What is a Smart City?


You may have heard the term Smart City or one of its many similar terms: Cyber-city, Digital-City, Intelligent City, Information City, MESH city, or wired city.

Everything today is marketed as “smart”. There is smart home monitoringsmartphonessmartwatchessmartbulbs, smartwindows, smart thermostats, and more “smart” products ad infinitum.  When everything is “smart” – the word begins to lose any meaning.

Not so with Smart Cities.  Smart Cities are unmistakable from those which lack the moniker. Here, the word smart acts as an umbrella for an extensive range of connected services and information systems. Smart Cities leverage electronic data collection sensors to manage systems, assets, and resources efficiently. Data is pooled from citizens, devices, and assets to be analyzed to improve transit systems, water supply networks, waste management, data systems, law enforcement, and community services such as schools, libraries, and hospitals.

Data about all these systems and services is collected via smart devices-devices equipped with GPS, WiFi, UWB, and Bluetooth. The vast amount of data collected allows city officials to detect trends which inform urban planning. Connecting physical locations and objects with networks is the basis of IoT or the Internet of Things.


Benefits of Smart Cities:


  • Reduce expenditure through informed decision making.
  • Reduce consumption through reliance on historical data
  • Improve communication between citizens and city officials.
  • Responsive transit systems
  • Real-time response to disasters and emergency situations


Results in Focus:


Barcelona has saved $58 million a year through its connected water management by identifying the location of leakages and spills. Connected street lighting has already reduced energy expenditure by 33 percent, or $37 million a year. In another use-case, Barcelona’s parking revenue has boomed to the sum of $50 million a year while also reducing emissions through the use of smart parking applications which direct visitors and citizens to the nearest available parking space. Roughly 30% of city emissions come from drivers searching for a parking spot.

Boston has put together a team of analysts , data scientists, and visualization experts called the Boston Citywide Analytics Team to manage city services. “Whether it’s someone getting sick at a restaurant, or dropping out of school, or having a drug overdose, if we can identify problems before they blow up it is much easier to handle them.” The team coordinates 16, 000 employees across 42 departments – opening up data for common use.  One example of hybrid open data leading to improved quality of life is the coordination between Boston’s Fire Department and the Analytics Team. They have put together a program called the Building Intelligence System. During a 911 call, dispatchers enter the address of the fire into the program, generating a map of nearby hydrants and fire box locations along with hazard information such as the number of floors, land use type, and date of building.

Stochholm brought universal fibre optic network access to citizens in 1994 and has since used that as a framework for smart projects. The Green IT strategy relies on this network and seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of the city by ensuring city buildings are energy efficient, by monitoring traffic, and promoting e-services. Green IT is a collective name for the measures designed to reduce our environmental impact with the aid of Integrated Tech. It involves both using information technology to reduce Stockholm’s environmental impact, and reducing the energy consumption and environmental impact of the IT sector as a whole. Read up on the whole Green IT platform.

Ingredients for a Smart City:


Smart Cities exist on a spectrum. Some swing far to the right and stand as models for aspiring to be connected urban centers. Dubai, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Barcelona, Madrid, and New York coupled with many cities in China are all on the forefront of connected systems. What do these cities have in common?

  • High Speed Wi-Fi in Public Spaces
  • Citizen Engagement
  • Pilot Projects
  • E-Government

The hardware needed to create Smart Cities is already in our pockets. GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi are built-in to our mobile phones. Cities need only make a concerted effort and relevant applications to start improving the quality of life for now and future citizens.

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