Career Opportunities Abound

in Smart Cities

The potential for cities to utilize data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve public safety, water supply, transportation, and services for residents and businesses is virtually limitless. In fact, experts predict that the market for smart-city technology could reach $757.74 billion by 2020.

As cities “get smarter,” it could result in not only the creation of thousands of traditional technical jobs, but also new “hybrid” positions that utilize skills across two or more job categories, according to Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, vice president and general manager, Cisco Services, and president and CEO of the Internet of Things Talent Consortium.

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However, orchestrating transformative change on a massive scale requires more than just people who know how to install and maintain technology; there’s a pressing need for innovation, business savvy, and the ability to analyze and create cross-platform solutions, Beliveau-Dunn noted. Linking businesses, buildings and citizens with services such as utilities, transportation and parking requires a holistic approach to problem solving (among other talents).

Even traditional tech jobs involving smart cities will require a unique and wide-ranging set of skills. (To view sample projects from smart cities, click here.) As cities build out infrastructure and proceed along the “smart” adoption curve, here are the jobs potentially created:

  • Business Transformation Practitioner

A business transformation practitioner is part business architect, part go-between, and part change agent. They identify the needs and ideas of businesses and city leaders and translate them into strategies that can be acted upon by enterprise architects and developers. In other words, they help to encourage and facilitate transformation by aligning business priorities with technology strategies.

  • Customer Maker

Customer makers are similar to customer success managers or client advocates in that they are responsible for boosting adoption rates and enticing new users across the digital enterprise, especially in the B2B space. In addition to being product experts, customer makers serve as trainers, marketers, event organizers, consultants and best practice purveyors.

  • Urban Mechanic

Urban mechanics are civic innovators focused on improving the livelihood of the city, and bringing the smart cities vision to life by humanizing interactions.

For instance, an urban mechanic might head up an innovation hub in the city, or suggest an automated approach to eliminating traffic congestion or registering kids for school. They may even connect local start-ups with development opportunities, funding sources, and so on.

  • Digital Anthropologist

Digital anthropology studies the relationship between humans and digital technology to understand how people think and act. Because the position is fairly new, those transitioning to a new career can potentially have a background in anthropology, psychology, UX, or data analytics. The role usually combines a solid grounding in anthropological theory (and the ability to analyze data) with qualitative methods to successfully predict the impact of technology on human behavior, culture, and social change.

  • Professional “Triber”

If you’re good at getting the word out digitally, and a technology evangelist at heart, you may have the skills and drive to become a professional “triber.” These “user herders” utilize data analytics and digital marketing techniques to identify advocates and create community support for, say, a new app to reserve parking spaces or access public transportation.

  • Industrial Network Engineer

These engineering pros architect systems and technology that connect plants and manufacturers with supply chain networks and vital resources such as shipping ports, rail systems, and energy providers. They are also charged with designing open systems so information can be shared seamlessly and securely between the production floor and city entities that support urban manufacturing.

  • Alliance Director

Cities require someone to develop and nurture the private-public educational partnerships needed to drive smart city strategies. These professionals must apply for the grants that make transformation possible, explained Dennis Gakunga, chief sustainability officer and head of smart city initiatives for the city of Chula Vista, California. The ideal candidate has decision making authority, he added, and a technical background.

Innovative New Smart City Career Opportunities

Smart cities and companies need IT, telecommunication, and technology professionals to function. They also need the infrastructure so those professionals can do their jobs. This means that they need human talent to build the infrastructure.

Some of the smart city jobs available today include:

  • Robotics specialist

  • Cyber security analyst

  • 3D print technician

  • Virtual reality design

  • Network programmer (SDN)

  • Machine learning scientist

  • Industrial network engineer

  • Customer makers

  • Neuro implant technician

  • Professional triber

  • Digital anthropologist

  • Platform developer

  • Business transformation practitioner

  • Cloud architect

  • Data scientist

  • Urban innovation/Urban mechanics

  • Private-Public Alliance Directors

The demand for these smart city jobs is so great that cities are going out of their way to attract more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and creative people. For instance, Berlin sought to improve their cultural attractions including their two zoos, three major opera houses, seven symphony orchestras, and scores of museums with progressive policies and planning. Meanwhile, Hamburg launched HafenCity, Europe’s largest urban regeneration project, to market itself as one great place to live and work.

Smart Cities Career Skills Profile

All this means great employment opportunities if you have the right skills. Cities and companies need people to plan and implement their smart technologies. They also need people who know how to read data and gain insight from it.


The following list contains some of the more common skill sets smart city employers are looking for, according to a quick survey of a few online job descriptions:

  • Data science, computer science, or engineering proficiency

  • Computer programming

  • Multithreaded software development

  • Distributed algorithms and systems

  • Machine learning

  • Artificial Intelligence

  • Robotics

  • Research and development

  • Data mining and deep learning

  • Wireless communication

  • Embedded software

  • ARM assembly and miniature electronics

  • Collaborative communication

  • Blockchain and digital security, especially public-key encryption

  • P2P networking

  • Machine-to-Machine (M2M) devices

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