Smart city

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Plans for the development of the Smart City of Nansha, Guangzhou

A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets – the city’s assets include, but not limited to, local departments information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services. The goal of building a smart city is to improve quality of life by using technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs. ICT allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city, how the city is evolving, and how to enable a better quality of life. Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring systems, data are collected from citizens and devices - then processed and analyzed. The information and knowledge gathered are keys to tackling inefficiency.[1]

ICT is used to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve contact between citizens and government.[2] Smart city applications are developed with the goal of improving the management of urban flows and allowing for real time responses to challenges.[3] A smart city may therefore be more prepared to respond to challenges than one with a simple 'transactional' relationship with its citizens.[4] Yet, the term itself remains unclear [5] to its specifics and therefore, open to many interpretations and subject.

Other terms that have been used for similar concepts include cyberville, digital city, electronic communities, flexicity, information city, intelligent city, knowledge-based city, MESH city, telecity, teletopia, Ubiquitous city, wired city.

Sectors that have been developing smart city technology include government services,[6] transport and traffic management, energy,[7] health care,[8] water, innovative urban agriculture and waste management.[9]

Major technological, economic and environmental changes have generated interest in smart cities, including climate change, economic restructuring, the move to online retail and entertainment, ageing populations, urban population growth and pressures on public finances.[10] The European Union (EU) has devoted constant efforts to devising a strategy for achieving 'smart' urban growth for its metropolitan city-regions.[11][12] The EU has developed a range of programmes under ‘Europe’s Digital Agenda".[13] In 2010, it highlighted its focus on strengthening innovation and investment in ICT services for the purpose of improving public services and quality of life.[12] Arup estimates that the global market for smart urban services will be $400 billion per annum by 2020.[14] Examples of Smart City technologies and programs have been implemented in Milton Keynes,[15] Southampton,[6] Amsterdam,[7] Barcelona[16] and Stockholm.[17]

An important cluster of Smart City technological companies exists in Israel with Tel Aviv being awarded the World Smart City Award in 2014.[18] Israeli companies are implementing Smart City solutions worldwide.[19][20][21]


Due to the breadth of technologies that have been implemented under the smart city label, it is difficult to distil a precise definition of a smart city. Deakin and Al Wear[22] list four factors that contribute to the definition of a smart city:

  1. The application of a wide range of electronic and digital technologies to communities and cities
  2. The use of ICT to transform life and working environments within the region
  3. The embedding of such ICTs in government systems
  4. The territorialisation of practices that brings ICTs and people together to enhance the innovation and knowledge that they offer.

Deakin defines the smart city as one that utilises ICT to meet the demands of the market (the citizens of the city), and that community involvement in the process is necessary for a smart city.[23] A smart city would thus be a city that not only possesses ICT technology in particular areas, but has also implemented this technology in a manner that positively impacts the local community.

Alternative definitions include:

  • Giffinger et al. 2007: "Regional competitiveness, transport and Information and Communication Technologies economics, natural resources, human and social capital, quality of life, and participation of citizens in the governance of cities."[24]
  • Smart Cities Council[when?]: "A smart city is one that has digital technology embedded across all city functions."[25][full citation needed]
  • Caragliu and Nijkamp 2009: "A city can be defined as ‘smart’ when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory action and engagement."[26]
  • Frost & Sullivan 2014: "We identified eight key aspects that define a Smart City: smart governance, smart energy, smart building, smart mobility, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart healthcare and smart citizen."[27]
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Smart Cities: "A smart city brings together technology, government and society to enable the following characteristics: smart cities, a smart economy, smart mobility, a smart environment, smart people, smart living, smart governance."[28][when?]
  • Business Dictionary: "A developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas; economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and government. Excelling in these key areas can be done so through strong human capital, social capital, and/or ICT infrastructure."[29][when?]
  • Indian Government 2014 : "Smart City offers sustainability in terms of economic activities and employment opportunities to a wide section of its residents, regardless of their level of education, skills or income levels."[30]
  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills,UK 2013: "The concept is not static, there is no absolute definition of a smart city, no end point, but rather a process, or series of steps, by which cities become more 'liveable' and resilient and, hence, able to respond quicker to new challenges." [31][when?]


