Chicago seeking ‘smart-city’ tech solutions to improve city life

“By its nature, it’s a conservative market,” said Eric Woods, research director for Navigant Research, which tracks the clean-tech sector. “Cities are not flooded with money, so cities either have to find additional funding or new models that allow them to invest in these technologies, like energy savings or public-private partnerships.”

Navigant estimates the smart-city market will be worth $12.1 billion this year, rising to $27.5 billion annually by 2023. What it will be worth to cities and their residents remains an open question.

In Barcelona, for instance, the economy has improved since smart-city efforts began in the recessionary years, but much of the progress is tied to broader trends in Spain and the European Union, said Jonathan Wareham, dean of faculty and research at ESADE Business Law Schools at Ramon Llull University in Barcelona. “Is there a correlation between smart cities and economic recovery? Yes. Is there a causal link? I would be more doubtful about that.

“If you ask someone in London,” Wareham continued, “if they are planning a trip to Barcelona because it’s a smart city, they would say, ‘What?'”

Still, Wareham believes smart-city initiatives hold promise if they are tackling serious problems rather than taking a “cute” path to apps for tourists. “Some of it’s just bells and whistles and gimmicky things, like knowing when the bus is going

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