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Cities are investing in specific urban projects that address imminent needs and provide benefits that are independent – but supportive – of any long-term ambition to become smart cities.


  • Cities are tired of utopian visions and white elephants. Local governments do not want to be beholden to long-term smart city strategies that do not allow them to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Specialists help open up the smart city market. Their focused proposals appeal to cash-strapped cities and create opportunities for other firms.
  • Smart cities are principally about data and software, which creates opportunities for vendors large and small. However, frontline hardware is needed to generate that data, which requires capital investment from firms with deep pockets.

Features and Benefits

  • Identifies opportunities for both specialized vendors focused on particular areas and tech giants with broad expertise.
  • Outlines how city leaders can minimize the investment risk of their smart city strategies.

Key questions answered

  • Why are cities focusing on ad hoc smart city projects instead of rolling out citywide integration projects?
  • In which areas are specialist vendors achieving the greatest success?
  • What does this mean for other players in the market?

Table of contents


  • Catalyst
  • Ovum view
  • Key messages


  • Recommendations for city governments
  • Recommendations for vendors

Cities are tired of utopian visions

  • Smart cities are not like smart enterprises
  • Cities want low-commitment smart city strategies

Specialists help to open up the smart city market

  • Specialists succeed when their proposals are credible
  • No one firm will build the smart city
  • Smart cities are about data above all else
  • Waste management's complexity demands focus
  • Smart lighting infrastructure will support specialists' products
  • DIY open data is widespread, but specialists still do well
  • Specialists create opportunities for tech giants


  • Further reading
  • Author

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