CHINA and other Asian countries will play a major role in shaping the smart cities of the future thanks to high adoption of smartphones and digital services, a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute showed.

The study, which evaluates technology infrastructure, the applications introduced, and public adoption across 50 major cities, showed that although activity and innovation have been picking up in recent years, there’s still huge potential and room for improvement for even the most digitally advanced cities.

The study predicted that better use of data and technology could shave 15 to 30 minutes off average daily commuting times and cut emergency response times by up to 17 minutes.

The world’s most developed cities still lead in terms of construction of underlying information technology infrastructure, such as fast communications networks and open data portals for government agencies to better share data with the public.

“With its young population of digital natives and big urban problems to solve, China and the whole of the Asia region will play a big role in shaping the future of smart cities,” said Katrina Lu, a partner in McKinsey & Company and the office manager of McKinsey in Shanghai.

By gauging how urban residents feel about technologies being deployed around them, the study also found that responses were surprisingly lukewarm in European and some other high-income cities, which is in contrast to high levels of awareness and usage in Chinese cities.

“Integrating smart technology into infrastructure helps users and service providers make better decisions and reduce inefficiencies, and ultimately helps the public get the services they want, when and how they want them,” said Jonathan Woetzel, a senior partner in McKinsey’s Shanghai office and a director of the McKinsey Global Institute.

The study also suggested that in some cases, building a public platform where companies, nonprofits, and partnerships form an ecosystem would be a wise move.

“Adding more players from the private field to join smart city construction is a positive, since it increases adoption,” said Jeongmin Seong, senior fellow of McKinsey Global Institute.

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