Did you know that, right now, 55% of the world's total population lives in cities? And that percentage is expected to reach 70% by 2050. That means that urban areas will have no choice but to grow during the next decades.
These future cities will be crowded, that's for sure. But, hopefully, they will also be smart.
Public institutions and private organizations such as startups or big corporations are working to build what we call the smart city. In a nutshell, a smart city is a city that uses technology to improve its citizens' lives. That includes all kinds of matters, such as transportation, waste management, energy, and more.
Though the perfect smart city does not exist yet, some of them are on the right path. Singapour, Barcelona, San Francisco, or London are just a few examples.
Startups are playing a vital role in the construction of the smart city. At Plug and Play, we're in touch with some of the most relevant startups worldwide. And we have interviewed 9 of our favorites and asked them for the challenges that lie ahead and how their company is helping cities get smarter.
Zeleros is a European company based in Spain and leading the Hyperloop development. Not familiar with Hyperloop? This system enables the transportation of passengers and freight at over 600 miles/hour, with zero emissions. And it does so by using magnetic levitation and low-pressure tubes to reduce friction.
So far, Zeleros has raised substantial private and public support, and their next objective is the construction of a test-track to demonstrate this system work.
How will Zeleros help build the future Smart City?
According to Juan Vicén, their Co-Founder & CMO, Zeleros will be “a key enabler for the interconnection of Smart Cities. Our system will enable the connection at airline speeds with zero direct emissions of any city that is 300 to 900 miles away. This will be convenient both for the citizens and for our environment.”
“This will revolutionize the way we work and live”, said Vicén.
Fleetonomy’s AI-based mobility orchestration platforms enable automakers, car rental companies, transit agencies and mobility service providers to maximize fleet potential. They do that by enhancing efficiency in existing fleet-based services. They also help these customers increase fleet utilization by launching and operating smart mobility services such as car subscription, ride-hailing models, on-demand rent, and app-based chauffeur services using the same fleet of vehicles.
According to Israel Duanis, CEO at Fleetonomy, this company's platforms contain "everything needed for operating smart mobility services." They are powered by "demand prediction engines that maximize efficiency, and advanced algorithmic engines that rebalance the fleet in a way that enables a unique one fleet - multiple services approach."
Fleetonomy’s technology is already deployed with global top tier automotive OEM’s, car rentals and transit agencies helping them predict demand, increase fleet utilization and create new revenue streams.
How will Fleetonomy help build the future Smart City?
“Fleetonomy’s holistic management platform helps public transportation operators and authorities reduce operational costs, save time by automating manual processes like transit scheduling, meet compliance requirements or set policies based on data, and improve their overall quality of service.”
Commercial buildings waste up to 50% of the energy used, and account for 40% of the world’s energy consumption. Envio Systems is a pioneer in next-generation building automation.
They have developed an end-to-end building management system capable of turning any existing commercial building into a smart building.
How will Envio Systems help build the future Smart City?
Their solution “enables autonomous and remote operations of any commercial building, without replacing existing infrastructure,” said Reza Alaghehband, the company’s CEO. “Through IoT technology and cloud-based management, our system learns, predicts, and optimizes operations and energy consumption in real-time, to transform commercial buildings into interactive, energy-efficient, and fully autonomous buildings of the future.”
Woodoo blends nature and technology to design groundbreaking new materials to build tomorrow's smart cities. Founded by an architect who became a chemist, this company transforms native wood into a patented high-resistance material.
“We have developed a technical process to remove the weak lignin parts of a wood board’s structure, replacing the lignin with a recycled custom polymer,” said Olivier Grange, SVP Marketing & Communication at Woodoo. “The result is a sustainable material with tremendous qualities: it is 3 to 4x sturdier than conventional wood, resistant to rotting, fire retardant… It has applications not only in construction but also in the smart surface industries (for automotive, IoT, domotics…) because our wood is also translucent and touch-sensitive.”
How will Woodoo help build the future Smart City?
“We firmly believe we are the best alternative to concrete and building materials,” said Grange. “We are already studying full-wood 35-stories structures, and it’s just the beginning. It will allow a drastic cut in the 2.5 billion tons of CO2 that the building industry is spilling in the air each year.
“As our founder Timothée Boitouzet states it, the XIXth century has been the age of steel and the XXth the age of concrete. The XXIst century will be the age of wood.”