It has been suggested that a smart city (also community, business cluster, urban agglomeration or region) use information technologies to:

  1. Make more efficient use of physical infrastructure (roads, built environment and other physical assets) through artificial intelligence and data analytics to support a strong and healthy economic, social, cultural development.[32]
  2. Engage effectively with local people in local governance and decision by use of open innovation processes and e-participation,[33] improving the collective intelligence of the city’s institutions through e-governance,[3] with emphasis placed on citizen participation and co-design.[34][35][36]
  3. Learn, adapt and innovate and thereby respond more effectively and promptly to changing circumstances by improving the intelligence of the city.[3][37]

They evolve towards a strong integration of all dimensions of human intelligence, collective intelligence, and also artificial intelligence within the city.[38][39] The intelligence of cities "resides in the increasingly effective combination of digital telecommunication networks (the nerves), ubiquitously embedded intelligence (the brains), sensors and tags (the sensory organs), and software (the knowledge and cognitive competence)".[40]

These forms of intelligence in smart cities have been demonstrated in three ways:

Bletchley Park often considered to be the first smart community.
  1. Orchestration intelligence:[3] Where cities establish institutions and community-based problem solving and collaborations, such as in Bletchley Park, where the Nazi Enigma cypher was decoded by a team led by Alan Turing. This has been referred to as the first example of a smart city or an intelligent community.[41]
  2. Empowerment intelligence: Cities provide open platforms, experimental facilities and smart city infrastructure in order to cluster innovation in certain districts. These are seen in the Kista Science City in Stockholm and the Cyberport Zone in Hong Kong. Similar facilities have also been established in Melbourne.[42]
    Hong Kong Cyberport 1 and Cyberport 2 Buildings
  3. Instrumentation intelligence: Where city infrastructure is made smart through real-time data collection, with analysis and predictive modelling across city districts. There is much controversy surrounding this, particularly with regards to surveillance issues in smart cities. Examples of Instrumentation intelligence have been implemented in Amsterdam.[7] This is implemented through:[3]
    1. A common IP infrastructure that is open to researchers to develop applications.
    2. Wireless meters and devices transmit information at the point in time.
    3. A number of homes being provided with smart energy meters to become aware of energy consumption and reduce energy usage
    4. Solar power garbage compactors, car recharging stations and energy saving lamps.

Some major fields of intelligent city activation are:

Innovation economy Urban infrastructure Governance
Innovation in industries, clusters, districts of a city Transport Administration services to the citizen
Knowledge workforce: Education and employment Energy / Utilities Participatory and direct democracy
Creation of knowledge-intensive companies Protection of the environment / Safety Services to the citizen: Quality of life

Platforms and technologies

New Internet technologies promotingcloud-based services, the Internet of Things (IoT), real-world user interfaces, use of smart phones and smart meters, networks of sensors and RFIDs, and more accurate communication based on the semantic web, open new ways to collective action and collaborative problem solving.

Online collaborative sensor data management platforms are on-line database services that allow sensor owners to register and connect their devices to feed data into an on-line database for storage and allow developers to connect to the database and build their own applications based on that data.[43][44]

The city of Santander in Cantabria, northern Spain, has 20,000 sensors connecting buildings, infrastructure, transport, networks and utilities, offers a physical space for experimentation and validation of the IoT functions, such as interaction and management protocols, device technologies, and support services such as discovery, identity management and security[45] In Santander, the sensors monitor the levels of pollution, noise, traffic and parking.

Electronic cards (known as smart cards) are another common platform in smart city contexts. These cards possess a unique encrypted identifier that allows the owner to log in to a range of government provided services (or e-services) without setting up multiple accounts. The single identifier allows governments to aggregate data about citizens and their preferences to improve the provision of services and to determine common interests of groups. This technology has been implemented in Southampton.[22]

Smart City Roadmap

A smart city roadmap consists of four/three (the first is a preliminary check) major components:[1]

  1. Define exactly what is the community: maybe that definition can condition what you are doing in the subsequent steps; it relates to geography, links between cities and countryside and flows of people between them; maybe - even - that in some Countries the definition of City/community that is stated does not correspond effectively to what - in fact - happens in the real life
  2. Study The Community: Before deciding to build a smart city, first we need to know why. This can be done by determining the benefits of such an initiative. Study the community to know the citizens, the business’s needs - know the citizens and the community’s unique attributes, such as the age of the citizens, their education, hobbies, and attractions of the city.
  3. Develop a Smart City Policy: Develop a policy to drive the initiatives, where roles, responsibilities, objective, and goals, can be defined. Create plans and strategies on how the goals will be achieved.
  4. Engage The Citizens: This can be done by engaging the citizens through the use of e-government initiatives, open data, sport events, etc.

