Editor's Pick

How Hyperconnected Cities Use Data to Improve Their Performance

ESI ThoughtLab

Hyperconnected cities are cities that leverage new digital technologies to transform and securely interconnect critical elements of an urban ecosystem. In doing so, they unlock the greatest potential economic, business, environmental, and social benefits.  

To this end, cities are adopting an array of technologies, including public Wi-Fi, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, and mobile technology, which are used by 9 out of 10 cities, according to the study Building a Hyperconnected City, conducted by ESI ThoughtLab in 2019. The study examined the practices of 100 smart and hyperconnected cities around the world. It found that other commonly used technologies include biometrics (83% of cities), AI (82%), blockchain (66%), and telematics (52%).  

But becoming a hyperconnected city is not just about technology adoption. It means going beyond the concept of smart cities by connecting government, business, academia, and citizens. In addition, cities must use those advanced technologies in conjunction with wider and richer sets of data to ensure that these technologies drive performance across the urban ecosystem.

In fact, hyperconnected cities run on data, drawing on it to provide value to their stakeholders. “Data to a smart city is like soil to trees,” says Xiaoqi Fang, Economist, Urban Affairs, with ANBOUND, a China-based think tank. “Smart cities could not grow to towering heights without data.”

Types of data used

The data used by smart, hyperconnected cities includes traditional data gleaned from city departments, local businesses, and citizen surveys. It also encompasses new types of data from IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), and social media. While crowd-sourced, geospatial, behavioral, and predictive data are used less frequently at present, they are slated for a meteoric rise over the next three years., according to the study.

Most cities (57%) now work with businesses and other entities outside of government to gather data. For hyperconnected cities, technology and data work synergistically to drive performance. For example, IoT technology generates massive amounts of data, which 9 out of 10 cities harness at present. Similarly, AI not only enables cities to gain greater insight from existing data; it also generates new data, which 81% of hyperconnected cities now use to provide urban services and solutions.  

Cities also use advanced data and analytics across their ecosystems. They currently employ it to gain insights and improve performance in the same areas that they use advanced technologies: payment and financial systems, mobility and transportation, physical and digital security, and, to a lesser extent, public safety.  

While a minority of cities currently utilize advanced data and analytics in other areas, such as energy, environment, and buildings, usage will rise in the future as these cities expand their adoption of advanced technologies. For example, 44% of cities now have flexible data policies to keep up with changing technologies.  

Nevertheless, a few hurdles are still holding cities back. Only 46% believe that they have staff in place with the necessary data analytics, strategic thinking, and problem-solving skills to advance in data management for their benefit of their stakeholders. In addition, 45% of cities believe that their current regulatory environment hinders their ability to use, develop, and manage data.