Transformative Education and Healthcare Technologies Delivering Smart Cities Benefits Beyond Legacy Infrastructure Models

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While most of the activity around smart cities remains focused on infrastructure-based initiatives such as smart grids and metering, smart street lights, smart waste management and smart bins, smart parking, smart kiosks, and smart utilities, cities also need to address the softer aspects of liveability linked to healthcare and education, which in turn drive economic growth.

Advanced smart cities like Singapore (FutureSchools program, Smart Nation healthcare initiatives) and Dubai (e-Services portal for universities, Healthcare City) are leading the transition from legacy smart-city practices to next-generation healthcare and educational reforms, leveraging smart-home and mobile technologies, AI, Robotics, 5G, Blockchain, Sensors, and Platforms to promote eLearning and eHealth.

“Common to both healthcare and education, the provisioning of remote, online services is transforming service industries in cities,” said Dominique Bonte, Vice President End Markets at ABI Research. “The centralised ‘bricks-and-mortar’ approach of providing standardised education and healthcare at physical locations and at discrete times is giving way to virtualisation characterised by real-time, adaptive, continuous, flexible and intelligent monitoring and guidance.”

While smart healthcare is increasingly targeted at the aging population, smart education is squarely directed at younger demographics with the aim of preparing them for their future role in the economy. From a smart-city perspective, this brings smart education solidly into the realm of economic development. It also has secondary, more indirect benefits related to inclusion and reduction of poverty. At the same time, ever faster enterprise technology cycles increasingly require continuous re-education, leading to new paradigms of life-long learning, peer-to-peer learning, real-time curricula, embedded and micro learning, which is shifting education from school to the enterprise.

For cities themselves, partnering with local R&D institutes on smart technologies is increasingly important to keep up with technological innovation.  In the US, the Metrolab Network coordinates 35 city-university innovation partnerships and 160 projects, which is pairing university researchers with city policymakers in 59 universities and 44 cities.

By 2028, the number of patients monitored remotely will exceed the number of patients monitored on-site in medical facilities. However, healthcare is being integrated into a wider ‘well-being’ environment of healthy lifestyles, safety, and preventive attitudes, blurring the boundaries between traditional healthcare and overall smart-city liveability objectives.

While smart education and smart healthcare will drive economic growth, advanced cities like Dubai are developing healthcare as a thriving economic sector in and of itself, centred on medical tourism. Similarly, large universities attract huge numbers of foreign students paying high fees. These universities can be considered profitable businesses in their own right.