Imagine Intelligent Materials
Imagine Intelligent Materials was founded in 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Its sensing solutions extract valuable data from large surface areas in buildings, infrastructure and logistics and can be manufactured at scale. With Imagine’s solutions, “dumb surfaces become “smart” and report about events – just like human skin,” said Jaakoo Kaidesoja, Imagine’s President. “Commodity materials have added value. New business models can be applied to generate recurrent revenues.”
How will Imagine Intelligent Materials help build the future Smart City?
“Data analytics of structural health and building usage will benefit real estate and facility management, retailers, aged people and their families and helpers, hotels and venue owners, office facility managers, etcetera,” said Kaidesoja. “This will be possible because of Imagine’s graphene enabled sensing surfaces and technology platform.”
Havr is a French tech company operating in the smart access sector. They are pioneers in the use of Li-Fi technology for smart access solutions. Their flagship product is the Brightlock. “The Brightlock is a flexible, secure and powerful solution for smart access applications in a B2B environment,” said Simon Laurent, Co-Founder and CEO of Havr. “It's the only smart lock to combine enterprise-strength scalability with a simple, intuitive, consumer-grade user experience.”
How will Havr help build the future Smart City?
“The main challenge is to adapt and transform the existing into something sustainable and flexible,” said Simon Laurent, Co-Founder & CEO. “Our ambitious vision is of a future where technology gives choices to every human being and every organization. The fundamental, critical choices of how they utilize and share the spaces in which they live, work and play.”
GBatteries is an advanced battery technology company on a mission to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles by enabling them to charge as fast as it takes to fill up a tank of gas. Their technology “ultra-fast charges off-the-shelf lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries without compromising battery lifespan”. Their goal is to make the transition from ICEs to EVs seamless by removing the biggest obstacle - how long it takes to charge an EV.
How do you picture the city of the future? What are the main challenges?
“Green, quiet, clean, smog and traffic free, connected cities where there are endless options when it comes to mobility and transportation is powered by zero emission vehicles.” That’s how Kostya Khomutov, Co-Founder & CEO of GBatteries sees the city of the future. And there’s more: “Public transport will come in all shapes and sizes from driverless electric pods to double decker e-buses. Autonomous electric fleets will make deliveries, car and ride sharing will be the norm, and e-scooters and e-pods will be readily available in every major metropolis - reducing the number of accidents, traffic congestions, making the streets quiet and more accessible, and the air fresher.”
There are, however, many challenges to overcome in the electric vehicles field, such as “the lack of charging infrastructure, inadequate grid capacity for vehicles such as electric buses, low charging speed or range anxiety”.
Spaceti is an award-winning property technology startup, founded in 2016 in the Czech Republic. They build and provide integrated solutions consisting of its own proprietary sensors, a data analytics platform, and a mobile app that enhance the satisfaction, productivity, and wellbeing of people in buildings while improving the bottom line for organisations.
How do you picture the city of the future? What are the main challenges?
“From my point of view, the city of the future will definitely be energy-efficient. It might even produce energy instead of consuming it,” said Daniyar Tanatov, Partner Account Manager at Spaceti. "It would be great if future cities were self-sustainable, meaning that they should produce the energy they consume. The main challenge for this is convincing companies and governments to invest more in this area."
Also, property technology is increasingly viewed as an opportunity and an enabler, bridging the gap between the physical space and the vision of self-sustainable cities of the future in terms of solving urban development problems, improving sustainability, energy efficiency, decision-making, and communication between people and organisations.
CARFIT has developed a technology that reads car vibrations to understand usage and anticipate maintenance needs on wearing parts such as tires, wheels, brakes and shocks. Those parts lack sensors and monitoring, which leads to no or very little information available to the entire industry and drivers.
How do you picture the city of the future?
"Mobility is changing with the arrival of new mobility providers, and the evolution of what traditional suppliers used to offer," said Pierre Garrigues, Data Parternships Director at CARFIT. "Platforms such has Free2Move from PSA Group are one of the symbols of this transformation, gathering car sharing, car renting, taxi healing and leasing solutions in one place. With this, you can offer end-users a large range of mobility solutions in one place and release them of the obligations of owning a car. As a consequence of this transformation, cars are going to face a more intense usage than ever with an impact of their wearing. "
At Plug and Play’s Smart Cities accelerator we match large corporations with top-tier startups that are changing the world as we know it. Together, they’ll build the cities of the future. Join our platform today.