Cities Can Unlock a Combined $60 Billion by Hyperconnecting their Urban Ecosystems, according to New ESI ThoughtLab Study

November 20, 2019 (Philadelphia, PA) – Today, ESI ThoughtLab announced the key findings from its Building a Hyperconnected City program, a year-long global study of 100 cities using technology to improve, connect, and secure all areas of their ecosystem. The study, supported by a coalition of industry leaders, shows how cities can go beyond current smart solutions to become “hyperconnected” hubs generating large economic, social, and environmental benefits by linking key elements of their urban landscape—from transportation to public health and security, from government to business and residents. ESI ThoughtLab’s economists estimate that, worldwide, cities could collectively enjoy a return on investment of as much as $60 billion if they were to become fully hyperconnected.

The findings were officially announced at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain during a keynote speech by Lou Celi, CEO of ESI ThoughtLab. According to estimates by the reporting cities, the average return on investment on smart city initiatives ranges from 3 percent to 4 percent. As cities become more interlinked, their ROI grows. Returns in dollar terms can range from $19.6 million per city for hyperconnected beginners to $83 million per city for hyperconnected leaders. This is on top of sizable social, quality of life, and environmental benefits—such as reductions in crime, congestion, and pollution, as well as improvements in public health and living conditions.

Based on the research findings, ESI ThoughtLab recommends that cities striving to become hyperconnected urban centers follow a roadmap that includes these elements already being applied by leaders in our study:

  • Crafting an evidence-based business case and continuously monitor performance—analyzing ROI systematically with the right metrics.
  • Calculating the full benefits including social, business, economic, and environmental benefits
  • Capitalizing on advanced technologies—particularly various forms of AI—while also bearing in mind the importance of cybersecurity.
  • Generating more value from data by gathering, integrating, and monetizing it in a responsible way, as well as sharing it with stakeholders as appropriate.
  • Organizing resources within a largely centralized department and drawing on both internal and external staff to operate hyperconnected city programs.
  • Using the ecosystem effectively, partnering with business and academic communities, but keeping crucial development and implementation tasks in-house.
  • Ensuring all citizens are engaged and connected by seeking input from stakeholders and reaching out to disadvantaged populations.

A hyperconnected approach generates considerable returns in all areas of a city’s ecosystem. For example, the research revealed that using technology to interlink different areas of public transit programs increases passenger satisfaction 38%, on-time arrival 33%, and transit ridership 29%. Digital public transit payment systems, used by 72% of cities surveyed, are particularly effective, with hyperconnected leaders recognizing a 6.5% ROI.  Leaders also report a 4.9% return on real-time public transit apps, 4.8% on open loop payment systems, and 4.6% on mobility-as-a-service apps.

“The real value comes not just from using technology to link assets within urban areas, such as mobility, safety, energy, and sustainability, but also from connecting city stakeholders, including governments, citizens, businesses, and academia. When these are all aligned, cities can reap the greatest economic, business, and social rewards,” said Celi.

To become hyperconnected, cities may also need to overcome a series of roadblocks. Uncertainty among citizens and other stakeholders who feel their health, privacy, or other interests will be compromised by new technologies is one of the thorniest. The study found that cities like Moscow, Barcelona, and Stockholm alleviate this through effective communication and outreach to build citizen trust and engagement.  Funding for smart initiatives is yet another hurdle, but there are many possible solutions, both public and private, that leaders around the world have adopted. Cities must also overcome policy and regulatory barriers—such as those around procurement—to get where they are going. And they must pay close attention to cybersecurity, since the costs of not doing so can mount into the millions.

“Getting past these roadblocks may not be easy,” said Celi. “But the journey to hyperconnectivity will provide tremendous dividends to all city stakeholders—from citizens rich and poor, to residents young and old, to workers skilled and unskilled, and to businesses large and small.”

To access the findings and publicly available materials from the study including an eBook, interactive online tool, and case studies, visit:


For more information, please contact:

Lou Celi, Chief Executive Officer
ESI ThoughtLab
[email protected]
     Mike Daly, Communications Specialist
ESI ThoughtLab
[email protected]

About the research coalition

ESI ThoughtLab is an innovative research firm providing fresh ideas and actionable insights through rigorous data analysis. We specialize in assessing the impact of technological, economic, and demographic shifts on companies, industries, and cities. ESI ThoughtLab ’s team of seasoned economists and thought leaders have many years of experience in conducting urban analysis.

