The relentless drive toward 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) has created a lot of conversation about how “Smart Cities” will adapt transit systems and infrastructure.
Everything cities now know about moving from place to place, doing business and communicating will change dramatically in the next decade. States such as Michigan, and cities such as Detroit, have a huge stake in the next internet revolution (post-personal computers and post-mobile devices).
In some ways it’s a second chance after missing the third industrial revolution that created places such as Silicon Valley. In the next few years, IoT and 5G will connect 50 billion devices – from cars to robots to kitchen appliances to products not invented yet. This is a monumental shift.
A lot of the conversation within this realm is about the promise of 5G high-speed connectivity. But 5G, while a significant catalyst for information sharing, is still a means to an end. The real story of going “smart” is that cities and regions in the Midwest have great opportunities to attract new business by building unique incentives, data exchanges and strategic public-private sector partnerships.
For city planners, it will be important to have a robust technical back end that can create sustainable business models and improve end-data collection. Simultaneously, a front end geared toward ease of use is critical as sidewalks and streets could become places people want to be, rather than just ways to get from point A to point B.
Many of the constraints we face are projected to disappear with the advent of a smarter city. So will the revenue those constraints create for cities. Traffic, congestion and safety could – and should – improve dramatically over time, while revenue from parking garages and street parking that many cities count on as operating income could – and should – dry up.
Smart technologies are complicated solutions that create complicated problems. Finding alternative funding sources, like new tolls, taxes or even dynamic pricing for certain lanes, is a topic that demands urgency.
Back to 5G. How does 5G fit into the Smart Cities puzzle? It will allow us to explore how to handle data faster, whether at an original equipment manufacturer or an infrastructure company. Applied properly, it will help companies and municipalities operate more efficiently, allowing users to collect more information and make changes more quickly. States like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois are primed to make connections for end-customers located in their jurisdictions. A versatile, wide-ranging testing environment (that includes public roads) should be one of the first selling points for how local and out-of-state companies innovate together.
5G, IoT and the larger concept around Smart Cities can connect us in unimagined ways and provide underserved communities with access to employment, to medicine, to family, to public services – to a fundamental sense of dignity.
Trevor Pawl is senior vice president for Business Innovation at the Michigan Economic Development Corp.