This article is part of Smart Cities Dive’s 2023 Outlook series. A roundup of all the articles is available here.
In 2022, cities continued to grapple with optimizing streets and curb space, address the rising cost housing, prepare for more electric and autonomous vehicles, and work to strengthen resilience amid the effects of climate change.
2023 will bring additional federal funding to improve transportation and further momentum around trends like electric bike and car adoption, office-to-housing conversions and more.
Smart Cities Dive asked readers to share how they think cities will evolve in 2023. Here’s a selection of responses we received:
The following responses have been edited for clarity and length.
The curb management market will continue to grow
“As we emerge from the pandemic, the new uses of the curb — restaurant seating, increased food and package delivery — have been in increasing conflict with the return of vehicle traffic, driven by both commuters and returning retail and entertainment consumers.
Cities continue to experiment with a variety of solutions, but there is a growing trend toward establishing paid loading zones to be used by traditional commercial delivery vehicles as well as the new influx of Amazon trucks, Door Dash deliveries and ride-hailing vehicles.
While the increase in revenue to the city from these loading zones is an important contributor to recovering tax revenue lost during [the COVID-19 pandemic], an even larger benefit is the much deeper understanding a city gains of who is using their streets, when and for what purpose. This detailed usage data then enables the municipality to further refine its regulations to further optimize traffic flow and permitting.
Companies including Automotus, Meter Feeder, Populus, Coord and Umojo are capitalizing on this trend as cities including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston and Aspen and Denver, Colorado, explore their potential.”
— Andrew Bess, managing director, TrueNorth Capital Partners
Cities will prioritize smart transportation initiatives
“A major motivator for local government leaders in 2023 will be the push for smart cities to enhance [the] quality of life for constituents and economic vibrancy. To achieve this goal, leaders will be focused on improving transportation and aligning those advancements with their digital transformation journey.
Access to safe transportation is increasingly becoming a vital part of achieving that vision and setting the standard for secure, connected and resilient communities where people live, work and serve. Smart transportation can do more than just help citizens get to where they are going. In addition to [providing] significant cost and energy benefits, it can help create more inclusive communities that offer equal opportunities to citizens.
Local governments certainly recognize the need for more efficient transportation but have faced barriers in implementing better infrastructure with financing and shifting priorities. This trend has started to change in the past year, and as we move into 2023, municipalities will continue to see more success in achieving smart transportation goals.
New [legislation], including the [bipartisan infrastructure law], passed over the last year has provided local governments billions in financing for a host of smart city objectives, including the creation of [electric vehicle] charging networks and modernized decarbonized bus fleets to help make transportation goals a reality. Municipalities can start by conducting an audit of their current transportation systems to identify which elements they should prioritize.”
— Lisa Brown, local government vertical market director, Johnson Controls
Digital twins will facilitate greater connectivity within smart cities
“Connectivity will continue to be of essential importance. Not only must individual vehicles, processes, utilities, etc., be connected, but everything that can be connected should and will be connected.
How to get there? Digital twins, a virtual representation of an ‘object’ — which may be as big as a city — act as a bridge between physical and digital assets. They give a real-time view of all the variables operating in the field. By using a digital twin, you can analyze all the data and systems that are involved in implementing any new ideas before they go live. Tools like advanced data analytics and machine learning (ML) can cut engineering hours by up to 70%.
Use cases include air quality monitoring, asset tracking and logistics monitoring, structural health monitoring, water metering, street lighting, smart parking, waste management, water storage tank monitoring, and swimming pool monitoring. Cities are like big companies. Eventually, as they become truly connected, they will unleash their superpowers by focusing on creating a completely new environment that deploys new methodologies and ways of living, working and relaxing.”
— Bernd Gross, chief technology officer, Software AG
Shared vehicle market momentum will persist
“In 2023, the shared vehicle market will continue to grow, and we will see new technologies designed to better support vehicle sharing. Ten years ago, few believed that consumers would be willing to give up their cars. Yet the global car-sharing market exceeded $8 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow 8% annually until 2026. The shared vehicle trend will get a lot more attention in 2023.”
— Steve Lalla, executive vice president, Verra Mobility
State and local governments will adopt more digital services
“As the public sector increasingly adopts digital transformation, I expect customer experience to continue to lead government initiatives and legislative efforts in 2023. Ensuring the citizens are at the heart of processes, policy and technology will be critical for government at all levels.
Over the past three years, we’ve seen a growing call for government transparency leading to an increased demand for everything from public records to police camera footage.
Citizen-centric digital transformation is resonating with some of the highest-ranking officials in government, too. In 2021, Biden administration initiatives like the President’s Management Agenda and the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government called for increased transparency, accessibility and user-friendly digital platforms and resources for citizens.
The continued call for federal agencies to modernize and meet citizens’ expectations of digital engagement will persist through 2023 with an emphasis on equitable access. And, I think we’ll see state and local governments lead in this aspect and help provide a blueprint for others.”
— Mark Hynes, CEO, Granicus
Charger infrastructure siting will determine the future of EV adoption
“EV charger infrastructure deployment should accelerate in the next year as states start deploying federal funds and private-sector businesses ramp up installations. But the quantity of EV chargers needed to bend the adoption curve is enormous and unlikely to be satisfied by federal spending alone.
