Mar. 13, 2022
As COVID-19 expands city budget constraints, investment deployments for smart city projects are expected to be 25% lower than previously planned. Experts say choosing the right project is critical to getting the best return.
In the post-pandemic era, smart street lights and utility meters will likely continue to serve as the infrastructure for smart city systems.
Figure 1：The photo is from the 2700 smart street lamps project in Colombia
Those responsible for modernizing traditional urban infrastructure to improve data collection and other efficiencies believe that the smart streetlight project is and will continue to be a foundational outcome of these efforts.
"Overall, I think smart street lighting and smart metering projects will continue to grow significantly in the U.S. market over time, even with the current coronavirus pandemic," said Ben Gardner, president, and co-founder of Northeast Group, which is A Washington, D.C.-based smart infrastructure market intelligence firm
The projects are attractive because they save city energy, with connected street lights or LEDs saving an average of 66 percent of energy consumption, Gardner said in a webinar.
"With cities now in a budget-constrained environment, these projects are a great way to save a lot of money," Gardner said.
A few years ago, smart street lights and smart meters were gradually adopted with the advent of smart city technology, which provided efficiency, cost savings and established a benchmark for data collection and analysis for other applications.
As cities struggle through the slow economic downturn brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, these projects may be the ones that make the most sense for the same reason they did before the recession: return on investment.
"Smart streetlights" are just a very clean and proven business case. We're going to have very attractive returns," Gardner said.
Bob Bennett, founder, and founder of B2 Civic Solutions, a Missouri-based smart city consulting firm, and former chief innovation officer in Kansas City, Missouri, advises leaders to focus their efforts on the needs of their communities.
"Put people first," advises Bennett during the webinar. "However, your secondary interest will be where your existing budget is."
That could go backward, Gardner said, as leaders have increased their focus on emerging technologies such as video capture and facial recognition that are commonly used in smart streetlights.
"I think there are real concerns about these technologies that need to be dealt with in a very subtle way," he said.
Video capture technology around facial recognition is gaining traction after protests across the country drew attention to unjust policing, racial inequality, and a seemingly limitless field of technology.
"I think it's a fast-moving field, and things are changing so quickly right now that we really need to understand how things are going," Gardner said in response to questions from the media about capturing video data. A discussion about how the government should use this data. "But I think the cities themselves are really dragging their feet now. I don't think we're going to see a lot of cities getting into this space in the near future."
Gardner noted that there are two possible paths a city's economic recovery could take, noting a U-shaped recovery, where cities' finances won't return to normal until 2021 or 2022.
"We've seen some existing deployments suspended and some new deployments delayed. So we do think that's a highly likely scenario," said Gardner, who expects smart city projects to be deployed in more volume than the pandemic this year. A 25% reduction in the previous forecast.
"No matter what happens in the stock market, especially focusing on the smart infrastructure space, it's not going to bounce back quickly," Gardner said. "Supply chains are so disrupted and municipal budgets are under too much pressure to bounce back quickly."
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