Smart cities are attracting smart investment money
THE TERM “smart city” is being thrown around more frequently in real estate and investment circles, with cities either claiming or aspiring to be smart.
Although there is no set definition for what this entails, cities that come close to achieving the ideal usually exhibit a strong degree of technological integration, environmentally friendly policies and solutions, and an intelligent approach to town planning and the delivery of transport infrastructure.
For these reasons, smart cities around the world represent a compelling investment opportunity, says George Radford, director of Africa at IP Global.
“They are the places where people want to live, work and play, and the well-thought-out approach to their expansion means they will continue to flourish as they grow.”
In South Africa, Joburg and Cape Town aspire to become smart cities. Currently their focus is observed in delivery of forward- thinking transport routes delivering investment opportunities in new areas.
The spike in development around the Gautrain Station in Rosebank and the additional station planned for Waterfall Estate are examples of how this kind of infrastructure can make the difference to the future of an area.
The multiple transport routes in Cape Town’s Woodstock, including a MyCiti bus route, a railway station and cycle lanes, have also contributed to the suburb’s thriving development, including mixed-use structures allowing residents to live, work and play all on their doorstep.
Looking ahead, the roll-out of 5G infrastructure, which sup- ports futuristic applications like augmented reality and driverless cars, will be introduced commercially in South Africa as early as next year, Radford says. On the back of this advanced network, smart solutions will “really begin to flourish locally”.
The integration of digital solutions with local services is a significant contributor to cities being smart. For instance, according to a report in The Economist titled “Empowering Cities”, Singapore’s system of privately operated buses uses the Beeline app. It allows residents to book seats on buses run by private operators in areas not served by public transportation.
The app not only helps citizens to get around and let them to suggest future bus routes, but also allows the Government Digital Services team at Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority to predict demand to improve schedules and routes.
Another city highlighted, Barcelona, uses Urban Lab Dynamic Traffic Forecasting to combine video and analytics to provide real-time data on parking availability. This information is transmitted through the city’s wifi infrastructure.
Green solutions also form a significant part of the definition of smart, Radford says.
“Around the world, city authorities are encouraging citizens to install sustainable power solutions, lessening their reliance on the local grid, and in some cases, even selling power back to the municipality. In many cases smart cities don’t just provide the services their citizens want, they provide incentive for citizens to solve problems for themselves, and possibly even use their solutions to support the government.”
Radford believes smart cities represent excellent investment potential because they will enjoy sustainable growth in decades to come, while still ensuring their citizens’ quality of life is maintained and economic participation is assured.
“The smart future of South Africa is looking up. Whether you are investing in property around smart nodes here, or looking to smart cities on the international landscape, you can’t go wrong investing in these forward-thinking locations.”