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Smart city

Attendees at a hackathon in New York in 2013

A smart city (also smarter city) uses digital technologies to enhance performance and wellbeing, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and also to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens. Key 'smart' sectors include transport, energy, health care, water and waste. A smart city should be able to respond faster to city and global challenges than one with a simple 'transactional' relationship with its citizens.[n 1]

Interest in smart cities is motived by major challenges, including climate change, economic restructuring, the move to online retail and entertainment, ageing populations, and pressures on public finances.[n 2] The terms 'intelligent city' and 'digital city' are also used.[n 3]

The European Union (EU) has devoted constant efforts to devising a strategy for achieving 'smart' urban growth for its metropolitan city-regions.[n 4][1]

Arup estimates that the global market for smart urban services will be $400 billion per annum by 2020.[n 5] Notably 'smart cities include Chicago, Boston, Barcelona and Stockholm.[n 6]

Theories about smart cities are somewhat lacking as everything in the city might be informed by information technologies but a useful review of this perspective was produced as part of the FuturICT initiative in 2012[2]


  • Definitions 1
  • Characteristics 2
  • Three dimensions 3
  • Sensor networks and data management 4
  • Criticism 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
    • Notes 7.1
    • Footnotes 7.2
    • Citations 7.3
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9
    • 9.1 Articles
    • Government initiatives 9.2
    • Academic initiatives 9.3
    • Commercial initiatives 9.4


The term smart city is still quite a fuzzy concept and is used in ways that are not always consistent. Here are a number of definitions:

  • Smart Cities Council: "A smart city is one that has digital technology embedded across all city functions" [3]
  • Frost & Sullivan: "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".[4]
  • IEEE 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."[5]
  • 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."[6]
  • British Government: "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"[n 7]
  • Caragliu and Nijkamp: "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".[7]
  • Giffinger et al.: "Regional competitiveness, transport and ICT economics, natural resources, human and social capital, quality of life, and participation of citizens in the governance of cities."[8]


It has been suggested that a smart city uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) to:

  • Uses physical infrastructure (roads, built environment and other physical assets) more efficiently supporting strong and healthy economic, social, cultural development.[n 8][n 9]
  • Is able to being able to learn, adapt and innovate and can responds more effectively and promptly to changing circumstances,[9]
  • Engages effectively with local people in local governance and decision by use of open innovation processes and e-participation.[10] with emphasis placed on citizen participation and co-design.[11][12]
  • Makes good use of the [13][n 8]

Three dimensions

Intelligent cities (communities, clusters, regions) were defined as multi-layer territorial systems of innovation that bring together knowledge-intensive activities, institutions for cooperation in learning and innovation, and digital spaces for communication and interaction in order to maximize the problem-solving capability of the city. The distinctive characteristic of an intelligent city is the high performance in the field of innovation, because innovation and solving of new problems are main features of intelligence[n 10][n 11]

Intelligent cities evolve towards a strong integration of all dimensions of human, collective, and artificial intelligence available within a city. They are constructed as multi-dimensional agglomerations combining three main dimensions (Komninos 2006, 17-18; Komninos 2008, 122-123).

  • the intelligence, inventiveness and creativity of the individuals who live and work in the city[13] as ‘creative city’, gathering the values and desires of the ‘new creative class’ made by knowledge and talented people, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other creative people, which have an enormous impact on determining how the workplace is organized, whether companies will prosper, whether cities thrive or wither.
  • the collective intelligence of a city’s population: ‘collective intelligence is the capacity of human communities to evolve towards higher order complexity and harmony based on the institutions of the city that enable cooperation in knowledge and innovation, through such innovation mechanisms as differentiation and integration, competition and collaboration.[14]
  • artificial intelligence embedded into the physical environment of the city and available to the city’s population: communication infrastructure, digital spaces, and online problem-solving tools available to the city’s population.

Thus the concept of ‘intelligent city’ integrates all the three aforementioned dimensions of the physical, institutional and digital spaces of an agglomeration. Consequently, the term ‘intelligent city’ describes a territory with (1) developed knowledge-intensive activities or clusters of such activities; (2) embedded routines of social co-operation allowing knowledge and know-how to be acquired and adapted;(3) a developed communication infrastructure, digital spaces, and knowledge / innovation management tools; and (4) a proven ability to innovate, manage and resolve problems that appear for the first time, since the capacity to innovate and to manage uncertainty are the critical factors for measuring intelligence.

