Traditional Industries Join Forces with New Tech

Increasing population levels and more frequent climate events are presenting new challenges to city living, and cities need to evolve in order to tackle these challenges. Below are some examples of how traditional industries, such as utilities, telecom and agriculture, are joining forces with innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), renewable energy and the Internet of Things (IoT) to help drive a new era of industry. Inter-industry collaboration will not only ensure that city infrastructure can deliver on a minimum of public services—security, water, electricity, transit—but it can also help overcome risks that lead to fragility.


The concept of smart agriculture marks an important collaboration between a centuries-old industry and ultra-futuristic technology. Ultimately, big data could inform the way we farm, eat, and sustain growing communities.

A clear example of this is smart water systems, which lead to smarter irrigation and in turn improve crop yields. Smart water networks enable proactive monitoring—they can measure metrics like leakage, pressure, quality, etc.; diagnose issues in real-time; and adjust settings accordingly to reduce waste.

The future of farming is smarter – and more vertical

Paired with urban ag developments like vertical farming, these integrated systems can help sustain rising city populations. In addition, drone surveillance and data-driven tech can drive other efficiencies in modern agriculture. Companies like GrowUp Urban Farms in London, Sky Greens in Singapore, and AeroFarms in the United States are proving that tech- and data-infused vertical farming is redefining the agriculture industry. AeroFarms, for instance, is leveraging data and technology to grow food without sun or soil. The company boasts 390 times more productivity per square foot and uses 95% less water than does a commercial field farm.1

There’s huge potential for growth within the smart ag industry. The market is expected to grow from $9.02 billion in 2016 to $18.45 billion in 20222, and the smart water market could grow from $8.5 billion in 2016 to $20.1 billion by 20213.


Smart waste systems have a big secondary benefit: fewer garbage trucks (and less pollution)

Smart waste management is one of the most promising ways to address the planet’s mounting pollution problem—which is also a major cause of urban fragility. Thanks to the introduction of technologies such as RFID (radio frequency ID) tags on waste bins, automated garbage collection, and solar-powered trash compactors, tech-based waste management systems are making progress in a big way.

Big Belly is one of the global leaders in the smart waste management space with more than 50 countries leveraging their platforms. Communities are able to use Big Belly’s solar-powered, sensor-equipped waste and recycling stations, which communicate real-time status to collection crews. These solutions not only lead to less clutter and waste in urban areas (Big Belly estimates a 70-80% reduction in waste and recycling collections), they also reduce the carbon footprint associated with fleets of waste-removal vehicles. In addition, they offer increased infrastructure for hosting technologies like WiFi. Soon, AI is likely to play an even greater role in urban waste management and recycling. This could result in more diversion of plastics, steel, aluminum, compostable food waste, and paper products—the bulk of municipal solid waste—from landfills 4. And while not as big as the agriculture and water markets, the smart waste management market is predicted to more than double from $1.1 billion in 2016 to $2.4 billion by 2021.5


5G connectivity will result in more than simply speedier web-browsing—it will fundamentally change the way the world exchanges data. The healthcare industry in particular stands to benefit from widespread 5G connectivity, especially as data-heavy technologies like the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) become integrated into city (and hospital) infrastructure.

Uniform and high-bandwidth connectivity means it will become easier for nurses, doctors, specialists, and medical facilities to connect with patients and with one another no matter where they are. In the long term, 5G networks will likely mean that a variety of routine healthcare scenarios— wellness visits to diagnostic testing to mental health examinations—can be conducted remotely.

Faster internet access can mean faster diagnoses, examinations and testing

A number of companies are developing healthcare technology solutions that will rely heavily upon 5G. At the 2017 Mobile World Congress, companies including Deutsche Telecom, SK Telecom, and Ericsson showcased how 5G networks may eventually enable robotic telepresence surgery.6  In a demonstration, a robotic “doctor” mimicked intricate surgical motions of a human counterpart—but the technology only functioned optimally while running on a 5G connection.7

Experts predict that healthcare transformation leveraging 5G will facilitate an estimated $76 billion revenue opportunity by 2026 for telecom companies.8  5G is good news for patients, too: One study found that nearly three-quarters of healthcare executives (73%) expect 5G networks will enable services and products that will improve the quality of life for the public at large.9


The old adage of 1+1=3 holds true. As established industries team up with new technologies, the results are meaningful for cities around the world. Tech advancement driving industry integration isn’t a new concept; cities have long incorporated new innovations into traditional infrastructure—electric power and computer technology being major examples.

The newer synergies are not only creating solutions that help modernize infrastructure, they are resulting in ancillary ways to help citizens live more efficient and connected lives—thus blazing the trail for a brighter future.


  1. Our Technology, AeroFarms
  2. Markets and Markets, 2016
  3. Markets and Markets, 2016
  4. Environmental Protection Agency
  5. Markets and Markets, 2016
  6. IDG Network World, 2017
  7. IDG Network World, 2017
  8. Ericsson, 5G Healthcare
  9. Ericsson, 5G and IoT: Ushering in a new era