Building Resilient Future-Proof Cities

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In this Ecosystm Insight, our guest author Randeep Sudan shares his views on how Cities of the Future can leverage technology for future resilience and sustainability. “Technology is not the only aspect of Smart City initiatives. Besides technology, we need to revisit organisational and institutional structures, prioritise goals, and design and deploy an architecture with data as its foundation.”

Randeep Sudan, Former Leader World Bank, Founder Multivrez, Board member Ecosystm

Earlier this year, Sudan participated in a panel discussion organised by Microsoft where he shared his views on building resilient and sustainable Cities of the Future. Here are his key messages for policymakers and funding agencies that he shared in that session.   

“Think ahead, Think across, and Think again! Strategic futures and predictive analytics is essential for cities and is critical for thinking ahead. It is also important to think across through data unification and creating data platforms. And the whole paradigm of innovation is thinking again.”

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Ecosystm Predicts: The Top Cities of the Future Trends for 2021

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Public sector organisations are looking at 2021 as the year where they either hobble back to normalcy or implement their successful pilots (that were honed under tremendous pressure). Ecosystm research finds that 60% of government agencies are looking at 2021 as the year they make a recovery to normal – or the normal that finally emerges. The path to recovery will be technology-driven, and this time they will look at scalability and data-driven intelligence.

Ecosystm Advisors Alan Hesketh, Mike Zamora and Sash Mukherjee present the top 5 Ecosystm predictions for Cities of the Future in 2021. This is a summary of our Cities of the Future predictions – the full report (including the implications) is available to download for free on the Ecosystm platform here.

The Top 5 Cities of the Future Trends for 2021

#1 Cities Will Re-start Their Transformation Journey by Taking Stock

In 2021 the first thing that cities will do is introspect and reassess. There have been a lot of abrupt policy shifts, people changes, and technology deployments. Most have been ad-hoc, without the benefit of strategy planning, but many of the services that cities provide have been transformed completely. Government agencies in cities have seen rapid tech adoption, changes in their business processes and in the mindset of how their employees – many who were at the frontline of the crisis – provide citizen services. 

Technology investments, in most cases, took on an unexpected trajectory and agencies will find that they have digressed from their technology and transformation roadmap. This also provides an opportunity, as many solutions would have gone through an initial ‘proof-of-concept’ without the formal rigours and protocols. Many of these will be adopted for longer term applications. In 2021, they will retain the same technology priorities as 2020, but consolidate and strengthen on their spend.  

#2 Cities Will be Instrumented Using Intelligent Edge Devices

The capabilities of edge devices continue to increase dramatically, while costs decline. This reduces the barriers to entry for cities to collect and analyse significantly more data about the city and its people. Edge devices move computational power and data storage as close to the point of usage as possible to provide good performance. Devices range from battery powered IoT devices for data collection through to devices such as smart CCTV cameras with embedded pattern recognition software.

Cities will develop many use cases for intelligent edge devices. These uses will range from enhancing old assets using newer approaches to data collection – through to accelerating the speed and quality of the build of a new asset. The move to data-driven maintenance and decision-making will improve outcomes. 

#3 COVID-19 Will Impact City Design

The world has received a powerful reminder of the vulnerability of densely populated cities, and the importance of planning and regulating public health. COVID-19 will continue to have an impact on city design in 2021.  

A critical activity in controlling the pandemic in this environment is the test-and-trace capabilities of the local public health authorities. Technology to provide automated, accurate, contact tracing to replace manual efforts is now available. Scanning of QR codes at locations visited is proving to be the most widely adopted approach. The willingness of citizens to track their travels will be a crucial aid in managing the spread of COVID-19.  

Early detection of new disease outbreaks, or other high-risk environmental events, is essential to minimise harm. Intelligent edge devices that detect the presence of viruses will become crucial tools in a city’s defence.

Intelligent edge devices will also play a role in managing building ventilation. Well-ventilated spaces are an important factor in controlling virus transmission. But a limited number of buildings have ventilation systems that are capable of meeting those requirements. Property owners will begin to refit their facilities to provide better air movement.  

#4 Technology Vendors Will Emerge as the Conductors of Cities of the Future

The built environment comprises not only of the physical building, but also the space around the buildings and building operations. The real estate developer/investor owns the building – the urban fabric, the relationship of buildings to each other, the common space and the common services provided to the city, is owned by the City. The question is who will coordinate the players, e.g. business, citizens, government and the built environment. Ideally the government should be the conductor. However, they may not have sufficient experience or knowledge to properly implement this role. This means a capable and knowledgeable neutral consultant will at least initially fill this role. There is an opportunity for a technology vendor to fill that consulting role and impact the city fabric. This enhanced city environment will be requested by the Citizen, driven by the City, and guided by Technology Vendors. 2021 will see leading technology vendors working very closely with cities.

#5 Compliance Will be at the Core of Citizen Engagement Initiatives

Many Smart Cities have long focused on online services – over the last couple of years mobile apps have further improved citizen services. In 2020, the pandemic challenged government agencies to continue to provide services to citizens who were housebound and had become more digital savvy almost overnight. And many cities were able to scale up to fulfill citizen expectations.

However, in 2021 there will be a need to re-evaluate measures that were implemented this year – and one area that will be top priority for public sector agencies is compliance, security and privacy.

