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City of the future

City of the future

As technology evolves, government decision-makers are looking for new ways to encourage innovation while simultaneously managing risks.

Stephen Beatty

Global Chairman KPMG Infrastructure (Non-Exec)

KPMG International


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Distinguishing the difference between today and tomorrow.

To learn more about the city of the future, we asked city leaders --Peter Auhl, Head of IT for the City of Adelaide; Seok Tae Kim, Chief Marketing Officer at Gale International Korea; and Stephen Beatty, KPMG's Head of Infrastructure for North America and India -- to share their insights and expectations.

What will distinguish the city of the future from today's cities?

Peter Auhl: I would argue that the City of the Future will be overwhelmingly focused on delivering customer outcomes. In Adelaide, our focus is very much on adding value to our customer interactions and giving our customers a choice. We think that the best thing government can do is to get out of the way so that citizens can make their own informed decisions. So our approach has been to curate our services and information in a way that allows customers to interact with city services and infrastructure in the way they choose.

Seok Tae Kim: We have a similar opinion. When developing our smart city in Songdo, we believe that it's the people that live within the city that make it `smart', not the technology. The focus must be on helping citizens participate as partners with the city, sharing their ideas, data and feedback so that we can improve convenience and choice. In Songdo, we are striving for three key characteristics: the use of technology to improve citizen convenience, the right facilities and infrastructure to improve quality of life, and increased sustainability. I believe that the City of the Future will represent a combination of those three characteristics.

Stephen Beatty:
Absolutely right. And I would argue that the most successful cities in the future will be those that are able to find innovative ways to minimize the man-made and institutional friction between people, systems and infrastructure. As cities evolve, I expect to see governments focus on helping citizens become much better-informed decision makers. And that should lead to much greater alignment between the `micro' decisions that people make on a day-to-day basis and the `macro' decisions that we make as city leaders.

What impact will this shift have on urban society?

Stephen Beatty: I believe that we will start to see cities evolve into nodes of social good. Rather than travelling distances to access social services like healthcare and senior services, I suspect we will see a shift towards more small-scale systems housed within complex nodes of development. Today, we're very focused on creating very simple development environments but, as we densify existing land uses, we're going to see much more complex - and much more responsive - social environments.

Peter Auhl: One of the perverse impacts of technology is that it has actually pushed people away from each other, social media has been the driving force behind this change. I think that - in the future - technology will instead start to bring communities closer together. In the future, I hope that we are going to see technology start to encourage people to interact more within their communities. I believe that, as people get more information about what’s happening in their communities, we’ll see the current scenario flip itself to once again reinforce our social interactions rather than separate less meaningful interactions.

Seok Tae Kim: Right. And this comes back to people being at the heart of the smart city. I believe that technology will enable city leaders to focus on the wellbeing of their citizens, allowing them to provide a better experience through improved access to culture, education, the arts and other facilities that ultimately improve the quality of life for those living in the city.

What can governments do to encourage the transition towards the City of the Future?

Peter Auhl: There’s a lot about the future that we don’t know. But what we do know is that connectivity is going to play a very important role. So we’ve been focused on creating a new type of infrastructure that we refer to as “10 Gigabit Adelaide”, basically creating a private network across the entire city that allows businesses to connect with businesses across the city, and then connect the entire city directly to cloud infrastructure via interconnection (non-internet dedicated cloud connections). This will allow businesses to improve connectivity and to scale their services quickly, reliably and securely and connect their businesses to the world economy. The 10 Gigabit Adelaide network will all also provide base infrastructure to enable a number of Smart City projects.

Seok Tae Kim: Infrastructure is certainly important. But so, too, is enabling regulation. When we started to develop Songdo, we worked closely with the government to create regulation that actually encourages development in key areas such as healthcare, social services and education. Now we have the honor of hosting five universities and a number of international health centers which serve as a great incubator for innovation and creativity in our city. The government has also provided significant financial support by, for example, investing more than US$1 billion into developing the right environment to support international campuses.

Stephen Beatty: I would agree with both Peter and Seok Tae - the City of the Future needs better connectivity and it needs supportive regulation to become reality. I think governments also need to start thinking about how they program and deliver their services in a much more integrated way. They need to start thinking about how their services interact with each other, how they can become more agile and responsive to the changing needs of the population and how they are going to use their capabilities and assets to respond to the social needs of their future citizens.

What role will data play in the City of the Future?

Seok Tae Kim: Data will be very important. In Songdo, we are partnering with local service providers, government organization and multinational technology companies to maximize our use of data. But, at the same time, we are also starting to collect much more data than ever before. For example, as part of our city management and security system, we have added hundreds of modern surveillance cameras that collect data and help us improve our decision making for traffic management, security and public safety. And that is helping us create an even smarter and more responsive city.

Peter Auhl: Data has been a key focus for us in Adelaide. We recognize that data is central to not only government decision-making, but also business and personal decision-making. So we've created a very comprehensive open data tool kit that allows businesses and government decision-makers to visualize a wide range of key information though a single pane of glass. And that is helping government and businesses to make better decisions about their investments.

Stephen Beatty: One of the reasons I'm so optimistic about the City of the Future is that I believe that cities are starting to gain access to and curate increasing amounts of data that will eventually allow them to do more and better things in a more efficient and effective manner. I see data as the first step on the journey towards creating the City of the Future, not only as a way to deliver services but also as a way to compare their effectiveness against other cities and, by doing so, identify ways to improve service delivery and customer experiences.

What are some of the risks that worry you when you think about the City of the Future?

Seok Tae Kim: Every country is witnessing a rise in cyber terrorism and cyber attack. And, as our infrastructure and data become more integrated and start to flow through operations centers, I worry about the disruption that might occur if there is a data breach or interruption of services due to hacking. So we are working hard to ensure that our technologies are continuously updated and to maintain and enhance the security of our data. But there is no perfect solution to these challenges.

Peter Auhl: I would agree with Seok Tae. Any time you connect things together, you increase your risk of having those things compromised. One of the benefits of our 10 Gigabit Adelaide concept is that we are building security into the design of our city as a core element rather than retrofitting security on top of something that is already insecure (the Internet). We also think a lot about asset obsolescence which means we really have to keep focused on two horizons - what we are doing today and what we need to be doing tomorrow.

Stephen Beatty: I'm not sure it's a risk, per se, but I do think that we're going to need to come to terms with the fact that we are going to see a general decline in personal privacy. And that means that we are going to start to see much more electronic surveillance and a much greater focus on security. The unfortunate reality is that the world is not going to get any safer over the coming years - if anything, the risk of people acting out and harming others will increase rather than decrease and that will require citizens, businesses and governments to think very differently about security and privacy.

What advice would you offer city leaders as we move towards the City of the Future?

Peter Auhl: My advice is simple: focus on the customers. Governments have an ability to encourage massive changes that can have a very positive - or negative - impact on millions of people. The only way you are going to get it right is if you start focusing on customer outcomes and thinking about how governments serve our people and communities.

Stephen Beatty: I absolutely agree. And I think that city leaders have a great opportunity to study the experiences of other cities that are going through the same journey and find ways to share best practices, ideas and innovations. In part, that means better benchmarking and more rigorous measurement of efficiency and effectiveness. But it also means more dialogue, more collaboration and more cooperation between cities.

Seok Tae Kim: Right. But I would also add that cities need to adapt their approach to the needs and characteristics of their region, culture and population. You can benchmark and compare yourself against other cities but, at the end of the day, you really need to serve your local population and that means understanding the particular characteristics of the city and population you intend to serve.

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