Sensor networks and data management

Sensor networks, including Wireless sensor networks and in the Internet of Things technologies are used to monitor many aspects of a city in real time,[15] including traffic, power networks, street lighting and water/sewage systems,[16][17][18]

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 online database for storage and also allow developers to connect to the database and build their own applications based on that data. Examples include Xively and Wikisensing.[19][20]


The main arguments against the superficial use of this concept in the policy arena are:[n 8]

  • A bias in strategic interest may lead to ignoring alternative avenues of promising urban development.[21]
  • 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.[22]

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".[n 8]

See also



  1. ^ Paskaleva, K (25 January 2009). "Enabling the smart city:The progress of e-city governance in Europe". International Journal of Innovation and Regional Development 1 (4): 405–422(18).  
  2. ^ Batty, M. et al. "Smart Cities of the Future". European Journal of Physics Special Topics 214: 481–518.  
  3. ^ "Definitions and overviews". Smart Cities Council. The smart city sector is still in the "I know it when I see it" phase, without a universally agreed definition. The Council defines a smart city as one that has digital technology embedded across all city functions 
  4. ^ Sarwant Singh (19 June 2014). "Smart Cities -- A $1.5 Trillion Market Opportunity". Forbes. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "About". IEEE Smart Cities. 
  6. ^ "Smart City - Definition". 
  7. ^ Caragliu, A; Del Bo, C. & Nijkamp, P (2009). "Smart cities in Europe". Serie Research Memoranda 0048 (VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics). 
  8. ^ Giffinger, Rudolf; Christian Fertner; Hans Kramar; Robert Kalasek; Nataša Pichler-Milanovic; Evert Meijers (2007). "Smart cities – Ranking of European medium-sized cities". Smart Cities. Vienna: Centre of Regional Science. 
  9. ^ A, Coe; Paquet, G. and Roy, J. (2001). "E-governance and smart communities: a social learning challenge". Social Science Computer Review 19 (1): 80–93. 
  10. ^ Ballon, P; Glidden, J.; Kranas, P.; Menychtas, A.; Ruston, S.; Van Der Graaf, S. (2011). "Is there a Need for a Cloud Platform for European Smart Cities?". eChallenges e-2011. Florence, Italy. 
  11. ^ Deakin, M (2007). "From city of bits to e-topia: taking the thesis on digitally-inclusive regeneration full circle". Journal of Urban Technology 14 (3): 131–143. 
  12. ^ Deakin, M; Allwinkle, S (2007). "Urban regeneration and sustainable communities: the role networks, innovation and creativity in building successful partnerships". Journal of Urban Technology 14 (1): 77–91.  
  13. ^ a b Florida, R. L. (2002). The rise of the creative class: and how it's transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. New York: Basic Books. 
  14. ^ Atlee, T. and Pór, George (2006). Evolutionary Nexus: connecting communities for emergence Collective Intelligence by Tom Atlee and George Pór. 
  15. ^ Asín, Alicia. "Smart Cities from Libelium allows systems integrators to monitor noise, pollution, structural health and waste management". 
  16. ^ "Vehicle Traffic Monitoring Platform with Bluetooth over ZigBee". 
  17. ^ Gascón, David; Asín, Alicia. "Smart Sensor Parking Platform enables city motorists save time and fuel". 
  18. ^ "Designing Smart Urban Water Systems (Marcus Quigley at TEDxBeaconStreet)". 
  19. ^ Boyle, D.; Yates, D.; Yeatman, E. (2013). "Urban Sensor Data Streams: London 2013". IEEE Internet Computing 17 (6): 1.  
  20. ^ "WikiSensing: An Online Collaborative Approach for Sensor Data Management".  
  21. ^ Greenfield, A. (2013). Against the Smart City. London: Verso.  
  22. ^ Graham, S.; Marvin, S. (1996). Telecommunications and the city: electronic spaces, urban place. London: Routledge.  


The following notes are linked to the 'citations' shown below.

  1. ^ Dept Business(2013) Page 7 "As consumers of private goods and services we have been empowered by the Web and, as citizens, we expect the same quality from our public services. In turn, public authorities are seeking to reduce costs and raise performance by adopting similar approaches in the delivery of public services. However, the concept of a Smart City goes way beyond the transactional relationships between citizen and service provider. It is essentially enabling and encouraging the citizen to become a more active and participative member of the community"
  2. ^ Dept Business(2013) Page 5 "Challenges Faced by Cities and the Need for Smarter Approaches"
  3. ^ Moir(2014) Page 18 "Challenges Faced by Cities and the Need for Smarter Approaches"
  4. ^ Komninos(2009) Pages 337–355
  5. ^ Dept Business(2013) Page 3 Arup estimates that the global market for smart urban systems for transport, energy, healthcare, water and waste will amount to around $400 Billion pa. by 2020
  6. ^ Dept Business(2013) Page 5 "Challenges Faced by Cities and the Need for Smarter Approaches"
  7. ^ Dept Business(2013) "But 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."
  8. ^ a b c d Hollands(2008) Pages 303–320
  9. ^ Komninos(2002)
  10. ^ Komninos(2002)
  11. ^ Komninos(2006) Page 53-61


