According to the UN, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050. North America is currently the most urbanized region in the world, with 82% of the population living in urban areas. Globally, there are 33 megacities with over 10 million residents, and that number is expected to jump to 43 megacities by 2030.

There’s no question about it: cities are the future. And if they want to survive, they must learn to work smarter, not harder in order to serve their citizens. Cities across America are taking notice – 66% of cities report they are investing in smart city technology to improve the quality of life for their citizens. The biggest prediction is that the term “smart city” will soon transition into the “contemporary city” as more and more cities incorporate smart technology into everyday life, and it becomes more commonplace to have cities operated by IoT sensors and artificial intelligence.

So, what’s next in smart city innovation? Here are the top 5 predictions for smart cities in the coming years:

Interoperability – Most cities already have some form of smart technology at work within their city limits. The biggest prediction for the future of smart cities is connecting all of those smart buildings, cars, sensors, devices and applications into one seamless, interoperable unit so they work together for a purpose, not independently as a disconnected silo.

5G – Deploying 5G networks will be instrumental in building the foundation for smart cities. Its faster connectivity power, greater reliability and potential to lower costs can support a wide range of smart city initiatives, like connecting infrastructure, vehicles, applications and citizens.  

IoT sensors – More and more future smart cities will invest in IoT devices and sensors. They can be placed at bus stops, on garbage cans, airports, parking lots, buildings, roads and streetlights to provide immediate updates about things like traffic, potholes, crowds and more. One example is in San Diego, where the city invested $30 million to upgrade almost 3,200 of their streetlights with LED lights, sensors, cameras and microphones to help monitor traffic and spot crime.

Public safety – Speaking of streetlight investments, cities are looking to install gunshot and shooter detection systems on streetlights as a more efficient and cost effective solution to keeping the public safer during armed aggressor incidents. And instead of being placed only in areas with high gun violence, these detection systems will be placed throughout entire cities.  With these detection systems, law enforcement can determine how many shooters are involved and triangulate the location of the gunshot to 10 feet from where it was fired. 

Human-centered design – Going forward, there will be a greater emphasis on the ability of smart city initiatives to solve pain points for citizens and cities rather than merely adopting new technology for the sake of adopting new technology. There will be a shift from pilot programs to full-scale implementations as more cities share their successes and areas for improvement with other cities.

Implementing these smart initiatives will require intensive collaboration across a variety of industries and departments within cities and local governments. Agencies will need to develop a strategic plan of innovation if they want to succeed at lowering overall costs and improving the lives of its citizens through smart technology.