Professional skills needed to manage smart cities today

Smart skills are required to make the most of Smart Cities to improve the lives of citizens through technology

Smart cities will demand skills for jobs that have not even been invented yet, says Roy Strik, Head of Business Development for Pearson Professional Middle East.
Smart cities will demand skills for jobs that have not even been invented yet, says Roy Strik, Head of Business Development for Pearson Professional Middle East.

A 2018 report by McKinsey & Company states that the value of the smart city industry is projected to be a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities around the globe expected to generate 60% of the world’s GDP by 2025. Those are huge figures, and the question that comes to mind is — what are the skills which are needed to be able to efficiently manage this industry?

It is an interesting question, because data from various studies states that 40%-60% of the jobs that might come up in 2030 have not been invented yet. There is an increasing demand for new and futuristic roles, such as the ones which will be demanded by the smart city industry.

Given this scenario, it is important that working professionals upgrade their skills regularly and invest in up-skilling — these are some of the skillsets which will be required to make the most of the smart city revolution.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) uses smart algorithms to help automate and improve many activities and operations of a municipality. The use of AI is a huge driving force in digitalizing cities. Gartner predicts that 20% of all citizens in developed nations will use AI assistants to help them with an array of operational tasks, and that by 2022, 30% of customer experiences will be handled by conversational agents, up from just 3% in 2017. AI is becoming critical to the smart city revolution and skills in this area will be in high demand as companies look for a competitive edge.


Robots will be a critical enabler of the rise of hyper-connected smart cities. In countries with aging populations and labour shortages, their rise could come sooner than we think, and they will be an integral part of smart cities, something which will enable an increased operational efficiency.

Singapore hotels, for example, are already using service robots to clean rooms and deliver supplies.  Tokyo, the 2020 host of the Olympics, will introduce robot taxis for flexible transportation for tourists. And closer to home, Dubai is already experimenting with the working of robots in public services, transportation, policing and surveillance, as well as targeting automation of 25% of its transportation system by 2030, all as part of its efforts of creating the happiest city in the world.

Supply Chain Management

Automation is a key emerging theme amongst all enterprises today and we are seeing a wave of digital transformation sweeping industries such as manufacturing, energy, transportation and more. As cities look to become smarter, many are exploring how they can take advantage of these same capabilities to better manage their assets and operations — and this will require specialized skills.

Some examples are shipping companies using scanners and sensors to improve tracking of containers, equipment and vehicles, online vehicle inspections which enable technicians to perform proactive maintenance and more. As Supply Chain Management continues to grow as a critical business function for smart cities, it makes it one of the top skills to invest in, both today and in the future.

3D Printing

How would you like your dream house to be constructed in hours instead of months or even years? As impossible as it sounds, 3D printing can actually make this possible. In a Smart City, 3D printing can be employed not just for houses, but also to build bridges — Amsterdam has the world’s first 3S printed steel bridge installed across one of its oldest and most popular canals in the centre — eco-friendly houses, glass structures, public buildings and more.


The basic premise of smart cities is technology. However, since there is no standard and the requirements are different in each city, differences in technology infrastructure could cause some challenges. Here is where blockchain can help, by connecting these technologies together. The more technologies we connect using the blockchain as a framework, the more value we can derive.

Some ways by which blockchain can benefit smart cities include smart payments for all government services, waste management, smart energy and smart contracts. While the technology itself is still in the early stages of development, it also means that this is the best time to harness the power of Blockchain and master it, in order to become a highly sought-after professional with skills of critical importance.

Disruption has affected all areas of our life, and the world today won’t be the world we live in in five years. To remain competitive, professionals will need to ensure that they are continuing to develop new capabilities. Today upskilling takes place in many forms such as blended education, MicroMasters and other programmes which make learning flexible, portable, and cost-effective. Newer forms of learning are linked directly to the industry and provide skills required to get onto the job immediately either it’s professionals who seek employment or career advancement opportunities. In order to stay relevant for the workforce and smart cities of the future, it will be essential to invest in developing the required skillsets.

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