Building Happier Cities With the Internet of Everything

In a recent meeting with the mayor of a major European city, I asked, "What is the biggest goal driving adoption of the Internet of Everything (IoE) in your city?" Without hesitating, he said, "A happier city."

When I talk about the benefits of IoE, I almost always start with economic value -- improvements in productivity and efficiency, new business models and new revenue streams. However, this mayor thinks first about improving quality of life for all citizens. This helps keep a city vibrant by enriching the lives of people already living in the city and by attracting new talent and new businesses. When you think about it, these outcomes reinforce each other. IoE can deliver both economic value and an improved quality of life.

According to "Building New Cities: Challenges, Opportunities and Recommendations," a Cityquest-KAEC report, "Advances in information and communication technology (ICT) are radically changing the way we live in and manage cities . . . cities have the opportunity to imagine user-friendly services that facilitate the development of an identity and a sense of community." And a sense of community fosters happiness.

Charles Montgomery, author of "Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design," also points out that, "There is no more crucial ingredient for human happiness than strong, positive social connections. Connected communities are happier, more resilient in hard times and better equipped to handle economic challenges."

IoE Technology Underpins Happier Cities. It's no coincidence that Smart Cities such as Copenhagen, Dubai, King Abdullah Economic City, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Sydney, who have embraced the Internet of Everything, always rank high on happiness indexes.

Copenhagen has ambitious goals to be among the world's greenest cities, which will make citizens, visitors and the city itself happy. There, IoE connects sensors powering the city's smart lighting, parking, water management, and smart grid solutions across one network. Beyond connectivity, data and analytics working at the edge of the network help the city better manage resources, improve quality of life and meet its green goals.

There are other examples. In cities such as Dallas and Chicago, citizen-developed apps empower people to engage directly with government officials or each other, whether reporting a dangerous pothole, accident or crime.

In Bangalore and Brisbane, kiosks in malls with video, audio and touchscreens enable citizens to access city officials to apply for a driver's license, pay bills or file a complaint. In New York City, electronic maps provide real-time information on traffic, public transit schedules or entertainment options, all creating a more engaged and informed citizenry.

IoE Enables Economic Dynamism. According to various reports cited in "Building New Cities," an economy's overall dynamism is pivotal to making citizens feel more secure and healthy. This includes the city's ability to attract new business, innovation and young talent, as well as encouraging people who already live in the city to stay. For example, city leaders in Barcelona expect IoE to lead to 1,500 new companies, 44,000 new jobs and a vibrant community of entrepreneurs that will generate $3.6 billion in economic value.

So we've come full circle to where I started this post. The Internet of Everything can't create happiness by itself, but it certainly can play a large role in enabling it.