December 16, 2016

2017 Smart Cities Predictions: Agtech, UAVs & Autonomous Cars


As 2016 draws to a close, the Verizon Ventures team took time to reflect on various tech sectors that have experienced momentum, took a back seat, or are on the verge of unleashing their true potential. Here’s what we see happening in Smart Cities in 2017:

Intelligent farming

AgTech experienced a general slowdown in investment, but it was in-line with the overall market. While we expected 2016 to be slower than 2015, the number of deals increased this year, which indicates that many smaller deals are happening. This finding ties in with the overall valuation and funding drops the market is experiencing. I expect AgTech to come out of the shadows in 2017, especially with AI (like machine/deep learning, computer vision) starting to weigh in as an enabler of efficiency, accuracy and optimization. Since AI requires significant amounts of data, we will continue to see a land grab for all types of data as startups look to lock in their learning advantages”. 

— Daniel Chui

Where’s the fun in Smart Cities?

Most of the Smart Cities or Smart Communities efforts focus on delivering utility to municipalities and their residents — improving traffic flow, finding a parking space, monitoring building energy, etc. However, there needs to be a stronger focus on recreation and sports within the Smart Communities camps in order to entertain residents. Sensors and connectivity are enabling great recreational use cases like live-streaming of little league baseball or smart basketball courts that keep kids engaged and active. The marriage of digital and physical (AR is a great example) is creating cyber-physical systems that empower physical spaces with new digital capabilities (Click to Tweet). It’s great that IoT solutions are reducing traffic and fighting pollution, but wouldn’t keeping kids active and engaged with their community be another great use case for IoT? Sports and recreation are tremendous showcases for how technology, networks and connected intelligence can improve people’s lives.” 

— David Famolari

Next-generation mapping

“Earth sensing and real-time mapping are experiencing interesting developments. A premium is being placed on having HD maps and situational awareness of the earth in real-time thanks to the emergence of self-driving cars, but the tech has other applications in agriculture, mining, construction and fighting climate change. Detecting and recording changes over time is important and in the next year we will see a number of new companies coming out with novel approaches to collecting data and creating real-time HD maps.” 

— David Famolari

UAVs ready for take off

Now that the FAA has established early rules for the commercial operations of drones, industrial use cases will become more prevalent in 2017 (Click to Tweet). While integration of UAVs in the national airspace system will need more time, we will see more progress in the next year for UAVs to demonstrate their potential.” 

— Paul Heitlinger

Teleoperation makes progress for autonomy

Remote operation and centralization of key decision-making features will play an important role in progressing towards full autonomous fleets (Click to Tweet). The economics are in favor of this approach as it lets trained human operators scale their impact. Human intervention (via remote networks or remote control) will help vehicles navigate tricky conditions where autonomous systems have the most trouble, while still allowing the efficiencies of autonomous operation in less challenging environments like open highways. Ultimately this will prove the importance of real-time information, telemetry, and low-latency, high-bandwidth operation.”

— Dave Famolari


Tags: David Famolari , UAV , Daniel Chui , AgTech , Smart Cities , Paul Heitlinger , AI , 2017 predictions , Autonomous Car