Perhaps the greatest challenge for businesses looking to get involved in this latest innovation trend is narrowing the scope of “smart cities." Thinking about all of the interconnected products and services that make a city run, it’s hard to single out a particular area where a company can become a leader.

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Rather than trying to tackle smart city innovation as a whole, there are 5 main pillars where companies can add value.


Without a smart payment model, there would be no value in most smart city technologies. When citizens can spend money on events, entertainment, restaurants and more without any friction, there is a foundation for a successful smart city.

Today’s smart payment technologies are just a preview of what commerce will look like in tomorrow’ smart cities. Rather than just paying with a mobile device, smart commerce will tap into citizen identities to drive personalized sales and programs.

Some stores are experimenting with push notifications that are sent based on proximity to brick-and-mortar locations today - but smart commerce will go a step further to understand the needs of specific citizens in real time.

The challenge will be designing a user experience that satisfies the diverse city population. When the UX is universally appealing and the technology provides convenience in all use cases, smart cities can build around the system.

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Cities are already hubs of entertainment - sporting events, concerts, community events, etc. But much like today’s IoT, this entertainment is disconnected. In a smart city, citizens will expect to take out their smartphone and see a fully-integrated calendar of possible events complete with transaction capabilities for tickets, loyalty programs and more.

Before smart cities can achieve this level of entertainment integration, there are multiple pieces of technology that require innovation. Ticketing services, point-of-sale devices, social touch points, and a big data platform that sits on top of all forms of entertainment throughout the city are just a few of the things that must become smarter before a smart city is possible.


Smart cars already exist today and autonomous vehicles seem like more of an inevitability at this point. However, transportation in a smart city is more than just cars.

Every aspect of transportation will be integrated into the smart grid. Citizens will see bike, bus, and taxi availability; parking will be frictionless and transparent; car sharing will be smarter; IoT innovation will help sort out traffic patterns and more.

All of these aspects of smart transportation will require sophisticated underlying technology built to tap into the open data platforms that will power smart cities.


The smart home is the current iteration of this aspect of smart cities. But in a smart city, innovation will go beyond voice-activated lighting or intelligent thermostats.

Smart city housing and offices will require these services to become seamless. All aspects of living and work spaces should go dark until needed, whether it’s heating, lighting, security or anything else. There’s still plenty of room for innovative companies to bring more efficient machine learning and analytics to this space.


There’s no doubt that energy efficiency is among the biggest opportunities for smart city innovation. With a smart irrigation system, a single homeowner could save 25 gallons of water per day. If a company can scale these savings to a city as a whole, thousands of gallons of water could be saved on a daily basis. And if that scales to more cities and states, water efficiency can increase exponentially.

Consider how this same concept can be applied to electricity, recycling, or waste management and it’s clear that the “smart” movement could quickly overcome the challenges of urbanization trends.

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All 5 of these pillars share three common themes within the Internet of Things - automatic device connectivity, leveraging big data and analytics for faster decision making, and discovering new feedback loops by becoming more intimately connected with the city.

The reality is that the potential use cases within a smart city are nearly endless. There are certain sectors that might require more work than others, but it’s up to individual companies to see where they can apply their unique specialties.

Smart City innovations are about to take off and change our lives in a big way. Download our latest ebook to see who is disrupting our cities, The Business Opportunity of Smart Cities.

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