Three trends for Smart Cities

15 April 2019

by NSN Murty Partner & Leader, Smart Cities, PwC India

by Peter D. Raymond Global Advisory Leader, Capital Projects & Infrastructure, PwC US

by Gary Sharkey Global Sustainability Network Driver

The development of smart cities – enabled and powered by digital technologies – is set to be one of the crowning achievements of societies worldwide in the 21st century. In November, PwC joined over 21,000 visitors from 146 countries in Barcelona at the Smart City Expo World Congress, where we had the opportunity to view "smart" innovations ranging from city management apps to smart mobility options.

Over the last few months, we’ve used our past experience, the information we learned during sessions at the event, and conversations with clients to identify three global trends for Smart Cities that are top-of-mind for many.

1. Multi-directional data and information flow is essential to Smart City development

Cities have a vast amount of accumulated data - from demographic information about their citizens, to records detailing public service usage, to data about physical infrastructure. Additionally, private sector city partners will have data available from various endeavours. Separately, but especially in combination, these public and private data streams can be hugely beneficial and are essential to Smart City design, as many of the foundational elements of Smart Cities, such as the Internet of Things discussed below, require data. However, this abundance of data presents potential challenges, including data overload, interoperability issues, and management of open data.

2. IoT is regularly serving as the backbone hardware for smart city developments

Emerging technologies such as IoT are becoming increasingly popular and driving many smart city initiatives, while also evolving in the way they are used. IoT creates unique, user-centric experiences while also improving efficiency and sustainability in communities. The convergence of IoT with AI has also offered strong motivation for cities to evolve. Adaptive streetlights or traffic lights are a good example of this; they depend on IoT in lights (and cars) and then AI to decide when and how the lights function. This can have benefits such as improved safety, improved traffic management, and energy savings.

We’ve also noticed a tendency for developers to integrate “smart” city elements into large-scale public infrastructure programs. There are many instances of this blending of physical and digital: current examples include the integration of "smart city” elements into large-scale developments including sports stadia, art spaces, seaports and leisure developments. As with the availability of data, however, these technologies also present emerging challenges that cities and companies must overcome, such as the lack of IoT standards.

3. Effective Smart City Development will require participation from both public and private sectors

Smart City Expo World Congress saw significant participation from private sector software providers and system integrators demonstrating the power of data integration and citizen-centric apps. This presence is inline with our past and present experience: myriad private sector developers and technology providers are eager to collaborate with city authorities and tap into the opportunities that smart city services present. Private sector developers can fulfill a useful function as accelerators and laboratories for new types of smart environments. Private and public sectors must determine the most effective ways to work together based on their specific experiences. Additionally, individuals’ roles are evolving to meet the “new normal” for private and public sector interactions.

Each of these themes will likely be prevalent as cities become “smarter.” We continue to work with our alliance partner Microsoft to develop technology solutions to help in this initiative and have been engaging in great post-event conversations around how to continue to advance Smart City development.  We look forward to future conversations.

If you would like to discuss these issues, or the impact of emerging technology or data and analytics on your industry, then contact our Data & Analytics team.

For more information on PwC’s Smart City approach, visit

Related reading:

by NSN Murty Partner & Leader, Smart Cities, PwC India

by Peter D. Raymond Global Advisory Leader, Capital Projects & Infrastructure, PwC US

by Gary Sharkey Global Sustainability Network Driver