smart city

A smart city uses a multitude of sensors and electronics to acquire data and use this knowledge to manage municipal assets and services. The data is collected from individuals, devices and infrastructure e.g. traffic systems. This manages transportation, power plants, waste, hospitals, and other community services.


What is a Smart City (definition)?

A smart city merges information and communication technology (ICT) and a large number of devices to form the Internet of Things (IoT). The technology allows us to interact directly with both community and infrastructure and to optimise the City, allowing it to evolve through learning organically and hybrid, manual input. The objective is to enhance quality, performance and interactivity, reducing costs and resource consumption. These applications are developed for real-time, live operation. 


Technology and examples

Smart grids aim to optimise highly variable renewable energy sources. Mobile devices and wearables are key to allowing individuals to connect to these city services. Smart cities will also rely on smart homes and buildings, within communities. Smart mobility is also important as is incorporating CCTV systems to cooperate and contribute to the IOT.

Online collaborative sensor data platforms and on-line database services will allow sensor owners to register and connect their devices. Additional supporting technology include telecommuting, telehealth, blockchain and evolved online banking and currency technology. Electronic smart cards are another common component in a future smart city and host a unique encrypted identifier that allows the owner to log into a range of services. The identifier allows governments to aggregate data about citizens and their preferences to improve the provision of services and to determine common interests of groups. An example of this technology has been implemented in Southampton, UK.

On the highways, retractable bollards restrict access inside city centres i.e. to delivery trucks resupplying outlet stores. Opening and closing of such barriers is traditionally done manually, through an electronic pass but can potentially be activated by means of ANPR connected cameras.



Smart City UK – UK Initiative

Smart Cities UK is a new national engagement programme. It has engaged with over 2000 UK and European City leaders to date. They analyse and challenge barriers stifling economic & social growth. Their unique Meeting City Challenges roadshow collates the opinions of attendees across the country reflecting the current feelings towards defining what “Smart” means.

In 2016 they created the international awards recognising progress made on developments. More than twenty organisations who have demonstrated impact whilst accelerating economic and social progress have been awarded. Their annual research has identified several patterns. Previous attendees of conferences, representing their local authorities, commented on the multitude of barriers halting smart city projects and even cancelling plans. Smart City UK cite the main reason has been down to knowledge, skills, national leadership and funding to take forward projects which can tackle the pressure points many authorities face including housing, social care and transport.



Smart city frameworks

The adoption of smart capabilities require a framework to retain focus areas of innovation. The frameworks can be divided into 5 main dimensions.


Technology and digital framework

Different permutations of infrastructure form the array of smart city technologies with different interaction between human and systems.

  • Digital: A service based infrastructure is required to connect individuals and digital devices.
  • Intelligent: Cognitive technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning exploit the data generated by devices to identify patterns.
  • Ubiquitous: A ubiquitous city provides access to public services through any connected device. U-city underpins accessibility to unlimited infrastructure.
  • Wired: The physical components of IT systems are crucial to early-stage smart city development. Wired infrastructure is required to support a more interconnected living.
  • Hybrid: A hybrid city connects the physical and virtual city concepts. This relationship of virtual design or the presence of a critical mass of virtual community participants in a physical urban space.
  • Information City: The multiplicity of devices generates a large quantity of data, or big data. How that information is interpreted and stored is critical to smart city growth and security.

Human framework

Smart city initiatives have measurable positive impacts on the quality of life.

  • Creativity: Arts and culture initiatives are a focus area in city planning.  Recent projects demonstrate that knowledge workers participate in a diverse mix of cultural and artistic activities.
  • Learning: Mobility is a key area of smart city development. A city’s learning capacity includes its education system, cultural development and exchange.
  • Humanity: Numerous smart city programs focus on soft infrastructure development, like increasing access to voluntary organisations and designated safe zones. This highlights diversity, inclusion, and the ubiquitous access to public services.
  • Knowledge: The development of a knowledge and seeking to be hubs of economic activity in emerging tech and service sectors.


