The term ‘Smart Cities’ first gained traction back in the 1990s, when it was adopted as a way to illustrate the use of technology and innovation in urban development. Since then, the world has become increasingly urbanized; as of 2020, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and that number is expected to increase to nearly 70% by 2050. This rapid urbanization will put increased pressure on resources, and the demand for intelligent, sustainable environments that address the needs of citizens whilst also offering a high quality of life will escalate.

While smart city projects have, until recently, been largely ad hoc, we are now seeing the emergence of the first truly connected cities, with everything from smart parking and smart traffic management to smart street lighting and smart waste management becoming the norm, rather than the exception. These cases combine a mix of enhanced efficiency and higher quality of living with reduced costs and urban problem solving – all leading to a better quality of life for urban dwellers.

That said, the smart city concept offers different opportunities for different cities, meaning the needs of cities in developing countries may not be the same as their more developed counterparts. According to the United Nations, the immediate need for everyone is to provide adequate urban infrastructure, and in the process of meeting those demands smart infrastructure applications may provide the way for developing cities to achieve leapfrogging through technology.

The advent of 5G will accelerate the adoption of smart city technology, enabling higher speeds, greater data transmission, and better performance. 5G will allow a massive increase in the amount of data being exchanged and embedded sensors will become pervasive. The result will be information on everything from air quality and traffic patterns to the amount of trash in bins.

Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the need to decrease or remove human intervention, bringing together technology, government, and society to enable a smart economy, smart mobility, smart living, smart governance, smart healthcare, and a smart environment in order to address the rapidly changing needs of society.