Smart cities for all: a vision for an inclusive, accessible urban future


Smart cities aspire to use technology to put people first. In an era of connected technologies, our cities have the potential to be built to respond to our needs and smooth the path as we lead our lives. This smoother path will help all citizens, especially those across a range of ages and physical or cognitive abilities.

Imagine a city where a person in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller can chart a route to the local park using curb cuts and avoiding barriers. There she will wirelessly log onto the park itself and receive notifications of upcoming park events, and perhaps even participate in an interactive lesson on the trees and flowers currently in bloom. Imagine a city where refrigerators will provide alerts of any diminishing essentials so that caregivers can adjust their grocery list before they visit their parents’ home. Smart cities offer a new vision for daily living where the world around us is conducive to making life easier, and lets us focus on the personal connections that make city life vibrant and full of purpose.

The global smart city market is expected to grow to $1.565 trillion by 20201, and this growing economic opportunity inherently involves the opportunity to engage, inform and improve the lives of citizens. For the 25% of people in U.S. cities who are aging or living with disabilities, these technologies must be built to deliver on better access and fuller participation in the life of their cities. New interconnected solutions will enable improved mobility solutions, increased opportunity for aging-in-place, and other technologies that will support independent living and transform cities into more enabling environments. The ecosystem of impacts goes beyond any one community: this new connectivity will support millions of families and caretakers, and provide a platform for citizen entrepreneurs to craft unique civil tech solutions.

Smart city technologies make cities more manageable and more personal by deploying sensing and monitoring capabilities along with adopting data-driven approaches. They take the pocket-sized solutions that help us manage our homes from our phones and apply them at the city-scale to provide officials with detailed dashboards to understand their communities block by city block. They allow citizens to seamlessly integrate their daily lives with the urban space by connecting our personal devices with city services upon which we rely. Whether alerting emergency services when our smartwatches detect a fall, or using real-time data to manage traffic flows to keep citizens crossing the street safe in a busy city corridor, smart city technologies bring an unprecedented level of connectivity to city living. 

From civic kiosks that incorporate Universal Design to the latest cloud-based accessibility features and healthtech innovations, AT&T seeks to advance an inclusive vision for information and communications technology (ICT) to integrate aging and accessibility considerations from the ground up. AT&T is developing new solutions to benefit people who are aging and people living with disabilities, and helping to create the conditions for a new wave of citizen-driven innovation. As these innovations proliferate and smart city technologies become more widely available, there is a clear and urgent imperative to ensure smart cities do not perpetuate digital divides that have historically prevented community access to new advances. AT&T is committed to creating smart cities where the benefits of these technologies are equally distributed and empower all communities.

This paper, Smart Cities for All: A Vision for an Inclusive, Accessible Urban Future, is the result of AT&T exploring the revolution of smart city technology and its enormous potential to have a positive impact on people with disabilities and the aging. AT&T convened BSR and the AT&T Advisory Panel on Access & Aging (AAPAA) to conduct research and gather insights from the diverse panel of external experts in October 2016. The paper maps the opportunities for smart city technologies to benefit all communities, as well as the keys to success to ensure these technologies advance more equitable and positive outcomes for people who are aging and people living with disabilities.

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