Energy framework

Smart cities use data and technology to create efficiencies, economic development and enhance the quality of life factors for people. A smart city is powered by smart connections for various items such as street lighting, smart buildings, distributed energy resources (DER), data analytics, and transportation. Utility companies play a key role in the future of smart cities, including electric companies, technology companies and a number of established institutions.



EU Smart Cities Marketplace

The Smart Cities Marketplace, supported by the European Commission, is a collaboration between cities, industry, small business (SMEs), banks, research and others. It aims to address city-specific challenges across energy, mobility and transport.

A selection of priorities of the partnership

Fundamentally, priorities are driven for sustainable urban mobility and longevity within districts and the built environment, including integrated infrastructures and processes in energy and information and communication technologies. A citizen led focus, via integrated planning and management, knowledge sharing and transparent policy, standards and regulation. An open data policy, using KPI’s to isolate viable business models, procurement and funding.



Internet of things (IOT) smart cities

There are several large-scale deployments of the IoT e.g. Songdo, South Korea, the first wired smart city, with approximately 70 percent of the business district completed as of June 2018. Much of the city will be automated, with negligible human intervention.

In Santander, Spain, an app is connected to 10,000 sensors that enable services like parking search and environmental monitoring. City context information is used in this deployment so as to benefit merchants through a spark deals mechanism based on city behaviour that aims at maximising the impact of each notification.

Other large-scale deployments underway include the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City; work on improving air and water quality and reducing noise pollution. Using its RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) technology, San Diego-based Ingenu has built a nationwide public network  for low-bandwidth data transmissions using the same unlicensed 2.4 gigahertz spectrum as Wi-Fi. Ingenu’s Machine Network covers more than a third of the US population across 35 major cities including San Diego and Dallas.

Cisco also participates in smart cities projects. Cisco has started deploying technologies for Smart Wi-Fi, Smart Safety & Security, Smart Lighting, Smart Parking, Smart Transports, Smart Bus Stops, Smart Kiosks, Remote Expert for Government Services (REGS) and Smart Education in the five km area in the city of Vijaywada.

Another example of a large deployment is the one completed by New York Waterways in New York City to connect all the city’s vessels and be able to monitor them live 24/7. The NYWW network is currently providing coverage on the Hudson River, East River, and Upper New York Bay. With the wireless network in place, NY Waterway is able to take control of its fleet and passengers in a way that was not previously possible.



Terminology – smart cities

Deakin and Al Waer 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 Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in government systems.
  4. The territorialisation of practices that brings ICTs and people together to enhance the innovation and knowledge that they offer.

Using ICT to fulfill the demands of the citizens of the city, and that community involvement in the process is necessary for a smart city. A smart city would crucially implem this technology so that it positively impacts the local community.

A selection of 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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 more quickly to new challenges.

List of smart cities

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 Songdo and Suwon, Stockholm, Gangnam District of Seoul, Waterloo, Ontario, Taipei, Mitaka, Glasgow, Calgary, Seoul, New York City, LaGrange and Singapore, which were recognised for their efforts in developing broadband networks and e-services sustaining innovation ecosystems, growth, and inclusion. There are a number of cities actively pursuing a smart city strategy:



Street lamps in Amsterdam allow councils to dim the lights based on usage. The Amsterdam smart city initiative includes >150 projects developed by local residents, government and businesses. These projects enhance the city’s real-time decision making abilities. The City of Amsterdam claims the purpose of the projects is to reduce traffic, save energy and improve public safety. To promote efforts from local residents, the City runs the Amsterdam Smart City Challenge annually, accepting proposals for applications.
An example of a resident developed app is Mobypark, which allows owners of parking spaces to rent them out to people for a fee. A number of homes have also been provided with smart energy meters, with incentives provided to those that actively reduce energy consumption. Other initiatives include flexible street lighting (smart lighting) which allows municipalities to control the brightness of street lights, and smart traffic management 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.


