Smart City Startups Present 2019 Predictions

January 21, 2019

Credit: Soofa

A trio of startup leaders who work with cities across the globe has issued a timely and telling set of predictions for smart cities in the coming year. In crafting the article, originally published by Meeting of the Minds on January 17, the authors, Edward Krafcik, Vice President of City Development at Soofa, Ellory Monk, Co-founder of The Atlas, and Eyal Feder-Levy, Co-founder of ZenCity, issue a clarion call for collaboration on all fronts. “These predictions fundamentally reflect the need for the smart city movement to be more empathetic to citizen needs and for the relationship between vendor and city government to continue to evolve into one of collaboration and less of a contentious sales pitch of the shiniest, newest technology.”

The authors share key insights for urban planners, smart city teams and the technology companies that provide products and services to the growing base of municipalities engaged in developing citizen-driven solutions.

“As three startups working with city governments around the world, our predictions for the future of the smart city in 2019 are shaped not only by our work with local government leaders, but also our learnings from citizens, who ultimately are the end customers and users of smart city technologies,” said Krafcik, Monk and Feder-Levy in their collaborative and instructive writing.

Predictions for smart cities in 2019 explained in the paper range from diverse and dynamic public private partnerships (P3s), to the need for pilot projects that solve problems at scale, while focusing on civic engagement as a top priority. The authors also discuss the overabundance of conferences (and the impact of that reality), the increase of inter-departmental RFIs and RFPs, privacy, and the gigantic role of AI, as “data continues to be the fuel powering the smart city industry.”

As detailed in the Meeting of the Minds piece, the start-up authors list and describe their savvy and spot-on nine predictions, which include:

1. Initiatives that can’t be measured won’t be started

2. More interdepartmental smart city RFIs and RFPs

3. P3s will diversify and engage the long tail of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs)

4. Cities and vendors will lead with the needs of citizens

5. Innovation will go deeper in cities

6. Pushback on smart city conferences

7. AI will prevail

8. “Off the shelf” solutions will cater to SMBs

9. Cities and vendors will be more accountable for privacy than ever before

Among notable commentary included in the paper, the authors urge smart city collaborators to consider what they perceive to be essential elements of success, especially for small and medium cities which comprise the vast majority of global cities. They note that the City of Austin’s Smart Mobility Group has a P3 Expression of Interest Form. Its purpose, they note, is “evaluating pilot projects more objectively, and ensuring they have the potential to solve a real problem facing citizens, at scale.”

Where civic engagement is concerned, the mantra is “lead with the need.” Asking residents for their input on which problems the city can help solve using data and technology, as well as what city departments need improvement, and why. The authors, which include the Co-founder of ZenCity, reinforce the need for “upfront, ongoing, meaningful engagement being critical to ensuring smart city efforts are both inclusive and responsive to residents’ needs.”

Data, clearly, is driving progress in the smart city space. IoT sensors, civic engagement platforms are two key ways to gather data. As the authors see it, however, “Data alone is not enough,” noting that “Artificial Intelligence (AI) has matured into accessible, replicable use cases that make sense.”

Additional insights point to “small and medium cities tapping into technological solutions that are cost efficient and have been tests by other cities,” according to the start-up leaders who coordinated the 2019 predictions. Last but surely not least, the authors issue a warning for both cities and vendors alike, forecasting that residents will continue to increase the level of accountability, “demanding a higher standard of data privacy” from by cities and vendors.

In sharing their 2019 smart city predictions, the three authors present first-hand experience and forward-thinking insights professionals on the smart city scene. Edward Krafcik, Vice President of City Development at Soofa, Ellory Monk, Co-founder of The Atlas, and Eyal Feder-Levy, Co-founder of ZenCity, represent strong educational and professional backgrounds. Their savvy startups offer products and services which work to build relationships and make connections: among urban planners and the vendors who can bridge the digital divide; between cities and those who work and live in them; among smart city leaders and those who bring solutions to them, through civic engagement, data and technology. It’s little wonder the Meeting of the Minds piece predicting the shape of things to come is making news. For its part, Meeting of the Minds Meeting is a 501-c3 non-profit organization focused on the future of environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable cities. We’re a knowledge sharing platform that spotlights the leaders and projects making cities more livable, equitable, and sustainable.

The companies the authors are devoted to help shed light on the perspective behind the predictions. Soofa describes itself as a real world communication platform which creates neighborhood bulletin boards for the 21st century. A female-founded company launched out of MIT and Harvard in 2014, the company says it introduces technology into the public right of way to improve citizen experiences, with the belief that technology benefits everyone in the neighborhood. In giving cities a voice, the company, according to background provided on its website, prides itself on “making social cities with solar-powered, electronic displays that are smart, social and sustainable.” The Atlas is an online community that helps cities, counties, utility officials build relationships with partners to jumpstart progress. Its primary focus areas center around citizen engagement, climate change and mobility. For its part, ZenCity is a platform which the company describes as leveraging AI, data and analytics to better understand citizen needs on a wide scale, as shared on social media, municipality hotlines, etc. Its primary service revolves around helping cities around the globe incorporate data into decision-making.

The key message is clear, and worthy of attention as the new year begins, according to the authors: The focus of cities and private sector companies will be "a shift toward solving real problems for citizens, effectively, efficiently and sustainably, both environmentally and economically." No wonder these predictions have already started to generate praise, invite discussion, and pave the way for those involved in making progress toward smarter, more livable cities around the world.


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