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HOW IMPORTANT ARE CONNECTED CITIES FOR THE FUTURE OF INNOVATION?

Posted by Isobel McEwan 14 March 2017 Innovation Consultancy

Cities have long been the hub to which globally facing, innovative companies gravitate. But what are connected cities, and what impact will they have on the future of innovation?

WHAT IS A CONNECTED CITY?

In many ways cities have been connected for centuries. From the first ships allowing merchants from across the globe to flow in and out of their trade centres, to the likes of Amsterdam and London playing host to the biggest international airports in the world, cities have constantly attracted business, commerce and as a result, innovation.

So what do commentators mean when they say connected cities? The term connected cities refers to the latest development in the evolution of these cities, internet connectivity and most notably IoT (the Internet of Things).

According to a recent article by Media Post, IoT technology is set to take a huge leap forwards in the coming months, with US company Verizon collaborating with Ericsson and Samsung to bring 5G technology to 11 of the USA’s biggest cities in an attempt to ‘ultimately expand the Internet of Things with new capabilities.’

Citiscope contributor David Hatch likewise wrote that London is keen to embrace the potential that IoT can bring. Being run as a competition for six startups to solve some of London’s most pressing environmental and urban challenges, the competition aims to act as ‘a testbed for the latest advancements’ and become a model on which other cities keen to embrace IoT technology, such as Barcelona and Songdo in South Korea, can base their future connectivity. 

HOW CAN THEY BENEFIT INNOVATION?

This is not simply connectivity for its own sake. A number of commentators have noted that the rise of connected cities and the increasing popularity of IoT could have wide reaching impact on a city’s capacity to innovate. 

The Huffington Post recently wrote that though cities have always been constantly evolving, ‘the next wave of transformative change may come from seeing the whole city as an innovation platform.’ It is argued that by laying a virtual layer of internet connectivity over the already tightly woven web of human interactions that take place in a city, IoT ‘gives the various organisations involved in making and running our cities the chance to integrate, to break down the silos, to design services in new ways that make sense for the 21st Century.’

Singularity Hub, a site dedicated to covering technology breakthroughs and trends, argued that the cities of the future will be innovation hubs, as with ‘the rise of technology comes increasing mobilization’ and ‘digital awareness.’ It is argued that these technological changes have the capacity to not just continue technological innovation but to actually inspire social innovation too. By investing in becoming technology hubs, cities can ‘not only create jobs and boost the economy, but also integrate the very culture of innovation into their communities.’ 

It is clear that as IoT and internet connectivity in general continues to be invested in as the primary source of development in cities, the conditions needed to foster innovation will be increased. Alongside the attractiveness of the globally-connected city, IoT actually alters how residents and workers of the city interact with each other and their fellow connected city residents across the world, offering many new opportunities for borderless interactions, idea exchange and creative problem solving.

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