On a battlefield, it’s not always the one who strikes first, who wins. You can start with loose fists, maintain resistance, and finally counterattack. And at the time when the COVID-19 is presented as our main enemy worldwide, we realize that technology and the digitization of the planet is what allows us to maintain that resistance and even fight back.

However, this unexpected problem reveals that our society is still not as digitalized as it should be to face that kind of disasters (COVID-19) head on and that the need for Smart Cities is present and very real.

With the spotlight on China

As is well known, before spreading to the rest of the world, the epicenter the COVID-19 outbreak was in China, in the city of Wuhan. And although they have been fighting against it since December, it is now when the good results have begun to appear. Results that, frequently, have been the outcome of their advanced technology, their constant concern for the development of Smart Cities and their elaborate plans for the future in this sector.

An example of this, we can observe president Xi Jinping’s initiative to improve the health system by recruiting technology companies such as Tencent and the insurance company Ping An. In addition, according to the government itself, more than 500 Smart Cities are being built in China to manage and process data on both traffic and pollution and public health and safety.

But the rulers’ interest in the smart cities comes a long way. In 2014, the government decreed the Guidance on Promoting Health Smart City Development policy, where it introduced these innovations in its national strategy. Since then, they have continued to invest in the development of projects using technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Internet of things, etc. Thereby, and as reflected in the report Smart Cities in China by ICEX (Spain Export and Investment), in 2016, this country reached 386 smart cities and currently has 50% of Smart Cities pilot programs in the world.

Its progress is mainly focused on safety, connectivity (20 million narrowband IoT connections) and urban waste management. Furthermore, in 2019 and IDC (International Data Corporation) investigation concluded that the construction of these cities in the Asian giant had gone from what they call level 3 to level 5 and would reach new levels by 2022.

COVID-19 as another reason to invest and develop the technologies

The coronavirus pandemic can be seen, among other things, as a wake-up call to society at large about the lack of investment in new technologies. Seeing itself walking on thin ice, even the European Commission could present its technological and innovative proposal to combat COVID-19 and those selected would be funded. Among those projects aimed at the accelerator of the European Innovation Council, we find, for example, MBENT with which you could track the human mobility during epidemics.

This initiative is a great step that can be taken as a reference when developing future smart city projects. To carry them out, knowledge of both the strategic and legal framework and the financial framework of this sector is required. Skills that the Master’s in Global Smart City Manager encompasses and where among other topics you will learn how to transform and adapt the digital administrative services, how to analyze public-private partnerships and deepen open government.

On the other hand, it is also worth mentioning the analysis by the firm ABI Research, which has presented a white book exposing both the situation of the current technology sector and the possible effects of COVID-19 and recommendations to face it. The document highlights future technological trends where the reinforcement of the IoT with its integration in the localities stands out. It envisages a boost in investment in smart cities with a special focus on supporting community resilience. The report also mentions other phenomena such as light-out manufacturing: dark factories where people work without staff and with the lights off.

The adoption of Smart Cities technologies and networks is therefore more than essential. And with it, the training of qualified professionals in this field who know how to develop the new tasks demanded by the innovation market. All this together will make possible the full incorporation of the Smart Cities.