Three trends driving the evolution of our industry and, perhaps, never has there been more of a “the chicken or the egg” question. Staggering amounts of capital is currently sitting in coffers around the world waiting to be invested in the infrastructure needed for these trends to reach their potential in changing almost everything about the way we live.

Clean water, clean air, a clean energy future, mobility for everyone, affordable housing, an end to traffic and inner-city congestion, improved healthcare, aging in place and millions of square miles of parking lots turned green…

Much has been written on this topic but many of the essays feel more like technologies looking for a home rather than thoughtful consideration of the behavioral shift in citizens that will be needed to embrace and realize the potential of the advancing technologies. Furthering the conundrum, is the co-dependency of the trends themselves. For a city to be “smart” it needs a very sophisticated sensing and analytics network that requires a much, much deeper level of electrification than is currently deployed and a real-time view into the movement of people and goods around the city.

The efficiency in mobility needed to achieve many of the smart (and clean) city promises will require an electrified fleet of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles and associated charging infrastructure all communicating in real-time. The grid as we know it will need to be constantly improved to provide the sensing and analytics for millions of “devices” going online and offline in a manner that also provides for cyber-secure connections. The business cases that support the type of massive infrastructure investments needed to realize the required returns generally only pencil out “at scale” and will required significant user adoption.

So where to invest first?

At Bridgewater Consulting we believe that the common denominator to understanding the correct path to any technology implementation is to start with the users and fully understand the desired user experience, customer journey and, most importantly, what user behaviors are needed to change to achieve the desired outcomes. This fundamental methodology can also be applied to simplifying the choices and building a rational roadmap for investment in Smart Cities, Electrification and Mobility. BCG recommends three initial areas of focus for entities embarking on this journey:

New approaches and protections to the sharing of citizens’ data will need to be developed and agreed upon to provide solid “data driven” approaches to developing the roadmap.

Pilots, pilots and more pilots. The data on what will be needed to encourage the behavioral shift in the citizens/customer doesn’t really exist today because of the newness of many of the emerging technologies. Pilots can provide much needed data and eventually information to make informed choices on technology and services.

These trends will literally touch everyone and everything about the way we live and work therefore an inclusive approach to involving and understanding a broad swath of the citizenry is needed from the beginning to provide a foundation for ownership and later adoption.

By Ernie Lewis, Senior Vice President, Business Strategy and David Dolihite, Managing Director