Twenty years ago, the idea of the smart city was a fantasy about a future when all urban services would be connected, automated and accessible to all. Today, many cities are preparing for it as a necessity. Urbanisation is increasing at such a rapid rate that 61% of the world's population will live in cities by 2030, according to Unesco. At last week's World Cities Summit in Singapore, an overriding message was that most cities are utterly unprepared for this. "There isn't a single city in the world that is ready to deal with the growth we are facing," said Hany Fam, executive vice-president for enterprise partnerships at Mastercard. Speaking in a panel on "Better Cities with Smart Technology", he warned: "Time is not on our side." Most cities, he said, attempted solutions that had never been tried before, and were often doomed to failure. "When a city starts to plan for this future, it often starts from zero, as if it's the first time the challenge has ever been faced. A city today...

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