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Smart cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future

As municipal leaders are realizing that smart-city strategies start with people, not technology, the McKinsey Global Institute released a report on how technology and data can be used to purposefully make better decisions and deliver a better quality of life.

This report explores the question: what makes a city smart? Part of the answer was found in looking at current technology deployment in 50 cities around the world. Indeed, smart-city technologies have the potential to improve the urban quality of life for residents. As smart cities change the economics of infrastructure, it creates room for various types of partnerships and private-sector participation.

In fact, smart cities put data and digital technology to work to make better decisions and improve the quality of life. More comprehensive, real-time data gives agencies the ability to watch events as they unfold, understand how demand patterns are changing, and respond with faster and lower-cost solutions. Using digital signage or mobile apps to deliver real-time information about delays enables riders to adjust their routes on the fly. Installing IoT sensors on existing physical infrastructure can help crews fix problems before they turn into breakdowns and delays. Another example is remote-patient-monitoring systems have the potential to reduce the health burden in high-income cities by more than 4 percent. These systems use digital devices to take vital readings, then transmit them securely to doctors in another location for assessment. This data can alert both patient and doctor when early intervention is needed, heading off complications and hospitalizations.

In conclusion, becoming a smart city is not a strategy for job creation, but smart solutions can make local labor markets more efficient and slightly lower the cost of living. If some cities are starting their transformations with inherent advantages such as wealth, density, and existing high-tech industries, even places that lack these ingredients can set themselves apart with vision, good management, a willingness to break with conventional ways of doing things, and a relentless commitment to meeting the needs of residents.

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