Smart city technologies outlook

Let me speak about social spheres which will be foremost affected.

Nowadays modern cities face global transformation. Future development requires infrastructure based on intellectual networks. Technologies should become a basement for new cities and seamlessly integrate into existing ones. Using complex Smart City approach makes solving these issues possible.

Smart City: what it is

Smart city is a conception of integration information and communication technologies for managing assets of a city. It is intended to make lives of citizens better and more comfortable by increasing level of comfort, quality and efficiency of services, decreasing costs and consumption of resources. Generally speaking, smart city approach optimizes all daily processes in a city.

According to McKinsey research, there will be about 600 smart cities by 2020. These cities are expected to generate 60% of the world’s GDP by 2025. As consulting agency Acup estimates, the global market for smart urban systems for transport, energy, healthcare, water and waste will amount to around $400 Billion by 2020.

The future is now

Jones Lang LaSalle consulting agency has created world’s top 30 most dynamic cities index, more than half of mentioned places are situated in Asia-Pacific region. Smart cities geography at the current moment is roughly the same.

Tianjin eco-city is one of the successful government-to-government projects between Singapore and China. Highly polluted area without access to fresh water had been chosen intentionally for its construction.

Infrastructure of the city includes a vast variety of smart solutions: alternative energy sources, water recycling (almost like at space stations), seawater desalination, waste recycling, transportation system organized without any motor vehicles, CCTV, air quality controlling and so forth. General Motors, Philips, Envac, Bosch Group and other major international companies are participating in Tianjin project realization.


More than 70 000 people live in Tianjin now (the city is meant to accommodate up to 350 000 people). Also, 4500 companies are registered in Tianjin, with $30 billions overall share capital. Tianjin construction is planned to be completed by 2020.

There is also ambitious project based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — Masdar eco-city. Project realization has started in 2006. According to its creators, Masdar will be fully electrified by solar panels and other alternative energy sources with minimal carbon footprint.

However, city developers have already admitted that in current circumstances zero-carbon city project is almost infeasible. Now their goal is 50% emission decrease. The project stucks in turmoil: autonomic transportation system and some other solutions weren’t put in exploitation, 2008 financial crisis decreased investors activity though UAE authorities promised to invest $22 billions. Due to construction delays the date of completion was moved to 2030.

Masdar is a car-free city which solves transportation necessities through Personal rapid transit (PRT) — unmanned electrical vehicle system. City route was officially launched in November of 2010. The route connects two key city points, the distance between them is about 1.4 kilometers.

Electric vehicles in Masdar

Developers declare that vehicles (six-seat capsules called CyberCabs) is almost 100% safe and reliable. Robotic capsules can follow each other with 3–4 second interval without collision hazard.

Current population of Masdar — 300 people, almost all of them are postgraduate students from local Science and technology University. Less than 2 000 people are working in Masdar and coming to the city every day, although the amount of visitors had planned to be 20 times bigger. But project creators still have a room for hope: they still believe that Masdar city project will be fully realized and all burdens will be overcome.

Among the smart cities are also known: Songo in South Korea (construction is finished,cost is prognosed to be $40 billions by 2020) and Lavasa in India (private planned city which is going to be completed by 2020, more than $30 billions were invested in construction process).

Lavasa city in Maharashtra state

What does smart city consist of

By Navigant Research consulting agency classification, there are 5 main components of a smart city:

  • Smart Energy — energy supply and energy saving solutions (demand managing, energy efficiency programs and renewable energy sources generating).
  • Smart Water — water resources management through water system upgrading, consumption monitoring, environmental security and flood management.
  • Smart Buildings — buildings which have all engineering and information systems integrated into unified management system (BMS — building management system). Smart buildings provide interconnectivity. For example, heating systems are preparing for the working day, power of ventilation units is regulating in accordance with current temperature, number of people in the room and air quality; system is automatically switching to energy saving mode if there is no people in the building and so on.
  • Smart Government — information technology solutions for provision of public services to citizens for further optimization of working procedures.
  • Smart Transportation — intellectual transport and logistic systems. Traffic management and monitoring, toll payment, emergency response, intellectual parking systems and city lights controlling, smart logistic networking.

Existing projects overview and forecasts

Smart Energy

Many world’s cities have been already using Demand Response system for electricity demand management. It allows to lower electricity consumption in high-load periods. Users get encouraging discounts which motivate them to consume less electricity.

Not only citizens, but also business organizations can participate in Demand Response. For example, Walmart has implemented this system and now the hypermarket is taking a leading place in electricity demand management in the USA.