This means state and local agencies will need to be laser-focused on prioritizing EV charger siting based on more than any rudimentary assessment of where vehicles travel most frequently to ensure they're maximizing impact. Agencies will need to look at existing demand, trip intent and length, and also, critically, equity considerations. Unless all these considerations are in focus as planning gets underway, the EV revolution could stall out before it's begun.”
— Emily Adler, director of content, StreetLight Data
Collaborative, data-driven decisions will make cities more resilient
“In 2023, collaborative governance and regionalism will take on new importance for cities and the technologies they rely on to deliver the promises of the [bipartisan infrastructure law]. As an influx of funding meets ongoing staffing constraints, these collaborative efforts — among cities, counties, [metropolitan planning organizations], states, and the private sector — will require shared data tools that allow public agencies to coordinate and work from a common set of information across agencies and keep communities apprised of their progress.
Modeling disaggregated data, in particular, will prove invaluable for its ability to deliver privacy-safe, granular and higher-quality data at scale, including race and equity analyses as required by many [infrastructure law-funded] programs. Modeling will also help cities and regions forecast what the future looks like based on population changes and other evolving ‘new normal’ factors. In 2023, we’ll look beyond only cities to deliver bold, community-driven infrastructure solutions. Collaborative, data-driven efforts will make cities, communities, and regions more resilient.”
— Kiran Jain, chief legal and policy officer, Replica
Real-world data will encourage further fleet EV adoption
“Fleets are actively planning their EV transition today, with many receiving their first vehicles in 2023. This will give fleet leaders invaluable experience in planning, deploying, and managing an electric fleet.
Getting more EVs on the road is good for sustainability, but it will also provide valuable data that other leaders can use to make their own EV deployments more effective. Leaders will have access to real-world insights that they can use to shape their EV adoption road maps and have a true impact on their bottom lines. Backed by data, first-movers will give more companies around the world the confidence to make the shift to EVs.”
— Philip van der Wilt, vice president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Samsara
Cities will use office-to-residential conversions to revitalize business districts
“The last couple of years has devastated an already declining urban office market. COVID sent workers home, and they aren't coming back. This not only hurt real estate developers, but also local governments with the loss of tax revenue and vibrancy that came from the businesses — restaurants, convenience stores and hotels — that went into supporting those workers and businesses. Without workers, these areas have become ghost towns. We are at an unprecedented time when an empty building is not worth much more than the land it is built on. Add on to that a housing shortage and skyrocketing rents and home sales, and you have a situation ripe for disruption.
More and more, cities are looking to office-to-residential conversions to bring life back to those buildings. In Washington, D.C., alone, nearly 4 million square feet of space are being converted or under evaluation. While it is not an instant fix, these areas will benefit from the rise of construction workers as a bridge to when new residents move in and bring in renewed vibrancy to these communities.”
— Michael O'Brien, managing principal, MOB Advocacy
Smart cities will plan for e-bikes
“Bikes Make Life Better sees e-bikes as being an increasingly viable replacement for [single-occupancy vehicles]. Unfortunately, the promise of e-bikes is being threatened by concerns about speed, public parking/charging spaces and battery fires — ‘growing pains.’ We believe that smart cities in 2023 will be planning for e-bikes across infrastructure and policies, including bikeways with varying speed requirements, safe and adequate public parking, and stricter battery requirements, especially in buildings.”
— Petrice Espinosa, director, Bikes Make Life Better
Assistive AI will help city agencies and departments collaborate
“2023 will see a greater emphasis on collaboration across city agencies and departments with the help of assistive [artificial intelligence]. Today, many organizations operate in silos, without access to data or the ability to act on it. Others are overwhelmed with data from [Internet of Things] devices, operational systems and social media. Assistive AI helps to break down those silos and make sense of the noise. Taking this approach to smart city planning and operations results in a more collaborative, connected and communicative approach to creating smarter, safer cities in the future.”
— Kalyn Sims, chief technology officer, safety, infrastructure and geospatial division, Hexagon
AI-enabled autonomous transportation will take off — if cities invest in smart infrastructure
“I predict that 2023 will be the year we start seeing a lot more real-world tests and implementations of AI-enabled autonomous transportation around the world, specifically with use cases in logistics, delivery vehicles and Uber-like services. To make this a true possibility though, cities across the globe will need to make thoughtful investments into smart infrastructure.”
— David Ly, CEO and founder, Iveda
Cities will reimagine traditional office buildings
"We’ll see a rise in microcities as developers and building managers are beginning to re-imagine the potential of the ‘traditional’ office building. For instance, in Chicago, the Willis Tower has been redesigned to include public amenities such as restaurants and event spaces; in Manhattan, former office building 55 Broad Street is being redeveloped into nearly 600 apartments to aid in the nationwide housing crisis. With these changes, there is a need for more intelligent building management systems that not only create bespoke environments for building occupants but also can automatically make adjustments to building energy utilization during periods of peak demand. As extreme weather events and demands for power continue to increase, the value of these systems will continue to grow."
— Dan Hollenkamp, chief operating officer, Toggled