• May 2015

Cities of the Future: Futurists Forecast Smarter, Greener Metropolises

“Cities are only a means to a way of life, and whatever we do over the next 40 years will determine the quality of life for millions. I am convinced that we need radically new designs … that can lead us to more sustainable cities where people will lead much happier lives.” — Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia

By Michael Vidikan
Future in Focus

Propelled by drivers in all five STEEP categories (social, technological, environmental, economic, and political), many of the world’s cities are striving to become greener and smarter.

A rising number of cities are pursuing environmental sustainability and embracing intelligent systems not only for their own sake (to cut costs, to run more efficiently, and to better serve their residents), but also for the sake of the greater world (to reduce carbon emissions and to inspire other cities to do the same).

Many cities are succeeding on both counts. They are employing a growing variety of intelligent tools (cloud computing, social networking, apps, sensors, crowdsourcing, big data analytics, and more) and experimenting with new materials, methods, and systems that enhance sustainability and improve their residents’ lives.

A smart, environmentally sustainable city serves — in the words of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan — as “a shining city on the hill,” guiding other cities to follow its example and find their own innovative solutions and paths to intelligence and sustainability.

Scroll down for seven approaches that can make cities smarter and greener, and insights on the business impact those approaches will have on the cities that embrace them.

Business Implications of Smarter, Greener Cities:

  1. Public-private partnerships. The world’s most successful and innovative cities are no longer content to wait for state, provincial, and national governments, as well as international bodies, to solve global problems like climate change. Their drive to tackle such challenges and to pursue “radically new designs” makes them increasingly willing to enter into public-private partnerships that will help them become more sustainable. Given that most people and economic activity are now found in cities, these efforts can make a difference on a global scale.
  2. Cap-and-trade programs. The success of Tokyo’s cap-and-trade program may prompt many other cities worldwide to follow suit. By the end of the decade, dozens of other cities may introduce their own cap-and-trade programs rather than wait for state or national action.
  3. Big data. Cities are gearing up to employ big data to improve municipal services. But like Rio de Janeiro, many cities are still in the monitor-and-react phase of this process. Cities will have a growing need for improved data analytics that will allow them to make the best possible use of the flood of data provided by mobile phones, GPS, traffic cameras, social media, banks, retailers, and others.
  4. Mobility plans. Sampo Hietanen of ITS Finland — a nonprofit, public-private sector association that promotes innovation in transportation services — foresees a future in which urban commuters buy mobility plans (just as they now buy phone plans) based on their individual needs. Young urban adults (US Millennials and people in their 20s throughout the world), who tend to value convenience, spontaneity, connectedness, and sharing (access rather than ownership), will be the primary consumers of such mobility services.
  5. Factors that make sustainability a success. As the reluctance of the Chinese to move to Tianjin Eco-City suggests, cities built from scratch — no matter how innovative or sustainable — may need a connection to a larger metropolitan community in order to succeed. A better life needs to offer connection and convenience in addition to sustainability.
  6. Sustainable vehicles. As a growing number of cities become less welcoming of cars (and their concomitant traffic and pollution), urban markets will become increasingly open to more sustainable vehicles — everything from electric vehicles (EVs) to electric scooters, bicycles, and other innovative vehicles that merge the values of environmental sustainability and convenience.
  7. Innovative construction materials. In their push to become more sustainable, city governments will expand the market for sustainable construction materials, whether hardwood substitutes, pollution-absorbing materials, or other innovative materials.

Would you like more insights on this problem-solving area?

The remainder of the eight-page brief from which the approaches above are drawn looks at some of the innovative technologies being developed by the world’s “shining cities” in their quest to be greener and smarter. The brief:

  • Examines factors that drive cities to innovate toward intelligence and sustainability,
  • Describes some newly implemented solutions, and
  • Explores some of the business implications of the drive for smarter, greener metropolises.

If you’d like to read the entire brief, and gain access to hundreds of other future-focused information, visit FutureInFocus.com to view the affordable subscription options.

Michael Vidikan is the founder and president of Future in Focus, a strategic foresight and consulting firm that helps companies see years or even decades into the future to make better long-term decisions today.

Vidikan is a graduate of the MBA program at The George Washington University, where he also received his undergraduate degree in business and psychology.

When he’s not focusing on the future, you can find him experimenting in the kitchen, testing out the latest interactive gaming technologies, or volunteering in his community and raising money for Movember, a global organization committed to changing the face of men’s health.

For more information about Future in Focus, contact Michael Vidikan at michael@futureinfocus.com.