As cities get smarter, they are becoming more livable and more responsive—and today we are seeing only a preview of what technology could eventually do in the urban environment.
After a decade of trial and error, municipal leaders are realizing that smart-city strategies start with people, not technology. “Smartness” is not just about installing digital interfaces in traditional infrastructure or streamlining city operations. It is also about using technology and data purposefully to make better decisions and deliver a better quality of life.
Quality of life has many dimensions, from the air residents breathe to how safe they feel walking the streets. The latest report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), Smart cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future (PDF–6MB), analyzes how dozens of digital applications address these kinds of practical and very human concerns. It finds that cities can use smart technologies to improve some key quality-of-life indicators by 10 to 30 percent—numbers that translate into lives saved, fewer crime incidents, shorter commutes, a reduced health burden, and carbon emissions averted.