year.

  • While about a third of global investment has come from the biggest cities, IDC expects small and mid-sized cities to continue to spend on smaller-scale initiatives (~$1 million or less).

Transportation: Research firm Kantar predicts that greener modes of transportation will represent nearly half of all trips taken in cities in 2030. Globally, cycling will increase by 18%, walking by 15% and public transit use will increase by 6%.

  • Micromobility options are currently getting the most attention as e-scooters and e-bikes show up on sidewalks. This month, Lime committed to using 100% emission-free vehicles by 2030.
  • Electric vehicles are expected to make up half of new car sales by 2040, per BloombergNEF, and McKinsey predicts that about $50 billion in investment in charging stations will be needed through 2030, Bloomberg reports.

Energy: Utilities are central to making cities more efficient — a key component of what makes a city "smart."

Be smart: Intelligent grids and transportation systems need ubiquitous connectivity to respond to real-time demand and monitor traffic flows.

  • Right now, 4G connectivity can power the technologies being piloted, but 5G networks will boost the capacity and efficiency of smart city projects as more come online.
  • The 5G market is expected to be around $700 billion by 2030, per market research firm IDTechEx, powered by mobile services, fixed wireless services and Internet of Things applications.

What to watch: Cities hosting Olympic games — such as Tokyo this year and Los Angeles in 2028 — are investing heavily in infrastructure to accommodate the deluge of visitors, and will be see as test-beds for what works.

Go deeper:

  • Cities transportation ideas remain too small to deliver clear results (Axios)
  • 10 cities are predicted to be megacities by 2030 (World Economic Forum)
Go deeper