Covid-19 Makes NY An Even Smarter 5G-Powered City

A Smart City is a more connected, efficient, healthy and nurturing place to live. New York has been taking steps towards becoming a smart city for years now, and the Covid-19 crisis merely highlights the role for technology in the urban context.

A city is “smart” to the extent that it helps its residents live safer, happier, more environmentally-friendly lives. 5G provides the essential infrastructure for a smart city by connecting and collecting information from sensors all over the metropole. These sensors gather data on everything from traffic congestion to water usage to pollution to waste accumulation. As 5G has been rolled out by various providers throughout New York (T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T among others), the municipality has initiated and expanded a range of projects that hint to a technologically smarter future.

In the water supply for example, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection has deployed automated water readers in more than 800,000 properties. These monitor water usage, can warn of a leak when an unusual spike in consumption is recorded and has already delivered $73 million in savings.1 In a city that consumes 1 billion gallons of water each day, there is great potential for increased savings and efficiency.

In waste collection, the Big Belly smart trashcan now monitors and communicates when and how much of the city’s 10,500 tons of trash are deposited each day. This makes collection more efficient, saving fuel and pollution and preventing the smell and disease of festering waste. The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has been checking on air quality in the city since 2008. It set up a network of monitors, reporting at 15-minute intervals, which revealed that low-cost heating oil used in only 1% of NYC buildings was the cause of more air pollution than all the vehicles combined. This led to policy changes to restrict the use of these oils.

These examples show how widescale monitoring is already making a significant contribution to urban living. The expansion of the 5G network will make it possible to gather data in even more areas and for the municipality to respond in real time. Proactive resolution of problems before they even arise is one goal of a smart city – smoothing traffic flows so first-responders can arrive at emergencies in record time, managing resources for greatest cost and benefit efficiency. In a post Covid-19 reality, a smarter New York could see sensors in medical facilities providing real-time reports of their staffing, occupancy and equipment levels, to ensure that patients receive the best care possible.

The NY Mayor’s Chief Technology Officer, John Paul Farmer has emphasized the humanitarian aspects of technology as NY moves towards “smart city” status.2 He articulates the Mayor’s mission as to “ensure that technology is inclusive, accessible, human-centered, and works for all New Yorkers. … making New York City the fairest big city in America.” During the current health crisis, City Hall has spearheaded the use of technology in the fight against the virus, and to support those affected by its implications such as social isolation and unemployment.3 NY’s eye on the future is clearly evident in the Guidelines it has written for the responsible use of smart technologies.4 The awareness of the need to promote best practices places NY as a leader among the 35 cities across 11 countries who came together to ensure that their smart cities work for the benefit of their residents.

As the 5G roll out solidifies and use-cases proliferate, New York is at the forefront of international moves towards Smart Cities. While corona’s social distancing measures will likely keep New Yorkers physically apart for the near future, the technology is in place to make them even more connected and bring the Internet of Things to work for the benefit of the city dwellers and their environment.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has negatively affected the worldwide economy, individual countries, individual companies and the market in general. The future impact of COVID-19 is currently unknown, and it may exacerbate other risks that apply to the Fund.

The views expressed may change at any time after the date of this publication.  There is no guarantee that any projection, forecast or opinion will be realized.

1 ‘How New York is Becoming a Smart City,’ Michael Tobias, Nearby Engineers,

2 NYC Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer. “About Us”.

3 NYC Covid-19 Citywide Information Portal.

4 NYC Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Office. Guidelines for the Internet of Things.