Smart cities are at­tract­ing smart in­vest­ment money

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

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.”

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