It seems more and more clear to me that evolving global demographics could alone virtually guarantee that smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT) are the way forward. Let’s forget for a moment the many challenges which are yet to be fully resolved and focus on the shifting tectonic plates of our global population.
Today, more than 50% of the world’s population is under 25 years old. This new millennial generation is globally oriented, extremely diverse, technologically gifted and has the most progressive political orientation ever.
It is these young people who are leading the charge to incorporate technology into everyday life in ways that were unimaginable even a decade ago. We used to think personal computers were pretty neat, but they have grown up with the internet and smart phones. Born with electronic devices in their hands, these digital natives are continually redefining citizen and human engagement.
Of course, for more and more of us, technology is at the centre of our lives. Have you recently spent any time at all with no access to any form of technology? No internet, no phone, no TV – do you think you could and how would it feel? Whilst some readers may consider this as a little over the top, always-on Internet connectivity is well on the way to being considered a fundamental human requirement.
The world our children are growing up in is a much smaller place that the one our parents inhabited. Generations Y and Z could be the first in history which will inherit nations in decline together with unprecedented resource constraints.
This major shift in demographics combined with a challenging economic and natural environment is providing a powerful catalyst to sustainably enable better lives in the cities of the world. The technology-literate expect the towns and cities they choose to live in to allow them to do so openly, seamlessly and transparently.
No city can afford to be out of touch with the needs of its citizens. With 75% or millennials active on social media, technology is fundamental to their social connections. We are already seeing this effect of this on, e.g., the automotive industry, which suddenly faces young people with less interest in motoring than ever before. For them, social media and urban living means life is easier, cheaper and simpler without cars.
Every city wants to lure this new generation of millennials, their talent and their businesses. To do so, they will need to ensure they speak the same language and create an environment which will not only attract them, but hold their interest too. Intelligent use of technology is likely to be key to this. It is a mistake to assume they will want to live the same ways or want the same things as their predecessors. Baby boomers and generation X typically live by the mantra “good things come to those who wait” but for generation Y and Z it’s a case of “good things come to those who act”
The rise of smart citizens in smart cities could be considered a battle in a paradigm war. Cities are looking to deliver efficiency and “more for less”. However, they are doing this in a world of real-time social media, which is forcing a change in the old order of control. Given that generations Y and Z will live in and lead the cities of tomorrow, we must be inclusive and ensure they are at the heart of development.
This intersection of the rapid evolution of technology, a seismic shift in demographics and the need to manage overstretched resources create a perfect storm to make smart cities and IoT an inevitable future.