Smart city

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Some definitions of a Smart City place emphasis on citizen engagement, such as at this hackathon in New York in 2013[1]

A smart city (also smarter city) uses digital technologies to enhance performance and wellbeing, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and 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] 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’.

Interest in smart cities is motivated 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 European Union (EU) has devoted constant efforts to devising a strategy for achieving 'smart' urban growth for its metropolitan city-regions.[n 3][2] Arup estimates that the global market for smart urban services will be $400 billion per annum by 2020.[n 4] Notably 'smart' cities include Chicago, Boston, Barcelona and Stockholm.[n 5]


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 6]
  • 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 7][n 8]
  • 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 creative industries, supported by strong knowledge and social networks, voluntary organisations in a low-crime setting to achieve these aims.[n 7][13]

Fundamental processes[edit]

Intelligent (smart) cities are deploying online services in different sectors of cities - the local economy and development, environment, energy, transport, security, education, health, trade, housing, governance; and in different districts of cities - the CBD, financial, university, marketplace, port, airport, technology, and industrial districts.

These various domains of the intelligent city rely on a few knowledge processes, which are present regardless the sector /district of the city. Fundamental knowledge processes which sustain intelligent cities are: broadband communication, interactive services, use of smart devices and agents, intelligence gathering, creative behavior, collective intelligence, upgrade of skills, innovation, monitoring and measurement. Integration is a key-factor, enabling the above processes to work together and create environments more efficient in collaborative problem-solving and innovation. See also spatial intelligence of cities.

Three dimensions[edit]

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 9][n 10]

Intelligent cities evolve towards a strong integration of all dimensions of human, collective, and artificial intelligence in a city. They are constructed as multi-dimensional agglomerations combining three main dimensions.[n 11][n 12]

  • 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 toward 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 and available to the city’s population: communication infrastructure, digital spaces, and online problem-solving tools for to the 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

  • developed knowledge-intensive activities or clusters of such activities;
  • embedded routines of social co-operation allowing knowledge and know-how to be acquired and adapted;
  • a developed communication infrastructure, digital spaces, and knowledge/innovation management tools; and
  • 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.

More efficient cities[edit]

Intelligent cities create more effective urban systems capable of addressing contemporary challenges and urban problems. They create more innovative and competitive cities, based on knowledge clusters, people-led innovation, and global networking; offering higher capacity of monitoring and management of environmental issues; improved city transportation; more secure urban spaces. This greater effectiveness is based on solutions /platforms integrating human, collective and artificial intelligence (in other words urban activities, institutional capacity, and IT). 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

University research labs have developed prototypes and solutions for intelligent cities. MIT Smart Cities Lab [15] focuses upon intelligent, sustainable buildings, mobility systems (GreenWheel Electric Bicycle, Mobility-on-Demand, Citycar, Wheel Robots); the IntelCities [16] 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 [17] 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 [18]; the Smart Cities Academic Network [19] is working on e-governance and e-services in the North Sea region.

Large IT and telecommunication companies such as CISCO, IBM, MS have developed new solutions and initiatives for intelligent cities as well. CISCO, launched the Global Intelligent Urbanization initiative [20] 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 [21] 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 networks and data management[edit]

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,[22] including traffic, power networks, street lighting and water/sewage systems.[23][24][25]

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. Examples include Xively and Wikisensing.[26][27]

Intelligent cities cities[edit]

An important issue in understanding intelligent cities is to describe their differences from other forms of digital spaces, namely the‘digital city’ and ‘intelligent environments’.

All intelligent cities are digital cities, but all digital cities are not intelligent.[n 13] The difference is in the problem solving capability of intelligent cities, while the ability of digital cities is in the provision of services via digital communication. Take the following examples: (1) the administration of a city -or a local community- offers online (via its web portal) services that already was providing offline. This is a typical case of digital city offering online services for the citizen. (2) A group of people /organizations creates new products / services using digital spaces of consultation and online collaboration among the citizens. This is a typical case of intelligent city creating services with the involvement of citizens (by the citizens). In the second case, the digital space becomes a tool that contributes to the capacity of the community to use collective intelligence and engineer new solutions to people needs.

