Cisco adds smart city financing, eyeing a potential $400bn market

In a new twist on traditional telecoms vendor financing, Cisco has announced a scheme to help fund smart city initiatives.

The company’s Capital arm is working with other investors and lenders to launch the City Financing Acceleration Program, to help municipalities spread the financing load rather than have to justify a significant upfront capex sum to their taxpayers and citizens.

“Funding is a major stumbling block for municipalities beginning their smart city transformation,” said Anil Menon, global president of Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities program. “With our partners, Cisco will bring the capital and expertise it takes to make smart city projects a reality. Digital Alpha, APG, and Whitehelm Capital bring a fresh perspective on investment in an area that has previously been perceived as too new and, therefore, too difficult to finance.”

Cisco has been steadily extending its smart city portfolio and is now positioning it more squarely within its broader Kinetic IoT platform. To reflect this, it has renamed the  Smart+Connected Digital Platform, which will be called Cisco Kinetic for Cities. It has also added more tools specifically for public safety, including a version of its Spark Collaboration tools.

According to a new report from the US National League of Cities (NLC), two-thirds of cities in the country now have a strategy to implement some aspects of smart platforms.

Of the US cities which have already started investing in digital technologies, the most common use cases are smart meters, intelligent traffic lights and other road traffic systems, e-governance, WiFi kiosks, and RFID sensors on pavements and on kerbs. Over 40% say they are examining the use of drones in smart city contexts, for purposes such as aerial photography, marketing, mapmaking, land surveying and surveillance.

The National League of Cities was founded in 1924 by 10 state municipal bodies with the aim of coordinating city activities worldwide, particularly to strengthen local government with combined advocacy and lobbying. It now includes 1,900 cities and big towns and continues to influence federal policy in areas including technology.

On a global basis, a recent McKinsey report forecast that by 2025, there will be at least 600 smart cities worldwide, responsible for 60% of global GDP. The market for products and services for these municipalities will be worth $400bn by the mid-2020s, says the research.

And while each piece of research may have a somewhat different definition of what constitutes a smart city, TechRepublic has tried to identify the elements which are essential to any city to be called ‘smart’ – those six components are, it says, Smart Energy, Smart Transportation, Smart Data, Smart Infrastructure, Smart Mobility and Smart IOT Devices. These are required to make all the rest work, and to turn a digital city from a series of isolated projects and applications, to a unified platform which coordinates all of them, and can draw on data from every one.