100 years ago, cities were much like they are today: places of congregation.
People would travel hundreds of kilometres to live amongst everyone else.
But as populations have grown, our cities have undergone dramatic changes.
The buildings are bigger. Transport systems are a whole lot better. Public amenities, hygiene, and opportunities have all improved.
It’s why more and more people move to urban areas each year.
So what will the next 100 years be like? More of the same?
I want you to imagine a city of the future.
What comes to mind?
Skyscrapers that have no end? Flying cars following an invisible path in the air? Connected devices on every corner?
Our cities might look like something straight out of Hollywood. It’s how I initially imagined it.
But reality could be much different.
We might not have flying cars, we might do away with an endless amount of skyscrapers.
I am confident of one thing however. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to take advantage of our evolving cities in the stock market.
The next generation of connectivity
One country fast evolving is Singapore.
Instead of a Smart City, Singapore is fast developing a Smart Nation.
According to Singapore, this is where people are empowered by technology to lead meaningful lives.
Things like e-payments, millions of sensors and communication technology will make Singapore’s dream possible.
And already, they’ve made big strides at digitalising their economy.
In 2015 for example, they launched multiple apps like OneService to encourage digital communication and free Wi-Fi networks.
Then in 2016, the country opened their first 3D printing centre along with govBuy, a platform that allows citizens to sell their services to the public sector.
Places like Hong Kong are following suit. Their plans to create a Smart City include:
- a connected transport system,
- ubiquitous use of digital payments,
- clean green connected energy and,
- innovation incubators for youths and entrepreneurs.
For many policy makers however, plans likely won’t progress. Not in a big way at least, until a new technology hits the stage: 5G.
It’s the next generation of connectivity.
If we wind things back a little, 2G kicked off global communications. 3G brought us mobile internet. 4G gave us much faster speeds to send and receive data. It also made such data more secure.
Billions upon billions of dollars brought these connectivity improvements to the masses.
But unless we get 5G, it’s hard to imagine a future of driverless cars, remote surgery or the Internet of Things.
Partly it’s because we cannot transmit data fast enough.
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But it’s not just about speed. We need connections that are reliable and consistent to make the above possible.
It’s why there’s so much hype around 5G.
It’s not just the answer to more data and faster connection speeds. It could bring on true Smart Cities, where everything is connected.
Think I’m being too optimistic? Take a look at how Tech Republic framed the situation:
‘Figuring out what uses 5G will be put to is the equivalent of trying to predict the rise of the iPhone five years before it launched. No one foresaw its arrival, or how the market would change in response to it, and how we’d end up where we are now. We’re facing the same situation again: trying and imagine how the mobile world will look 10 years from now and design a standard to fit it.’
Try not to get to excited though. 5G is close, but it’s not coming tomorrow. Wired writes:
‘Network providers around the world are already gearing up to test 5G networks throughout 2018, with the first 5G-ready smartphones expected to be released early next year.
‘If everything goes to plan, the idea is that 5G will bring us broadband-equivalent download speeds over mobile networks. That would mean no more waiting ages for videos to buffer or web pages to load and make it easier for things like driverless cars to transfer vast amounts of data really quickly.’
And how often does everything go according to plan?
In Hong Kong for example, mobile and satellite companies are stuck in negotiations over the rights to a crucial part of the 5G spectrum.
South China Morning Post explains:
‘At issue is the so-called C-band, a frequency range key to developing next-generation, ultra-fast 5G networks, which themselves are crucial to the functioning of a smart city. In Hong Kong, the C-band is used by the city’s two satellite operators, AsiaSat and APT Satellite, under a legally binding arrangement, but the four mobile operators want access to it to pursue their 5G ambitions.’
So what can you do in the interim, before 5G gets here?
Should you invest in data?
There are no certainties about the future.
But if I had to bet whether demand for data will increase or decrease I’d definitely bet on the former.
Consider the internet for a moment.
Every year millions of new people hop online. This means millions more are sending and receiving more data each year.
And those who already consume data want more of it.
Instead of looking at pictures, we’re all watching videos and streaming more content. This demands a whole lot more data than reading the odd article or surfing the web.
Then, if we factor in new technologies like driverless cars and the IoT, data consumption goes through the roof.
The opportunity for investors is to find the companies that stand to profit from the inevitable rise of data.
Editor, Money Morning
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