  • Hollands, R. G (2008). "Will the real smart city please stand up?". City 12 (3): 303–320.  
  • Komninos N. (2002). Intelligent cities: innovation, knowledge systems and digital spaces. London: Spon Press.  
  • Komninos, N. (2006). The Architecture of Intelligent Cities'. Conference Proceedings Intelligent Environments 06, Institution of Engineering and Technology. 
  • Komninos, N. (2009). "Intelligent cities: towards interactive and global innovation environments". International Journal of Innovation and Regional Development ( 
  • Dept Business (2013). "Smart cities - background paper". UK Government  
  • Moir, E.; Moonen, T. and Clark C. (2014). "What are future cities - origins, meaning and uses". Foresight Future of Cities Project and  

Further reading

Most recently published first
  • Kwon Hyung LEE (2011). "Building a New Smart City in Asia: Songdo International City in Incheon, S. Korea". Incheon Development Institute. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  • Shepard, Mark (2011). "Sentient City: Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space. New York City".  
  • Deakin, M (2010). Reddick, C, ed. "Review of City Portals: The Transformation of Service Provision under the Democratization of the Fourth Phase". Politics, Democracy and E-Government: Participation and Service Delivery (Hershey:  
  • Anthopoulos, L.; Panos Fitsilis (2010). "From digital to ubiquitous cities: Defining a common architecture for urban development. Intelligent Environments (IE)". Sixth International Conference on. IEEE, 2010. 
  • Torres, L; Pina, V. and Sonia, R. (2005). "E-government and the transformation of public administrations in EU countries: Beyond NPM or just a second wave of reforms?". Online Information Review 29 (5): 531–553.  
  • Pamela Licalzi O'Connell. (October 5, 2005). "Korea's High-Tech Utopia, Where Everything Is Observed".  
  • Cook Diane, Sajal Das (2005). Smart Environments: Technologies, Protocols, and Applications.  
  • Besselaar P. Koizumi S. (Eds.) (2005). Digital Cities III: Information Technologies for Social Capital - Cross-cultural Perspectives. Springer-Verlag. 
  • Communities and Technologies. Proceedings of the Second Communities and Technologies Conference, Milano 2005 (Springer). 2005. 
  • Odendal, Nancy (November 2003). "Information and communication technology and local governance: understanding the difference between cities in developed and emerging economies". Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 27 (6): 585–607.  
  • Tanabe M., Besselaar P., Ishida T. (Eds.) (2002). Digital Cities II: Computational and Sociological Approaches. Springer-Verlag. 
  • Baron, S; Field, J. and Schuller, T (2000). Social capital: Critical perspective. Oxford University Press.  
  • Ishida T., Isbister K. (Eds.) (2000). Digital Cities: Technologies, Experiences, and Future Perspectives. Springer-Verlag. 

External links


  • Cities of the future? Indian PM pushes plan for 100 'smart cities' (CNN)
  • Can open data power a smart city revolution? (The Guardian)
  • Smarter cities Articles in The Guardian tagged 'smarter cities'
  • Tomorrow's cities: Do you want to live in a smart city? (BBC News)
  • The Future of Cities -The Internet of Everything will Change How We Live Article by John Chambers and Wim Elfrink for the Council on Foreign Relations
  • The six steps to a Smarter City; and the philosophical imperative for taking them Article by Rick Robinson of IBM
  • Getting Smarter About Smart Cities by Robert Puentes and Adie Tomer for the Brookings Institution
  • Smart Cities: Collaboration is Key to Realizing Technology’s Promise published by University of California, Berkeley
  • Towards Common Data Standards for Smart Cities and Their Buildings by Michael Jansen, Cityzenith
  • Nanette Byrnes, Cities Find Rewards in Cheap Technologies, MIT Technology Review, November 18, 2014

Government initiatives

  • World Bank blog posts tagged 'smart city'
  • British Standards Institute initiative on Smart Cities
  • Future of Cities UK Government 'Foresight' Project on cities
  • Future Cities Catapult A UK government funded 'global centre of excellence on urban innovation'.
  • "Songdo International Business District Master Plan". 
  • "About i-Canada Alliance".  Aiming to make 'all Canadian communities – large and small, urban and rural – into Intelligent Communities

Academic initiatives

  • Intelligent city platforms at URENIO
  • Smart Cities Group at MIT

Commercial initiatives

  • IBM Smarter city challenge - IBM
  • The Smarter City - IBM
  • CityNext - Microsoft
  • Smart connected communities - Cisco Systems
  • Smart Cities India 2015
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