Energy management system (EMS) responds on a signal for off-loading according to given algorithm. Depending on other indicators in a given room, the system affects ventilation, conditioning, lighting and refrigeration equipment.

Demand Response world’s level of capacity was 39 GW (28 GW in North America). Allegedly, by the end of 2025 Demand Response level will reach 144 GW. State Duma of the Russian Federation is planning to adopt a law regarding smart electricity meters in 2018.

Smart Water

In March 2017, Smart Water project was initiated in Shenzhen by Huawei, Shenzhen Water и China Telecom. Mentioned companies have completely renewed water supply system by mounting 1200 smart water meters based on NarrowBand Internet of Things technology (NB-IoT).

The system provides tools for consumption scheme analysis and leakage prevention, improves water circulation efficiency and optimizes resources consumption. It also provides convenient access to utility services for citizens.

Navigant Research projects that Smart Water industry will show the most active growth in the next five years due to the high risks involved in quality, price and accessibility of fresh water.

Intelligent Water System working scheme

Smart Government

Systems like Russian e-government portal are common practice among other countries. In fact, such systems based on centralized databases act as tools for providing services to citizens and business organizations online through mobile apps and web application interfaces.

Blockchain technologies emergence provides fundamentally new opportunities for e-government development. Ultimate information security makes system data more reliable, than any signed and stamped papers.

Smart contracts allow to automate data operations and set algorithms for its processing based on official regulations. So far realization of such projects is limited because of legal aspects and some other burdens, but it’s just a matter of time. For example, the government of Dubai considers implementation of blockchain technologies in public sector by 2020.

Smart Transportation

This sector comprises vast range of various technologies. But the most interesting projects are related to transportation and freight. Below mentioned solutions are now at the prototype stage and are not applied in world practice. Let’s review several flagship projects.

1. Hyperloop One

Hyperloop One — high-speed vacuum rail route, one of the most famous and popular projects in this field. Aluminium capsules will be transported in tubes by magnets and powerful fans.

Hyperloop One is now at working prototype stage. Cargo transportation tests will be performed in 2020. Passengers transportation services will be available in 2022.

Last month, Hyperloop One announced it raised an additional $85 million in financing, bringing its total haul to $245 million and a likely valuation of more than $700 million.

2. Drone delivery

Amazon Prime Air — drone transportation pioneer. This delivery is fully standalone, drone is managed by integrated electronic device. Maximum carrying capacity is 2.4 kilograms. The project is at pilot testing stage.

Air delivery services face limitations because of aerial regulations, problems of using in densely populated areas and unauthorized interceptions of drones. Despite this, according to DHL logistic trends research, in the next five years the field will flourish.

Total amount of investment in Prime Air is unknown. According to Quora, only operational cost is about $7 billions. Drone delivery legalization in Russia is planned to be completed by 2019.

3. Tube logistics

One of the major logistic development directions is tube delivery or transportation tunnels. As DHL forecasts, such projects will be realized in the next 5 years.

Cargo Sous Terrain — Swiss project of underground transportation network. The system will function on renewable resources. Completion of it is scheduled for 2040. In September 2017 the project has attracted about $25 billions for pilot route construction (Niederbipp — Härkingen — Zürich). Largest Swiss retailers, Coop and Migros are spotted among the major investors of Cargo Sous Terrain.

CargoCap — German tunnel transportation system, designed for retail business. At the moment it is on prototype testing stage. The team project is trying to attract investments, amount is undisclosed.

Maxitube — Russian tube logistics project which is now at working prototype stage. The startup develops tube delivery solutions with robotized electric trolleys (closed passive container capsules).

Maxitube is focused on different sectors: b2b, b2c и p2p.The system organizes a logistic network, which brings together small business representatives (cafes, restaurants, pharmacies, hotels) with larger structures (warehouses, hypermarkets, banks and hospitals). It can carry 5–7 kilograms parcel to any distance.

What is expected

Smart City conception is very attractive not only for newly built cities, but also for integration to existing ones. Many smart city technologies are quite sophisticated on their own, but they can be easily integrated and nowadays such technologies are widely used in projects.

Transportation system of a smart city is still difficult problem to solve. It is impossible to completely refuse ordinary vehicles: limitations on their use don’t produce desired effect, green vehicles aren’t used widely and such vehicles need roads anyway.

All this shows that approach should be fundamentally changed. And tunnel transportation can solve this issue in the most effective way. As Navigant Research forecasts, by 2023 intellectual transportation and logistic systems will attract the largest amount of investments among the 5 mentioned components of a smart city.