The value of the smart city market is predicted to increase by nearly 15% annually for the next five years, ballooning from about $411 billion to almost $821 billion. It represents an enormous opportunity for business and positive change to our world — but only if we get the fundamentals of smart city planning and development right.


What are the features of smart city designs? A smart city is an urban center with an innovative technology infrastructure that operates in many ways like the human body. Just as the human body senses decreased hydration levels and produces thirst — or notices an increased body temperature and produces sweat — smart cities have networks of sensors that monitor and manage urban needs. Think of it as though city airflow functions were the lungs, and transportation the veins and arteries.


Most importantly, citywide sensors work with smart city infrastructure to act as a nervous system. These sensing devices (cameras, sensors, lidar, and others) and the networks that support them — known as the Internet of Things (IoT) — can inform the smart city wirelessly by passing information through the cloud. Together, they provide a continually replenishing stockpile of data for analysts or artificial intelligence software to process, generating actionable insights about city management.


But if this job isn’t carefully undertaken with the proper smart city data management, these cities can create as many problems as they solve. As one would expect with any bold initiative, there are numerous smart city challenges and solutions. Therefore, let’s look at which fundamental principles need to be in place for all of this to work somewhat well.


First, those in charge of smart city planning and development must consider how to handle successful integration. It’s imperative that newly introduced devices don’t compromise current systems. Second, the right people need to be committed to bringing their talents together to create effective solutions. Third, everyone involved must embrace the most innovative and versatile technology options — and update them as new technologies become available. And finally, adequate funding is necessary to ensure the project has the resources it needs to navigate various challenges. If all of these ingredients come together well, investors will be reassured against the “technology risk,” reported by Deloitte, of an uncertain payoff in smart cities in the medium to long term.


The Importance of Smart City Security


Of course, none of this diligence will matter if the smart city is insecure. In addition to the considerations we just outlined, information security must be an underlying priority.


Successful smart cities need to look at the total information security picture to address this concern. For instance, the human element is always the weakest point of attack, so employing reliable cybersecurity experts is critical. These experts can then work with IoT developers and providers to implement measures to ensure ongoing security rigor across the project’s design, production, integration, and performance phases.


One of the smartest ways to commit to security best practices is by using blockchain technology. This is due to the massive amount of data that smart cities generate, which must remain secured and yet available for oversight.


Blockchain is ideal for this use case because of the encryption and methodology employed by cryptocurrency developers. It allows for a completely auditable and unbreakable method of storing and transferring data. Before hackers could gain access to any data encrypted via blockchain, they would have to compromise more than 51% of the network first — a nearly impossible feat.


For this reason, it makes perfect sense that Dubai is committed to blockchain for its smart city development. Dubai leaders’ plans include the ability to run all aspects of the city through the distributed system of blockchain, offering an entirely new way to analyze, share, and verify data.


The Smart City Future Is Coming — Will Your City Be Ready?


With best practices informing smart city projects, urban planners can take advantage of many new options for transforming the urban environment through smart city infrastructure. Starting with great people and a commitment to nondisruptive integration, all stakeholders can be emboldened to pursue a vision of incredible efficiency, safety, and well-being for all residents.


Security must always be central to that mission, and blockchain technology is the obvious way to protect the data flying through the city’s cloud every day. Fortunately, blockchain is a thoroughly tested platform that should integrate well with urban data management infrastructures. Securing smart cities using blockchain technology seems like a realistic and worthwhile goal.


With these principles in mind, we can expect to look ahead to an exciting transformation in urban life for aspiring smart cities that commit to these fundamentals from the outset.