Today over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and that number is expected to rise to two-thirds—or over six billion people—by 2050. This inexorable growth has increased strains on the environment and created difficult economic and living conditions for people living in cities across the world. From physical infrastructure deterioration to urban pollution, researchers continue to explore how broadband-enabled technology can alleviate these stresses as the urban population rises.
Leaders at the municipal level have focused traditionally on how smart city technology can improve efficiency “behind the scenes,” but how the Internet of Things (IoT) is improving our everyday quality of life is taking center stage. Today, broadband not only connects us to family, work, and each other, it enables us to maintain a real-time connection with our municipalities. Traffic updates, bus schedules, weather reports, crime updates – even available parking spaces – are at our fingertips.
But it takes a combination of technology, social, and policy engineering to harmonize the relationship between our cities and connected devices, and then leverage that relationship to create measurable increases to quality of life. A McKinsey report identified three connectivity layers that make up effective smart city operations. It’s not as simple as a top-down or bottom-up approach, but a meet-in-the-middle strategy that involves a mix of smart private and public management, usable applications and data analytics, and a critical mass of connected individuals.
Operating at their full potential, researchers found that smart city technologies have improved key indicators of urbanites’ quality of life by 10-30%. These indicators include environmental quality, reduced commute time and emergency response time, social connectedness, among others. Additionally, smart cities can reshape the business landscape and create new avenues for entrepreneurship and operational efficiency.
Under this backdrop, strong cybersecurity and privacy standards to protect cities and their residents from bad actors are more important than ever. USTelecom advocates for policies that support broadband deployment for smart-city growth while maintaining these standards, and in fact, our members were among the earliest to adopt best practices to secure their infrastructure against cybercriminals.
USTelecom is committed to working with our members and policymakers to maximize the impact of broadband investment dollars with the goal of getting every American, in our largest cities and rural areas alike, online to reap the many benefits of broadband connectivity.