The global urban population is growing at a rate of 1 million people per week, according to the New Cities Foundation. By 2030, more than 5 billion people – about 60 percent of the world’s population – will live in cities. Cities therefore matter more than ever in economic, social and environmental terms. That theme was the focus of the Future of Cities Roundtable.

The summit, hosted June 18 by Wim Elfrink, executive vice-president, industry solutions and chief globalization officer for Cisco, featured guest speakers from the public and private sectors, who shared real-life examples of how technology is changing the way cities and communities offer services to citizens. As cities compete and cooperate across borders, Elfrink said, urban centers need to position themselves locally, nationally and globally.

“Today, only 1 percent of all the things that surround us are connected to the network,” he said. “By connecting the world, we can create $4.9 trillion of economic value to public sectors globally, $3 trillion of which can be realized in municipalities.”

For example, the Midland County Public Library in Texas suffered from old technology and dated infrastructure -- it hadn't seen a significant investment in more than a decade. The city contemplated closing it, but the community did not agree. Though it was rarely used, citizens recognized the library as a central part of the city.

Rather than shutting it down, new investment was secured and the library implemented a number of new technologies, including interactive digital signs and experiences to enhance the patron experience. The changes not only saved the library from closure, they made Midland one of the most advanced libraries in the country. Already, the library has experience a 100 percent increase in foot traffic.

“It created a real change in the culture of the community,” said Jason Bates, Midland County, Texas, Library IT director.

Meanwhile, the city of Copenhagen is building out a number of technological solutions to improve services for citizens and to help the city reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. Working with Cisco, the way in which many city services -- such as outdoor lighting, parking, mobility services, beacons, kiosks, location-based services, sensor-based water defenses, physical infrastructure monitoring and controls, and smart energy grid services -- are developed, validated and scaled will change as they converge onto one network.

The agreement is “not just about the further development of Copenhagen and the surrounding municipalities,” said Lord Mayor Frank Jensen, "it is also about increasing knowledge, investment and jobs throughout the capital region.”

The projects in and around Copenhagen, added Elfrink, "will serve as best practices bringing greater efficiency, cost savings and sustainability that other cities in the world can reproduce."

The Future of Cities Roundtable was held in conjunction with the New Cities Summit, held June 17-19 in Dallas and presented by the New Cities Foundation. The New Cities Foundation was created in 2010 as a global platform for innovation and high-level exchange on the future of the urban world.

Justine Brown  |  Contributing Writer