We have been talking about smart cities for years—and they are coming in one form or another—but are they a good investment? A recent study looked into the benefits of smart-city deployments and the results were, well, interesting.

Here’s the background of the research. ESI ThoughtLab studied 100 metro centers for its 2019 Smart City Research Initiative, Building a Hyperconnected City.

The technologies being deployed include: smart-mobility solutions to improve customer satisfaction (38%) and productivity for businesses (32%); smart environmental and energy initiatives to improve health (45%), reduce pollution (44%), and stabilize energy prices (43%). The objective ranges by city, but typically falls into these categories: create business opportunities, fill talent gaps, improve public health, reduce crime, boost productivity, and address income equality.

Basically, the objective of many smart cities is to make it a better place to live for its citizens by connecting different areas of the city. So is it working? The study says yes.

With the exception of predictive policing, all 62 smart-city initiatives that were studied in-depth show positive returns. The largest gains came from mobility and transportation (curb management and congestion charging); energy and water (dynamic electricity pricing and renewable energy); environment (optimizing waste collection and realtime water quality monitoring); public safety (first aid alerts, gunshot sensors, realtime crime mapping); and governance (digital payments).

But wait. There is a challenge: cyber risks. The total cost of cyber loss events in the last year averaged $3.4 million, with 10% suffering losses between $10 million and $20 million. More than half of the cities said that they were not well prepared for cyberattacks. The biggest vulnerabilities were financial and payment systems, IT infrastructure and telecoms, and mobility and transportation.

The solution is quite simple. Many of these cities plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets in the next year.

Here’s the key takeaway: most cities are seeing major economic, financial, and social benefits from their investments in smart technologies, but also greater cyber risks. Not surprising, right? But the cyber threats that come along with smart cities are something that both the government and the construction companies building the cities need to take into consideration, as they are constructing the smart cities of the future.

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Laura Black
Laura Blackeditor