Smart Cities are Getting Smarter in Surprising Ways

New technologies and approaches spur five key smart cities strategy shifts
07 Nov 2019

It’s time for smart cities to embrace new technologies and approaches to combat a growing list of challenges, states global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research. In its new whitepaper, 5 Ways Smart Cities Are Getting Smarter, ABI Research identifies digital twins & urban modeling, resilient cities, circular cities, micro-mobility, and smart spaces as the five new urban strategy shifts that will make smart cities surprisingly smarter.

Cities have faced challenges like congestion, pollution, and safety for decades, and most have a plan to combat them. While they continue to face these traditional issues, new threats such as cyberattacks, climate change, and other emerging problems are mounting. “This new reality requires new approaches, leveraging a range of new technologies to create true strategy shifts,” says Dominique Bonte, Vice President at ABI Research.

While smart city tech investments will reach over US$61 billion globally in 2026, most of the expenditure will be for incremental improvements. “In fact, it is an illusion to believe that adding just a shallow layer of IoT technology to legacy urban environments will allow cities to address the urban challenges of the future, ranging from the provision of sustainable energy to the adoption of smart mobility and the construction of resilient cities,” Bonte explains.

The first strategy shift on the horizon is holistic, real-time modeling (digital twins of entire cities), and the automated, generative design of urban environments, both brownfield and greenfield. “Modeling cities and optimizing operations through digital twins is great; designing them from scratch with Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools is better,” says Bonte.

The second strategy shift is migrating from a focus on “safe and secure cities” to resilient cities. This shift is where next-generation technologies and paradigms can be fully leveraged. Due to their dense character, urban areas are extremely vulnerable to both loss of life and economic value (GDP). Cities need to be ready and prepared for such events in terms of evacuation emergency response procedures. To make cities fully resilient, it is vital to be able to predict (with the help of advanced AI and deep learning approaches) and, whenever possible, avoid disasters.

Moving from green and sustainable cities to circular cities is the third strategy shift. “It is about turning entire cities into circular entities, eliminat­ing their “outside of the city” footprints entirely by achieving large degrees of self-sup­port and self-sufficiency in areas like energy generation,” says Bonte. Sharing, recycling, repairing, refurbishing, and repurposing materials, assets, and natural resources are guiding principles of circular economies. “This represents the endgame for smart cities.”

Adding micro-mobility into the mix is a strategy shift known as Mobility 2.0. With mass market uptake of both driverless vehicles and consumer-owned EVs not expected any time soon, cities are embracing electric, two-wheel, micro-mobility to reduce congestion (through their innate ability to mingle with four-wheel traffic) and provide cleaner mobility to address rampant air pollution. Bonte explains, “While earlier docked, non-electric bike-sharing schemes never really took off, citizens across the globe are now massively adopting dockless electric bike and scooter sharing, and to a lesser extent electric motorbike sharing, offering a much higher level of convenience due to their ubiquitous availability and powered operation.”

The last strategy shift is rethinking the urban built environment through smart spaces. Many of the shifts discussed earlier are impacting how public space is used. The most obvious example is the decommissioning and repurposing of parking lots and buildings in cities enjoying high levels of car-sharing adoption. Catering to new forms of mobility, modular roads, and energy-generating roads and sidewalks are just some of the possibilities considered. The expansion and active management of green spaces is also high on the agenda of urban designers.

Cities are experiencing somewhat of a revolution as to how they plan to tackle the myriad fun­damental challenges that they are facing. “Bolder, more holistic, cross-vertical, and closed-loop approaches are required to optimize and maximize the potential of available resources and services. This can only be done by leveraging a range of very advanced technologies including, urban modeling and digital twins, AI and automation, demand-response software, edge/cloud platforms, and generative design,” Bonte concludes.

These findings are from ABI Research’s 5 Ways Smart Cities Are Getting Smarter whitepaper. This whitepaper is part of the company’s Smart Cities & Smart Spaces research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights.

To learn more about the key strategy shifts, and the issues and challenges to their adoption, download our free whitepaper, 5 Ways Smart Cities Are Getting Smarter


About ABI Research

ABI Research provides strategic guidance to visionaries, delivering actionable intelligence on the transformative technologies that are dramatically reshaping industries, economies, and workforces across the world. ABI Research’s global team of analysts publish groundbreaking studies often years ahead of other technology advisory firms, empowering our clients to stay ahead of their markets and their competitors. 

For more information about ABI Research’s services, contact us at +1.516.624.2500 in the Americas, +44.203.326.0140 in Europe, +65.6592.0290 in Asia-Pacific or visit

About ABI Research

ABI Research is a global technology intelligence firm uniquely positioned at the intersection of technology solution providers and end-market companies. We serve as the bridge that seamlessly connects these two segments by providing exclusive research and expert guidance to drive successful technology implementations and deliver strategies proven to attract and retain customers.

ABI Research 是一家全球性的技术情报公司,拥有得天独厚的优势,充当终端市场公司和技术解决方案提供商之间的桥梁,通过提供独家研究和专业性指导,推动成功的技术实施和提供经证明可吸引和留住客户的战略,无缝连接这两大主体。

For more information about ABI Research’s services, contact us at +1.516.624.2500 in the Americas, +44.203.326.0140 in Europe, +65.6592.0290 in Asia-Pacific, or visit

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