In short, People, Processes, and Technology (PPT) are the three principles of the success of a smart city initiative. Cities must study their citizens and communities, know the processes, business drivers, create policies, and objectives to meet the citizens’ needs. Then, technology can be implemented to meet the citizens’ need, in order to improve the quality of life and create real economic opportunities.This requires a holistic customized approach that accounts for city cultures, long-term city planning, and local regulations.


University research labs have developed prototypes and solutions for intelligent cities. MIT Smart Cities Lab [46] focuses upon intelligent, sustainable buildings, mobility systems (GreenWheel Electric Bicycle, Mobility-on-Demand, CityCar, Wheel Robots); the IntelCities [47] research consortium developed solutions for electronic government, planning systems and citizen participation; URENIO has developed a series of intelligent city platforms for the innovation economy [48] focusing on strategic intelligence, technology transfer, collaborative innovation, and incubation, while is offering, through its portal, a global watch on intelligent cities research and planning;[49] the Smart Cities Academic Network [50] is working on e-governance and e-services in the North Sea region. IGLUS is a global action research project led by EPFL that is focused on developing innovative governance systems for urban infrastructures as a necessary step for realization of the smart cities vision. The MK:Smart project[15] is focusing on issues of sustainable energy use, water use and transport infrastructure alongside exploring how to promote citizen engagement in Smart Cities[51] alongside educating citizens about the concept of Smart Cities.[52][53]


Large IT, telecommunication and energy management companies such as Cisco, Schneider Electric, IBM and Microsoft have developed new solutions and initiatives for intelligent cities as well. Cisco, launched the Global Intelligent Urbanization initiative [54] to help cities around the world using the network as the fourth utility for integrated city management, better quality of life for citizens, and economic development. IBM announced its SmarterCities [55] to stimulate economic growth and quality of life in cities and metropolitan areas with the activation of new approaches of thinking and acting in the urban ecosystem. Sensor developers and startup companies are continually developing new smart city applications.

Flagship cases

Major strategies and achievements related to the spatial intelligence of cities are listed in the Intelligent Community Forum awards from 1999 to 2010, in the cities of Suwon (South Korea), Stockholm (Sweden), Gangnam District of Seoul (South Korea), Waterloo, Ontario (Canada), Taipei (Taiwan), Mitaka (Japan), Glasgow (Scotland, UK), Calgary (Alberta, Canada), Seoul (South Korea), New York City (USA), LaGrange, Georgia (USA), and Singapore, which were recognized for their efforts in developing broadband networks and e-services sustaining innovation ecosystems, growth, and inclusion.[56] There are a number of cities actively pursuing a smart city strategy:

Laguna Croatà

PLANET is a project which has been designed by professionals, experts in urban planning and ‘smart utilities’, and a project characterised by developments in the Smart City concept. The ‘smart’ city is now becoming more inclusive, opening up to a new target: low-medium income brackets. One of the universal concepts key to the Smart City project is its eco-sustainability: PLANET extends this concept strategically at an economic level. The sustainability of the costs and the investments becomes an essential priority of the ‘Social Smart City’. PLANET creates and implements this project while staying within the economic parameters imposed by government Social Housing programs (Brazilian Minha Casa, Minha Vida). The Smart City does not need to be close to a pre-existing city: it is a new autonomous and functional city and, as such, it can attract both individuals and businesses.


Street lamps in Amsterdam have been upgraded to allow municipal councils to dim the lights based on pedestrian usage.[57]

The Amsterdam Smart City initiative[7] which began in 2009 currently includes 79 projects collaboratively developed by local residents, government and businesses.[23] These projects run on an interconnected platform through wireless devices to enhance the city’s real time decision making abilities. The City of Amsterdam (City) claims the purpose of the projects is to reduce traffic, save energy and improve public safety.[58] To promote efforts from local residents, the City runs the Amsterdam Smart City Challenge annually, accepting proposals for applications and developments that fit within the City’s framework.[59] An example of a resident developed app is Mobypark, which allows owners of parking spaces to rent them out to people for a fee.[60] The data generated from this app can then be used by the City to determine parking demand and traffic flows in Amsterdam. A number of homes have also been provided with smart energy meters, with incentives provided to those that actively reduce energy consumption.[3][61] Other initiatives include flexible street lighting (smart lighting)[62] which allows municipalities to control the brightness of street lights, and smart traffic management[63] where traffic is monitored in real time by the City and information about current travel time on certain roads is broadcast to allow motorists to determine the best routes to take.


A new bus network was implemented in Barcelona due to smart city data analytics.

