Cognizant: Beyond smart cities—to future-ready cities


Examples abound of cities around the world doing something clever with technology—installing thousands of sensors, hundreds of solar panels or dozens of rooftop farms—and putting a “smart city” label on it. While some of these initiatives have achieved a degree of success, most haven’t lived up to the hype.

With the alarming acceleration in catastrophic weather events, natural disasters and global health emergencies, there’s no question cities need what some might call “more smarts.” From their sheer density to their often aging infrastructures, cities’ vulnerabilities are plentiful and must be addressed.

The increasingly widespread availability of 5G has made the concept of a smart city more of a reality than ever before. But while cities are called to deliver what smart city visionaries have long promised—economic opportunity, high-quality education and healthcare, clean air, safe streets, a rich cultural life and an efficient transportation system—they must do so while considering not just today’s challenges and opportunities but also those of tomorrow.

Beyond being smart, then, cities need to be future-ready. Becoming a future-ready city requires building the foundation to be resilient in the face of both predictable and unpredictable challenges and adapting to fast-changing social and economic situations.

5G will play a big role in achieving a futureready vision. This technology’s ultra-low latency, blazing speeds, extra-large bandwidth and fail-proof reliability promise to breathe new life into the technology capabilities cities now rely on and deliver enormous improvements in quality of life.

But while making the best use of technology is essential, it’s not enough. In recent research co-sponsored by Cognizant, we found the city of the future will need more than 5G and a wide range of other technologies. It will require strong ecosystems of local governments, infrastructure providers (telcos) and integrators (tech partners).

The study also found, however, that today, well-functioning ecosystems are few and far between. Also lacking are sophisticated capabilities to not just create high-quality data but also to manage, share, protect and make that data actionable. Survey respondents are feeling the brunt of these shortcomings.

The study, conducted by ThoughtLab, surveyed 200 city officials from around the world. It also included a series of interviews with policymakers, business executives and other experts, to understand where cities stand in terms of their future-preparedness, what challenges they are encountering and what solutions they are exploring.

This research is part of ThoughtLab’s multi-client study: Building a Future-Ready City