Louie DiPalma: Smart cities refers to how cities are using sensors to automate processes across transportation, payments, communications, and security. It also refers to futuristic, exciting technologies that many cities are exploring, such as delivery drones, autonomous vehicles, and urban aerial taxis, a.k.a. flying cars. I know it sounds farfetched, but there are actually dozens of startups developing promising prototypes. So what's driving these smart city trends? First, it's government stimulus, but there also have been many breakthroughs in artificial intelligence software and enhanced connectivity from 5G telecom networks.
For transportation, many cities are exploring congestion pricing. They're installing electronic scooters. They're rolling out shareable bikes, adding bike lanes, and they're implementing contactless payment systems for public transit.
For congestion pricing, crowded cities are charging drivers a toll when they drive into a city. London actually pioneered the first congestion pricing system over a decade ago, and it's been tremendously successful.
These systems bring about numerous benefits, such as directly raising money from the tolls. They also raise money by promoting higher utilization of public transit. They increase pedestrian walkspace because when you have less cars, you need less parking spaces.
For safety, many cities, public venues, and schools are looking into next-generation metal detectors. These systems don't require you to empty your pockets when you enter a venue, which brings about the benefit in that there can continue to be a free flow of traffic so there aren't large lines and crowds that form at the entrance of a venue. These systems are still highly effective.
The pandemic had the effect of stimulating smart city adoption. The Infrastructure Bill stimulus, though, has the potential to shift smart city adoption into overdrive because the United States has actually underinvested relative to most other nations.
So many cities are now in catch-up mode, and the stimulus combined with breakthroughs in artificial intelligence software present very ripe conditions for growth and smart city innovation over the next five years.