The future of cities is taking a bifurcated direction today. One direction is the physical direction of improving infrastructure, such as the power grid and broadband connectivity to support new applications, and the other is a virtual direction, which will include creating metaverse applications.

With new technology and applications constantly emerging on the horizon, today’s smart cities need to address updating their infrastructure to insure they can support new corporate facilities requiring mission-critical applications in their daily operations. Those physical layers are also the foundation for virtual applications which require a stable and secure virtual platform to be operational and successful. Resiliency and security are dual cornerstones which need to be well-established within the total framework of a smart city.

When it comes to smart cities, one of the cardinal rules to remember is, “Smart cities do NOT have dumb buildings.” All commercial buildings should have intelligent amenities and focus on redundant power and broadband connectivity, as well as serve the building on diverse routing, giving it the ability to support mission-critical applications.

Real improvements, such as adding on routing diversity and redundancy for both power and broadband connectivity, can only improve the value of all the buildings in a downtown area. These enhancements make them more reliable and resilient, both qualities which are the real intelligent amenity features corporate tenants are demanding today.

Most downtown and suburban office park commercial buildings fail to meet the requirements of this standard. Improvements need to be made on a vast majority of buildings if they are to be able to support critical infrastructure in the changing physical and virtual world.

Navigating post-COVID smart cities

Any major city thinking it will be going back to the same pre-COVID-19 occupancy rates in their commercial office buildings, as well as collecting the same tax revenue streams, is very misinformed. The reality is, many in the workforce who used to commute are now working remotely on a permanent basis.

In a post-COVID environment, many companies are shrinking their corporate footprint and reducing their amount of leased space in many buildings. More office space will become available and there will be less demand, so only the office space that provides the best resilient infrastructure, as defined as above, will be leased and the rest will remain vacant.

Too many cities are beginning to focus on new buzzwords on the virtual side, such as digital equity and digital inclusion, without first understanding what they need to do to upgrade their infrastructure, which supports each building’s power and broadband connectivity. 

Those physical intelligent amenities need to be redundant, reliable, resilient and have diverse routing. If they do not meet those criteria, all the other fluffy euphemisms like digital equity are meaningless. 

Prepare for new technology

As digital innovation progresses, some technologies will change the shape of smart cities, while others will fail to make an impact on the virtual space. It’s important for smart city leaders to ensure their physical infrastructure is in place to support digital innovation before adopting new technology.

Some stakeholders seeking to advance technology solutions will use the latest tech terms as they try to sell civic and political leaders on applications which fail to improve the regional viability of the municipality, especially when unsupported by physical infrastructure to power digitalization.

New technology may fall short when transitioning from the sales pitch to the real world. To avoid this pitfall, civic and political leaders of municipalities should assess all the vulnerable levels of their current infrastructure and discover how to make it more reliable, more redundant and more resilient before venturing into developing virtual applications.