Barcelona has established a number of projects that can be considered ‘smart city’ applications within its "CityOS" strategy.[64] For example, sensor technology has been implemented in the irrigation system in Parc del Centre de Poblenou, where real time data is transmitted to gardening crews about the level of water required for the plants.[16][65] Barcelona has also designed a new bus network based on data analysis of the most common traffic flows in Barcelona, utilising primarily vertical, horizontal and diagonal routes with a number of interchanges.[66] Integration of multiple smart city technologies can be seen through the implementation of smart traffic lights[67] as buses run on routes designed to optimise the number of green lights. In addition, where an emergency is reported in Barcelona, the approximate route of the emergency vehicle is entered into the traffic light system, setting all the lights to green as the vehicle approaches through a mix of GPS and traffic management software, allowing emergency services to reach the incident without delay. Much of this data is being developed into practical solutions in the 22@Barcelona District,[68] and has been enhanced by an opensource data pooling middleware called Sentilo.[69]


The Kista Science City from above.

Stockholm’s smart city technology is underpinned by the Stokab dark fibre system [70] which was developed in 1994 to provide a universal fibre optic network across Stockholm.[71] Private companies are able to lease fibre as service providers on equal terms. The company is owned by the City of Stockholm itself.[17] Within this framework, Stockholm has created a Green IT strategy.[72] The Green IT program seeks to reduce the environmental impact of Stockholm through IT functions such as energy efficient buildings (minimising heating costs), traffic monitoring (minimising the time spent on the road) and development of e-services (minimising paper usage). The e-Stockholm platform is centred on the provision of e-services, including political announcements, parking space booking and snow clearance.[73] This is further being developed through GPS analytics, allowing residents to plan their route through the city.[73] An example of district-specific smart city technology can be found in the Kista Science City region.[74] This region is based on the triple helix concept of smart cities,[32] where university, industry and government work together to develop ICT applications for implementation in a smart city strategy.

Santa Cruz

An alternative use of smart city technology can be found in Santa Cruz, California, where local authorities analyse historical crime data in order to predict police requirements and maximise police presence where it is required.[75] The analytical tools generate a list of 10 places each day where property crimes are more likely to occur, and then placing police efforts on these regions when officers are not responding to any emergency. This use of ICT technology is different to the manner in which European cities utilise smart city technology, possibly highlighting the breadth of the smart city concept in different parts of the world.

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes has a commitment to making itself a Smart City. Currently the mechanism through which this is approached is the MK:Smart initiative,[15] a collaboration of local government, businesses, academia and 3rd sector organisations. The focus of the initiative is on making energy use, water use and transport more sustainable whilst promoting economic growth in the city. Central to the project is the creation of a state-of-the-art ‘MK Data Hub’ which will support the acquisition and management of vast amounts of data relevant to city systems from a variety of data sources. These will include data about energy and water consumption, transport data, data acquired through satellite technology, social and economic datasets, and crowdsourced data from social media or specialised apps.

The MK:Smart initiative has two aspects which extend our understanding of how Smart Cities should operate. The first, Our MK,[51] is a scheme for promoting citizen-led sustainability issues in the city. The scheme provides funding and support to engage with citizens and help turn their ideas around sustainability into a reality. The second aspect is in providing citizens with the skills to operate effectively in a Smart City. The Urban Data school[52] is an online platform to teach school students about data skills while the project has also produced a MOOC[53] to inform citizens about what a Smart City is.

New Songdo City


Smart Nation Singapore

Despite its size and lack of natural resources, Singapore has overcome many of its challenges in 50 short years to become one of the world’s most advanced and liveable countries. It has embarked on its next phase of transformation towards a Smart Nation, and endeavours to harness the power of networks, data and info-comm technologies to improve living, create economic opportunities and build closer communities.}

Smart cities in India


The criticisms of smart cities revolve around:[32]

  • A bias in strategic interest may lead to ignoring alternative avenues of promising urban development.[78]
  • The focus of the concept of smart city may lead to an underestimation of the possible negative effects of the development of the new technological and networked infrastructures needed for a city to be smart.[79]
  • As a globalized business model is based on capital mobility, following a business-oriented model may result in a losing long term strategy: "The 'spatial fix' inevitably means that mobile capital can often 'write its own deals' to come to town, only to move on when it receives a better deal elsewhere. This is no less true for the smart city than it was for the industrial, [or] manufacturing city."[32]
  • The high level of big data collection and analytics has raised questions regarding surveillance in smart cities, particularly as it relates to predictive policing.

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Further reading

External links

National initiatives