Verdict lists the top five terms tweeted on future cities in December 2020, based on data from GlobalData’s Influencer Platform. The top tweeted terms are the trending industry discussions happening on Twitter by key individuals (influencers) as tracked by the platform.

1. IoT – 243 mentions

Critical infrastructure and technologies needed for autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity challenges posed by internet of things (IoT) devices and smart building sensors helping office workers return safely, were popularly discussed in December 2020. According to an article shared by Andreas Staub, head business development and digital transformation at Raiffeisen Gruppe, cities today are not prepared to deal with the volume and complexity of data that self-driving cars may generate.

Consequently, investing in intelligent infrastructure is of paramount importance for future cities to store, analyse, and transmit data. IoT has the ability to monetise data especially in a smart city environment, where funds can be re-invested to meet other improvements. Data sharing and network creation will thereby help autonomous vehicles to make critical decisions.

IoT also trended with relation to common IoT devices in smart buildings being at risk of cyberattacks by exploiting unencrypted protocols, according to an article shared by Ronald van Loon, a technology influencer. IoT devices present a number of cybersecurity challenges for organisations, as its scale and diversity make devices more unmanageable.

Other discussions related to IoT was shared by Evan Kirstel, a B2B influencer, on how smart building sensors and big data could help office workers return to offices safely by measuring both air quality and space constraints. For example, London-based IoT company, OpenSensors, recently announced that it has raised $4m to help companies return to offices, while Infogrid, an artificial technology company, secured $15.5m to retrofit sensors and software technologies into buildings.

2. Artificial Intelligence – 184 mentions

Top ten AI predictions for 2021, a Chinese smart city project aiming to put AI in charge, and Starbucks’ plans to open additional ‘walk-thru’ stores powered by AI were popularly discussed in the month. According to an article shared by guidaautonoma, an autonomous vehicles expert, the top AI prediction for 2021 includes the launch of autonomous vehicles manufacturers such as Waymo and Cruise on the public markets.  The two companies are likely to benefit from the market environment in 2021 and spin-off from their parent companies.

Erik Solheim, a Norwegian diplomat, also tweeted on companies such as BIG and Terminus planning to start a smart city project called the Cloud Valley based entirely on AI, thereby providing more comfort to residents. The technology is designed to collect data on parameters such as eating patterns and weather to meet the requirements of people. Cloud Valley is among the 500 smart cities being created around China.

AI also trended with respect to Starbucks’ plans to add 20,000 additional stores across 55,000 locations by 2030. The article noted that these walk-thru locations will be located in busy areas and will serve customers coffee via mobile ordering. Meanwhile, AI is being employed to automate employee scheduling or inventory supervision. AI is also designed to suggest reopening strategies once the vaccine is widely available, the article detailed.

3. 5G – 100 mentions

The impact of 5G on smart cities, the role of 5G and video analytics in keeping people safe, and 5G users in Taiwan exceeding one million in five months were popularly discussed in December. According to a video shared by Harold Sinnott, a social media and digital marketing consultant, technologies such as 5G and IoT are helping build smarter cities. 5G, in particular, will serve as the basis for small cell networks, which will help empower next generation of wireless infrastructure in cities making them even smarter with its computing capacity.

5G is also expected to empower the deployment of autonomous vehicles, thereby helping them communicate with traffic signals to reduce congestions, the video detailed.

The term also trended with the technology playing a key role in keeping people safe, according to an article shared by Cities Today, a news platform on urban mobility and innovation. 5G’s enhanced mobile broadband bandwidth are expected to meet the growing demand for video surveillance cameras over the next three years, the article noted. Video analytics and 5G will also advance the detection of anomalies in the environment, thereby helping safeguard people.

Other discussions related to 5G was shared by hwingo, about Taiwan’s 5G users exceeding one million over a span of five months since its introduction in July. Top players in the 5G market include Chunghwa Telecom, Far Eastone Telecommunications, Taiwan Star Telecom, Taiwan Mobile, and Asia Pacific Telecom. 5G network services are expected to expand to other cities, counties, and suburbs by 2023, the article highlighted.

4. Big Data – 79 mentions

Big data analytics driving smart infrastructure, local governments adapting to big data and IoT, and smart cities technologies and faulty data systems hampering pandemic response, were some of the popularly discussed topics during the month. According to an article shared by Yves Mulkers, a data strategist, connectivity lies at the core of smart infrastructure, and is driven by big data analytics and data mining to improve or develop intelligent infrastructure. Therefore, a smart infrastructure is one that allows people to make intelligent decisions, learn and advance their abilities to connect and do things better, the article noted.

Big data also trended with respect to cities and counties adapting to the world of smart solutions, big data, and IoT to make better informed decisions, according to an article shared by principal data scientist, Kirk Borne. The article detailed local governments’ buying decisions on 300 different smart solutions in order to gain insight into the purchasing trends. It was found that cities purchased more than counties across all five categories including big data resources, transportation, emergency response, citizen engagement, and connected facilities.

Other discussions related to big data was shared by Dustin Haisler, chief innovation officer at e.Republic, a California-based state and local government media and research company, on how faulty data systems are hampering the pandemic response. The article highlighted how investments in public health technology has lagged behind other data-driven systems since years now, thereby making real time information available during the pandemic nearly impossible.

For instance, billions of dollars were invested into electronic health information, but the same has not been extended to improve public health data. In fact, it was the first time that public health received federal assistance to upgrade data systems, which also did not arrive in time. Many health departments continue to receive reports via email and fax, while information exchanged between physicians, hospitals and labs are usually incomplete, the article detailed.

5. Robotics – 58 mentions

Self-driving electric trucks being put to use for the first time, carmakers exploring new forms of mobility and use of drones to fight fires were popularly discussed in December. According to a video shared by Alvin Foo, head of Airwave China, the innovation and mobility business unit within the Omnicom Media Group, approximately 25 self-driving electric trucks have been put to use in north China’s Tianjin port, thereby increasing operational efficiencies by 50%. As compared to automated vehicles, the new trucks are faster, smarter, and come at a lower cost, the video detailed.

Robotics also trended with respect to carmakers exploring new forms of mobility including robots, according to an article shared by guidaautonoma. As car production shut down due to the Covid-19 crisis, some automakers and auto chipmakers worried that automation and research would take a backseat for years. For example, car manufactures such as Hyundai bought an 80% stake in robotics company Boston Dynamics from SoftBank, a multinational conglomerate, to broaden its car-making mission to one that leverages robotic technology to help design autonomous vehicles and expand automation at its factories.

In other discussions, Ronald van Loon, shared a video on drones being used as firefighters. Firefighting drones are being considered the greatest innovation to have taken place in 2020, with many companies increasingly investing in the technology because of their size and easy movability.

Approximately 30 pilots steered around two dozen drones to fight wildfires that took place in California, Oregon, Colorado, and others.