Cognizant is a multinational corporation that provides IT and business services, including digital, technology, consulting, and operations services. Cognizant’s industry-based, consultative approach helps clients envision, build, and run more innovative and efficient businesses.

Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500 and more than 5,000 private and middle market companies. Our people work across the industry sectors that drive and shape today’s marketplace to make an impact that matters—delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them.

Eaton Lighting delivers an industry-leading portfolio of innovative lighting solutions for connected buildings, homes, and communities, including reliable indoor and outdoor smart lighting, and control solutions specifically designed to simplify and personalize lighting for consumers, help solve complex business challenges, and leverage data insights to meet customers’ unique needs. Eaton Lighting solutions serve a wide range of customers, including architects, engineers, facility managers, municipal leaders, electrical distributors, and contractors in the commercial, industrial, retail, institutional, residential, utility, and other markets. For more information, visit

JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. Our vision is to reimagine the world of real estate, creating rewarding opportunities and amazing spaces where people can achieve their ambitions. In doing so, we will build a better tomorrow for our clients, our people, and our communities. JLL is a Fortune 500 company with operations in over 80 countries, and a global workforce of nearly 92,000 as of June 30, 2019. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. For further information, visit

Microsoft empowers every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. With our diverse partner ecosystem, an extensive portfolio of solutions, and a trusted, secure, and open platform, we are uniquely positioned to help cities innovate now for the Smart City of tomorrow. Visit

Nokia creates the technology to connect the world. It develops and delivers the industry’s only end-to-end portfolio of network equipment, software, services and licensing that is available globally. Nokia’s customers include communications service providers whose combined networks support 6.1 billion subscriptions, as well as enterprises in the private and public sector that use its network portfolio to increase productivity and enrich lives. Through Nokia’s research teams, including the world-renowned Nokia Bell Labs, it is leading the world to adopt end-to-end 5G networks that are faster, more secure and capable of revolutionizing lives, economies and societies. Nokia adheres to the highest ethical business standards as it creates technology with social purpose, quality and integrity.

NTT is a global technology and business solutions provider helping clients grow their business and improve their competitive market position by delivering fully integrated services, including global networks, cybersecurity, managed IT and applications, cloud and datacenter services combined with business consulting and deep industry expertise. As a top five global technology and business services provider, NTT works with over 80 of the Global Fortune 100 companies and many thousands of other clients and communities to achieve their goals and contribute to a sustainable future. To learn more about NTT’s Smart Platform and how the company is accelerating Smart Cities globally, visit NTT’s website and watch the case study on YouTube.

Oracle offers a complete suite of integrated applications plus highly automated and secure generation 2 infrastructure featuring the Oracle Autonomous Database. With Oracle, customers can modernize their operations and take advantage of emerging technologies to better engage citizens and serve their communities.

Pennoni is a consulting engineering firm providing services that help communities and private sector clients alike navigate the ever-changing technological advancements available and learn how best to integrate “smart” solutions into today’s built environment. As part of their involvement in the smart city initiative, they utilize and continue to discover new and innovative methods in the delivery of services for smart, sustainable, and resilient solutions for projects across the globe. Across all market sectors, Pennoni works with project owners, end users, stakeholders, and teaming partners to develop solutions that truly make Pennoni “Partners For What’s Possible.”

Stantec designs with community in mind. We care about the communities we serve—because they’re our communities too. This allows us to assess what’s needed and connect our expertise, to appreciate nuances, and envision what’s never been considered, to bring together diverse perspectives so we can collaborate toward a shared success. We’re designers, engineers, scientists, and project managers, innovating together at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. Balancing these priorities results in projects that advance the quality of life in communities across the globe. For more information, visit

Visa is the world’s leader in digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network—enabling individuals, businesses, and economies to thrive. Our advanced global processing network, VisaNet, provides secure and reliable payments around the world, and is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second. Our relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of digital commerce on any device for everyone, everywhere. As the world moves from analog to digital, Visa is applying our brand, products, people, network, and scale to reshape the future of commerce. For more information, visit, and @VisaNews.


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