In 2014, Copenhagen claimed the prestigious World Smart Cities Award for its “Connecting Copenhagen” smart city development strategy. Positioned in the Technical and Environmental Administration of Copenhagen, the smart city initiatives are coordinated by Copenhagen Solutions Lab, the city’s administrative unit for smart city development.

In an article with The World Economic Forum, Marius Sylvestersen, Program Director at Copenhagen Solutions Lab, explains that public-private collaborations must be built on transparency, the willingness to share data and must be driven by the same set of values. This requires a particularly open mindset from the organisations that wish to get involved. To facilitate open collaboration and knowledge-sharing, Copenhagen Solutions Lab launched the Copenhagen Street Lab in 2016. Here, organisations such as TDC, Citelum and Cisco work in collaboration with Copenhagen Solutions Lab to identify new solutions to city and citizen problems.



In 2013, the Smart Dubai project was initiated by Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, which contained more than 100 initiatives to make Dubai a smart city by 2030. Some initiatives include the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy to create driverless transits, fully digitizing government, business and customer information and transactions, and providing citizens 5000 hotspots to access government applications by 2021. Two mobile applications, mPay and DubaiNow, facilitate various payment services for citizens ranging from utilities or traffic fines to educational, health, transport, and business services. In addition, the Smart Nol Card is a unified rechargeable card enabling citizens to pay for all transportation services such as metro, buses, water bus, and taxis. There is also the Dubai Municipality’s Digital City initiative which assigns each building a unique QR code that citizens can scan containing information about the building, plot, and location.



Kyiv has a transport dispatch system. It contains GPS trackers, installed on public transportation, as well as 6,000 video surveillance cameras which monitor the traffic. The accrued data is used by local Traffic Management Service.



A traffic management system known as SCOOT optimises green light time at traffic intersections by feeding back magnetometer and inductive loop data to a supercomputer, which can co-ordinate traffic lights across the city to improve traffic throughout.



A document written in 2011 refers to 18th century Żejtun as the earliest “smart city” in Malta, but not in the modern context of a smart city. By the 21st century, SmartCity Malta, a planned technology park, became partially operational while the rest is under construction, as a Foreign Direct Investment.


In December 2015, Manchester’s CityVerve project was chosen as the winner of a government-led technology competition and awarded £10m to develop an Internet of Things (IoT) smart cities demonstrator. The project has a two-year remit to demonstrate the capability of IoT applications and address barriers to deploying smart cities, such as city governance, network security, user trust and adoption, interoperability, scalability and justifying investment.

CityVerve is based on an open data principle that incorporates a platform of platforms which ties together applications for its four key themes: transport and travel; health and social care; energy and the environment; culture and the public realm. This will also ensure that the project is scalable and able to be redeployed to other locations worldwide.


Moscow has been implementing smart solutions since 2011 by creating the main infrastructure and local networks. So, Information City programme was launched and subsequently implemented from 2012 to 2018.  In the summer of 2018, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced the city’s smart city project, aimed at applying modern technologies in all areas of city life. Smart City technologies have been deployed in healthcare, education, transport and municipal services. The initiative aims to improve quality of life, make urban government more efficient and develop an information society. There are more than 300 digital initiatives within the smart city project, with electronic services now widely provided online and through multifunctional centres. Moscow’s citywide Wi-Fi project was launched in 2012 and now provides more than 16,000 Wi-Fi internet access points.  Moscow is actively developing eco-friendly transport using electric buses, and autonomous cars will soon be tested on the city’s streets. Other initiatives include Moscow’s Electronic School programme, its blockchain-based Active Citizen project and smart traffic management.

New York

An example is the series of city service kiosks in the LinkNYC network. These provide services including free WiFi, phone calls, device charging stations, local wayfinding, and more, funded by advertising that plays on the kiosk’s screens.



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