The Future of Smart Cities Post Covid-19

When I was 12, I had what any geeky preteen would call a mind-blowing experience. While visiting the IBM corporate office in Rochester, Minnesota with my uncle, I was amazed to see a robot delivering the mail throughout the building. It was the first robot I had ever seen and, except for those on the big screen, I hadn’t seen many “real” ones since in my day to day life.

Scurrying through the University of Denver campus, the Kiwibot raced to get food to students through a campus program with Sodexo. It’s the perfect solution for a year of unique challenges, combining smart technology with a contactless transaction, trying to feed students that are told not to go out and remain safe, much less gather in the cafe! Little possibility of human transfer of germs, no consumption of fossil fuels.  It made me think about where we’ve come in enabling smart cities—using technology to provide services, solve problems and create a better quality of life. 

In Colorado (where I live), nearly every major city has at least five smart city initiatives either being executed or on the radar to execute in 2020/2021 as cities grapple with constant growth, congestion, safety issues, cost containment, and efficiency. While we've seen a big acceleration in technology adoption, the budgets for smart city initiatives have fallen through the floor. Thanks to Covid-19, tax revenues are down. Budgets from states and cities are typically driving this innovation that combines digital technology and infrastructure design for data-driven decision making. Given the rapid growth of urban populations and the need for solutions, many governments partner with private-sector technology companies to continue their smart city efforts. 

Flexential works with a number of cities to manage and protect their data and provide connectivity and IT infrastructure designs that a smart city initiative needs. We’ve worked with enterprises to enable traffic signals with sensors that can adjust the lights as the volume of traffic goes up and down. School systems have also designed a security lockdown procedure to detect threats quickly and pass that information on to law enforcement. 

But what’s on the horizon? Here’s my take on the top two trends in smart city development due to the pandemic.

Smart Transportation

Reducing people’s reliance on private cars in favor of public transportation is one of the goals of smart transportation. Consider how much time you waste sitting at a stoplight or the gas you’re wasting? Today, more than 47 cities around the world are piloting self-driving cars. Others are rolling out autonomous public transportation. In Singapore, a city at the forefront of smart city technology, commuters book self-driving shuttles on their smartphone and use e-payment systems to calculate fares. Data is collected to route the shuttles to commuter hotspots. 

I have also enjoyed learning from Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, a public-private state-wide initiative building roads, streets and even bike lanes to solve transportation issues, pollution, parking and energy consumption. Smart cities will not only improve the daily lives of citizens, but they will also improve sustainability.


The average American is caught on surveillance cameras an estimated 75 times a day, and that average is only getting higher. As you're walking through any major metropolitan area, you see two things happening. You see cameras perched all over the place, and you may see these green, cylindrical things. Those cylinders are 5G towers or micro data centers that enable the networks within the city. 

Many say public safety is at the heart of the smart city movement. Law enforcement agencies are leveraging the technology to identify suspects and provide evidence. Is it possible smart cities are also safer cities?  

Some planners think Covid-19 is just a small bump in the road to the inevitable progress smart city technology is sure to bring—a small disruption brought on by shifting budgets and priorities. But there is a silver lining too. Formerly disconnected agencies are collaborating in the fight against Covid-19 and sharing data in unprecedented ways. 

As we all learn more as the pandemic wears on, smart cities and smart cities’ technology will only get smarter too.

See Fast Company: Covid 19 has opened the flood gates for smart city technology—like it or not.

Post-pandemic smart cities: Covid-19 and its potential impact on the new ecosystem

Jason Carolan, Chief Innovation Officer

Jason Carolan

Chief Innovation Officer

Jason leads a team focused on defining, assessing and providing direction on the changing technology landscape facing Flexential’s business and its customers.