For several years now, city planners across the world have been investing in urban infrastructure to make their cities smarter. The World Urbanisation Prospect, a study conducted by the UN in 2014, found that 54% of the earth’s population lives in urban areas, and that number was expected to rise to 66% by 2050.
Cities are undoubtedly getting larger, especially in developing countries. This increase in size accelerates the consumption of resources and adapting will no longer suffice, they must develop sustainable economic strategies. To achieve this, a strong investment in human capital, social capital, urbanism and ICT infrastructure must be made.
All over Europe start-ups are partnering up with governing bodies to innovate city infrastructure. Among others, this includes the smart use of data acquired by tech companies and by the government, improved mobility, energy efficiency and advanced connectivity, more commonly known as Internet of Things (IoT).
Towards a smarter economy
A smarter economy is a crucial aspect to the Smart City movement. The notion has a broad meaning however Smart Cities Berkeley break it down into three different components; how Smart Cities technologies are changing urban commerce, the Smart City as an economic driver and the economics behind Smart Cities.
There is a lot of buzz at the moment about digitalising our economy, starting with payments. A clear illustration is the recent emergence of bitcoin or more broadly, mobile payments and e-wallets. Furthermore, there is a rise in the use of QR code technology or NFC (near field communication) for point of sale transactions. Indeed, mobile payments are at the heart of improving areas such as mass customisation retail, personalised tourism, enhanced mobility as well as peer to peer interactions. The end-game is to have a solution which digitalises the entire customer experience seamlessly.
A notable player in this movement is MasterCard and the 100 Resilient Cities organisation who have launched a Smart Cities initiative in order to educate governments on the risks involved in a cash-based economy and to demonstrate the benefits of a digital economy. Harnessing their own technology and experience to help cities create their own sustainable strategies. A number of countries have benefitted from this initiative including, . However, MasterCard’s partnership with Transport for London to introduce contactless payment on all public transport is the most notable achievement to date.
Bridging the gap
Contactless adoption has been hit and miss since its deployment, the UK was very quick to adopt contactless cards and is now leading the way with 153 million transactions recorded in April 2016, according to Visa Europe. On the other hand, France for example had a much slower adoption rate, and with new digital payment solutions on the rise, some countries may even jump straight to mobile payments and e-wallets.
However, despite the numerous innovations in the payment sphere there is still some work to be done to bridge the gap between mobile applications and payments.