January: month of predictions. When it comes to technology, there are plenty of candidates for anyone's list of what to watch in 2014.
Talk about tech for cities, and there are just as many possible choices -- cloud, big data, mobility, smart cities, etc. Those are all not only great candidates for this year's list of growing technologies, but last year's and probably next year's too.
Get a bit more specific, and the field narrows. Indeed, if you ask about which IT markets are likely to increase in revenue specifically thanks to the demand from cities, your list may be a lot shorter, but potentially more interesting.
Following are some examples, then, of five technologies that I (and others) believe will expand dramatically in the short term, bringing along changes in how we work and live in today's urban environments. Tell us what you think on the message board below!
Security detection equipment. In a research note, Jared Bickenbach, an analyst with consultancy IHS, emphasizes that the recent bombing of a train station in Volgograd, Russia, highlights the growing vulnerability of railways. He cites a recent IHS report that states that sales of equipment to detect explosives, weapons, and contraband (EWC) will grow by 3.3 percent in the coming year and by 8.8 percent in 2015. A driver will be the growth of railroads, including light rail and other forms of urban transit.
Security is also needed in more than rail stations. Cities must protect against terrorist attacks in a range of other urban situations, as the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year showed. It seems safe to predict the market for EWC detectors, such as those deployed in the Standex system engineered for NATO (as shown in the video below), will quickly exceed the roughly $75 million estimated by IHS for rail alone in 2014.
Building information modeling (BIM). An outgrowth of computer-aided design (CAD), this technique is a mainstay in the planning of buildings and other city structures. In an email to me today, Jim Sinopoli, Future Cities blogger and managing principal of consultancy Smart Buildings LLC, offered this description:
On BIM the advantages are to design a building in 3D, identify any potential collisions between the designers, and refine the design -- rather than find “collisions” or uncoordinated problems in the field. The second largest advantage is to use the data generated in the design and construction [of a building] and export that data [for use in] the operation of the building or facility management. Examples would be asset management, preventative maintenance scheduling, etc.
BIM has quickly forged a place for itself in city planning and construction. Watch this space for sizeable growth in 2014.
Geographic information systems (GIS). This one's no surprise. Using digital technology to map information about the built environment, city features, and data about activities, people, and other urban elements GIS is arguably the most important of tech trends for cities.
One report states that annual growth in the global GIS market will be nearly 10 percent through 2016. Mapped data is being used for applications from urban planning to tourism to healthcare reporting, as shown in the video below:
Sensors. Sensors, meaning not just RFID technology but emerging wireless sensors that require low power, are a booming business that could be worth $3.7 billion by 2020, according to a report from Navigant Research. Carbon dioxide sensors, advanced thermostats, and advanced photosensors, the firm states, are increasingly used to monitor building environments for safety and to control energy use.
Jim Sinopoli thinks sensors are essential to creating compelling tools for building management. He says:
Basically you take a building control, for example the HVAC system, you determine the optimum way the system should run, you monitor the data points of the HVAC system in real time and you compare the data against the "optimum rules." If it's not running optimally the building management system notifies the building owner or the facility engineer of a "fault"; some analytics can even generate the "cost" or "waste" of the fault.
Network functions virtualization (NFV). Could I explain this technology you? Not hardly. But I do understand that by virtualizing software and hardware in telecom networks in new and innovative ways, service providers can make mobile networks more flexible than ever, leading to dramatic shifts in how mobile networks are implemented. And mobile networks are vital to the future of cities.
For more on NFV, a great place to start is on Light Reading, where Carol Wilson recently reported that tech innovations could drive industry consolidation. This is one tech area to watch in 2014 -- even if, like me, you stumble on the science.
So there you have it, a starter list at least. What's your take?
— Mary Jander , Managing Editor, UBM's Future Cities