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Smart Cities & Startup Opportunities

Half of the world’s population lives in cities. Today, entrepreneurs can take part in tackling the challenges of local municipalities such as rethinking energy costs, transportation and accessibility, water, sanitation, security, pollution, aging populations, transparency, and active citizen engagement to name a few. This exciting endeavor also comes in the form of smart city competitions held across the globe, including the US, India, and Israel.


“The smart city industry is projected to be a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities worldwide. These cities are expected to generate 60% of the world's GDP by 2025” -McKinsey research ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Is it time for you as an entrepreneur to make your city sustainable and inclusive for all its residents? Let’s explore some opportunities for startups to make their mark such as collecting and analyzing datasets and building apps.

Collecting and Analyzing Data

Large market demand lies in the development and production of data collection tools. Various tools monitor the city landscape. Sensors measure crowd density, cleanliness, traffic and even the daily movement of registered vehicles. To account for emissions on the road, for example, sensor networks provide real-time measurements of carbon dioxide and nitric oxide with data communicated between end devices and gateways on different frequency channels to account for obstructions in the location and environments.[1]

In Barcelona, sensors embedded in the city's streets alert users on the location of open parking spots. As a result, fewer people circle the block and traffic is significantly reduced.[2] Sensors that capture traffic can monitor the road in total darkness, in bad weather and over a long range.[3] These capabilities are leveraged to analyze needs and to enhance the use of public transportation.

Additional tools useful for data collection include actuators, cameras, and IoT devices (such as beacons).

Apps for Smart Cities

Applications for smart cities vastly improve services, livability and workability. For example, intelligent street lighting can turn itself off to conserve energy when no one is around.[4] Furthermore, streetlights can capture traffic data to reveal a potential location for a new restaurant.[5] In urban safety, an application developed by British scientists called CCTV system provides groundbreaking surveillance.[6] These “fightcams” can automatically alert the police when violence breaks out in the street.

In the area of smart city recycling, apps such as SmartBin provide solutions that measures the fill-levels of bins, monitor material pick-up and calculate the weight and value of materials collected.[7] Goodwill uses the technology for thousands of clothing bins located in public areas to facilitate clothing donations, eliminate overfilling of bins and reduce collections costs.

Cities with open digital infrastructure provide opportunities for startups by creating an environment where the barriers for entry are low. As an entrepreneur exploring this exciting new space, focusing on places where digital infrastructure exist will greatly improve the chances of your solution taking the leap from prototype to the real world.

[1] Monitoring air quality in a smart city using a sensor network/Sean Kinney

[2] The world's smartest cities: What IoT and smart governments will mean for you/TechRepublic


[4] How Big Data And The Internet Of Things Create Smarter Cities/Forbes

[5] Smart cities: 6 essential technologies/TechRepublic

[6] CCTV 'fightcams' detect violence 'before it happens'/ The Telegraph