At the beginning of a new calendar year, it’s quite common to question challenges and trends to watch for the next 12 months. What about Smart Cities? What will they look like in 2024?
Generally speaking, cities have been experiencing a deep transformation in the last decade to mirror the evolution of landscape and people. Nowadays cities house over half the world’s population and are vital to the global economy, but they are also profoundly and often dramatically hit by extreme weather events, natural disasters, armed conflicts, and geopolitical issues. Analysts expect them to increasingly be under the spotlight and raise their voice on key global changes ignited by digitalization, the climate crisis, and socio-economic progress.
From an innovation perspective, the Internet of Things and technologies such as the metaverse and digital twins will continue to drive urban planning and management, but the most probable game changer will be Artificial Intelligence. Many cities have already piloted AI and are specifically exploring the potential of generative AI and large language models. The adoption is likely to grow in 2024 with a focus on delivering new services to residents or improving existing ones.
However, the integration of AI in cities poses more than one challenge. Privacy and ethical concerns, as well as cybersecurity considerations, are the most critical issues that cities are dealing with. Local administrations are looking at national and international regulatory bodies to have clear guidelines and transparency around AI use cases. In Europe, the implementation will be regulated by the AI Act, the world’s first comprehensive AI law. The US Congress is also working on dedicated legislation, in the meantime some American cities and states have already passed laws limiting the use of AI in sensitive areas such as police investigations. Amid the excitement and the concerns surrounding this technology, there is an acknowledgment that the opportunities that AI has in store for cities are really huge.
Thinking of city services and applications, where will we spot the most interesting changes in 2024? According to many urban experts, mobility is the area to watch. Cities are urged to revolve around sustainable and low carbon transportation systems, so this year we will probably see increased investments and new policies to spread hydrogen and battery-electric vehicles, encourage public transport and zero-emission urban logistics, and better manage car parking. New technologies will enable more secure and intelligent transportation with smart infrastructures for motorways and railways, collision avoidance solutions, and more. Micromobility systems will probably be revised to maximize public benefits (cleaner air, reduced traffic, etc.) while supporting operators to provide quality, long-lasting services.
Urban green is also among promising trends to watch. Parks and gardens are fundamental to cool down the temperature in cities and prevent the heat island effect, and contribute to the improvement of air quality. Recent studies proved their role on the mental health of citizens, thus stimulating investments and plans around urban forestation. A new wave of environmental sensors and monitoring systems is likely to be commissioned by cities and municipalities.
In 2024, cities are expected to face a season of fluidity, accelerating their digital journeys and transformative shifts. As Internet of Things and technology experts, we can’t wait to pioneer and support innovative Smart City projects!