Communities that are free to experiment with connectivity and digitalisation can solve complex challenges — and generate valuable lessons for other municipalities in the process.

Cities have been centres of innovation and invention since human beings first began building them. Unlike states and nations, cities have a direct connection to the realities of daily life that puts them in an ideal position to test out new ways of doing things.

That innovative spirit has possibly never been needed more than it is today given the challenges and opportunities facing the world. In almost every case, connected digital technologies have something to contribute. Trailblazing communities all over the world are already experimenting with them, thinking big and exploring the vast potential of smart, connected solutions to enhance the urban experience.

Reimagining every aspect of urban life

Singapore is setting new benchmarks for community engagement and environmental responsibility with smart furniture such as solar-powered bus stops with data-gathering sensors, free Wi-Fi and charging cables for waiting passengers.

For some communities in Dubai, the sky is no longer the limit with the upcoming launch of flying taxis. Sustainable and better for the environment, these unmanned electric aircraft will revolutionize short-trip transportation and make urban air mobility a reality.

Cutting-edge innovation in São Paulo, a city with a population of over 12 million, is likewise defining the future of mobility and urban planning. Smart traffic lights, facial recognition for ticket payments and rapid traffic corridors are just a few of the measures implemented by the city to better serve its millions of daily public transport users.

Locally contextual and relevant solutions like these, tailored to people’s needs where they live, are essential to a sustainable future that is fair, just, equitable and environmentally responsible.

That said, many of the challenges communities face today are shared. Climate change is raising sea levels or dwindling water supplies, causing forest fires and extreme weather events all over the world. Communities have a tremendous opportunity to exchange their knowledge as they seek solutions to problems like these.

Uniquely positioned to collaborate

It is often easier for communities to trade ideas and partner than it is for national governments to do so, partly because communities are more agile and also because they have a fair bit of common experience. They speak the same language, as it were, even when they don’t actually speak the same language.

There’s a long tradition of communities ‘twinning’, forming cohorts within their own countries, and even collaborating across national borders. As this kind of cooperation goes on, enabled by connectivity, it will be important for communities to ensure that all citizens benefit equally from the solutions developed. Best practices for inclusivity should be part of what is exchanged so that going forward we avoid what science fiction author William Gibson once famously said: “The future is here — just unevenly distributed.”

To bring about an inclusive, equitable and sustainable future, communities everywhere need the freedom to experiment today, just as Singapore, centres in Dubai, and São Paulo are doing. That ability to experiment requires a flexible connectivity infrastructure that is not built for any single application but rather has the flexibility and openness to serve as a platform for all kinds of innovations, including those we can’t yet imagine.

As a provider of neutral-hosted connectivity, BAI Communications is proud to be working with communities around the world to establish exactly those kinds of platforms and make smart community experimentation possible so that big, smart ideas can become reality.

For more on this topic, check out our previous blog and watch BAI UK’s Jamie Hayes, Managing Director, Streetscape, Fibre & Private Networks, in conversation with the Digital Catapult’s Dr. Amy Hochadel, as part of our ongoing smart communities podcast series.