The key drivers for this renewed focus on security and privacy are:

  • The need to temper the focus of ‘service delivery at any cost’ and further remind agencies and employees that security and privacy must comply with standard to allow the use of government data.
  • The rise of cyberattacks that target not only essential infrastructure, but also individual citizens and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
  • The rise of app adoption by city agencies – many that have been developed by third parties. It will become essential to evaluate their compliance to security and privacy requirements.

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The Top 5 Cities of the Future trends for 2020

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5/5 (1) The future of cities is critical to the future of the global economy, given that they now account for more than half of the world’s population and more than 80% of global GDP. Cities around the world have very similar struggles and objectives: ensuring a competitive economy, a sustainable environment, and a high quality of life for their citizens. We look at the  trends for cities in 2020 from the lens of data, mobility, energy, public safety, and jobs.

This article presents the top 5 Cities of the Future trends for 2020 and the related technology markets. It draws on the latest data from the global Ecosystm IoT Study that is live and ongoing on the Ecosystm platform and based on qualitative analysis by Ecosystm Board Advisor Randeep Sudan and Ecosystm Principal Analyst Sash Mukherjee.


The top 5 Cities of the Future trends for 2020

Here are the top 5 Cities of the Future trends for 2020 that we believe will impact governments, businesses and citizens in 2020:

  1. The Emergence of Data Smart Cities

The global economy is fast becoming digital, and data is at the very heart of a growing digital economy. Cities are increasingly adopting Data Smart strategies, a trend that will dominate the market in 2020.

Data Smart strategies focus on addressing data silos and making data available across organisational boundaries for better decision making. They expand the availability of data through real-time capture with the help of IoT devices and leverage the power and promise of data by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics. Singapore is an excellent example of how Data Smart cities are designing their data strategies. Singapore‘s data governance framework includes the concept of Single Sources of Truth (SSOT) – where all government stakeholders have access to the same data. To make access easier, there are data aggregators, the Trusted Centers (TCs).  Not only has the Government thought out the data aggregation and management angle, but also of digital enablers for the use of AI, including a code repository for AI and platform for the rapid development of AI-based solutions.

  1. Intelligent Infrastructure for Smart Mobility

Traffic congestion and pollution have become an inevitable by-product of urbanisation, especially with the rise of individually owned cars. Several cities across the world have tried wide-ranging initiatives such as road space rationing and congestion pricing.  However, the success of these initiatives will lie with intelligent infrastructure and smart enforcement.

2020 will see several cities making investments in demand-responsive services, where public transportation systems can respond in real-time to the changing traffic needs of the city rather than run on predetermined routes and schedules. There will also be a rise in the number of transport options, including mass transit, car-sharing, bike-sharing, ride-sharing, and personal mobility devices.

  1. Smart Energy Ecosystem

Urbanisation will see higher energy costs, and a fierce competition for resources. Smart Cities are actively focusing on smarter energy options that focus on reducing energy consumption, lowering emissions, and providing better service and support to consumers.

The Energy & Utilities industry has been the first adopters of Smart Energy solutions and as they introduce smart meters for the consumers, they open the market up. The initiatives range from promoting a greener environment, expanding the use of renewable energy, and introducing ‘smart’ solutions to utility providers, enterprises, and homes.They can also help Energy and Utilities companies to comply with government regulations and meet sustainability and carbon emission goals. On the consumer side, going forward, the Construction industry is expected to be the frontrunner in promoting energy efficiency, with increasing uptake of Smart Building solutions.

  1. The Rise of the Gig Economy

All Cities of the Future need to prepare for the workforce of the future. The gig economy will have a huge number of part-time, contract workers and freelance workers. This trend will only go up as more millennials and the Gen Z enter the workforce. They will force organisations to innovate and make employee experience a key business priority.

Simultaneously, there has been a steep rise in the sharing economy, seeing peer-to-peer (P2P) economic activities, based primarily on providing a service or sharing access to goods and services. Community-based online platforms are on the rise, and several industries – such as financial services, hospitality, and retail – are being disrupted in both mature and emerging economies.

  1. Increased Use of AI in Public Safety

In this world of hyper-surveillance, cities use CCTV cameras for multiple reasons ranging from traffic monitoring, remote asset tracking, and crime prevention. Airports and police departments have been actively using facial recognition. They have also been experimenting with advanced video analytics that can identify persons of interest through other parameters such as gait.

Surveillance is not the only use of AI in governments. Predictive analytics is being used by police departments and the judiciary, for risk assessment and crime reduction. AI for process optimisation also impacts public safety. While discussions and debates on ethics will be rampant, most governments will invest in AI for public safety.


Ecosystm in partnership with SGInnovate, the government-backed organisation that promotes Deep Tech in Singapore, released a series of four reports covering areas of mutual interest: Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, Cities of the Future and Healthtech.

‘Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Cities of the Future Trends for 2020’ report is a part of this collaboration and is available for download from Ecosystm and SGInnovate websites.


Download Report: The Top 5 Cities of the Future trends for 2020

The full findings and implications of the report ‘Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Cities of the Future trends for 2020’ are available for download from the Ecosystm platform. Signup for Free to download the report and gain insight into ‘Top 5 Cities of the Future trends for 2020’, implications for tech buyers, implications for tech vendors, insights, and more resources. Download Link Below ?

Top 5 Cities of the Future Trends for 2020