As general rule, we may say that in services provision by local administrations, digital cities are placed downstream between the public authority and the citizen as recipient of services (as digital marketplaces); while intelligent cities are placed upstream between the citizens and the public authority, enabling co-creation and co-design of services (as Living lab). This view explains why the main building blocks of intelligent cities are related to innovation and problem solving processes, such as competitive intelligence, technology absorption, collaborative product development, and new product promotion.

Intelligent environments are digital spaces in which the digital interaction goes out of the computer and becomes embedded into buildings and infrastructures of the city. Intelligent environments can be combined both to digital cities, automating the delivery of services, and to intelligent cities as well, automating the collection and processing of information along new product / service development.

Intelligent cities and globalization[edit]

Recent publications on intelligent cities stress the convergence of innovation systems and virtual environments in creating global systems of innovation: Bell et al. 2009;[28][n 14][29] As open innovation theory came to show, the emphasis has now shifted from the internal in the company innovation process to external innovation networks and knowledge environments, which have now taken on global dimensions. Virtual spaces and embedded systems are generating a wave of new hybrid environments (global digital ecosystems, living labs, i-hubs, COINs, smart cities, e-gov,digital cities, u-communities, intelligent environments, etc.) which amplify networking, experimentation and innovation on a global scale.

Spatial intelligence of cities[edit]

Spatial intelligence of cities is the informational and cognitive processes, such as information collection and processing, real-time alert, forecasting, learning, collective intelligence, and cooperative distributed problem solving, which characterize 'Smart' or 'intelligent' cities. Emphasis on the spatial dimension denotes that space and urban agglomeration are preconditions of this form of intelligence. The concept refers also to the combined deployment and use of information and communication technologies (ICT), institutional settings for knowledge and innovation, and physical infrastructure of cities to increase the problem-solving capability of a community.


The spatial intelligence of cities is based on communication, collaboration, and computer-assisted problem solving within urban environments. However, different perspectives can be found in the literature about the origins and drivers of spatial intelligence.

  • 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)".[30]
  • City intelligence comes from partnerships and social capital in organising the development of technologies, skills, and learning, and engaging citizens to become involved in creative communities and urban renewal project.[12]
  • The spatial intelligence of cities emerges from the agglomeration and integration of three forms of intelligence: 1) the inventiveness, creativity and intellectual capital of the city’s population, 2) the collective intelligence of the city's institutions and social capital for innovation, and 3) the artificial intelligence of public and city wide smart infrastructure, virtual environments, and intelligent agents.[n 15]

Using these spatially combined capacities and infrastructure cities can respond effectively to changing socio-economic conditions, address challenges, plan their future, and sustain prosperity and well being of citizens.

Platforms and technologies[edit]

Collective intelligence is the major driver of spatial intelligence of cities. Partnerships, collaboration platforms and social networks nurture the development of technologies, skills, and learning, engaging citizens to become involved in creative community participation.

Social media have offered the technology layer for organizing collective intelligence, with crowdsourcing platforms, mush-ups, web-collaboration, and other means of participatory problem-solving. Media technologies and collaborative platforms remain the main tools enabling spatial intelligence.

However, the recent turn towards smart cities highlights another route of spatial intelligence. The rise of new Internet technologies promoting cloud-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. The city of Santander, for instance, in northern Spain with 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 (Schaffers et al. 2011) [31]

Smart cities with the help of instrumentation and interconnection of mobile devices and sensors, which collect and analyse real-world data, improve the ability to forecast and manage urban flows and push city intelligence forward.[32]

Flagship cases[edit]

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 (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. [33]


The main arguments against the superficial use of this concept in the policy arena are:[n 7]

  • A bias in strategic interest may lead to ignoring alternative avenues of promising urban development.[34]
  • 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.[35]

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 7]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Cities hack their way to livability gains". Smart Cities Council. Hackathons bring together the good hackers in an organized competition to see who can make the biggest contribution to the community in 24 hours or less. 
  2. ^ 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). doi:10.1504/ijird.2009.022730. 
  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. ^ a b 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. doi:10.1080/10630730701260118. 
  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). Collective Intelligence by Tom Atlee and George Pór Evolutionary Nexus: connecting communities for emergence. 
  15. ^ "MIT Cities". MIT. 
  16. ^ "IntelCities". Intelcities project. 
  17. ^ "Intelligent City Platforms". URENIO. 
  18. ^ "Home". URENIO. 
  19. ^ "AIM". Smart Cities project. 
  20. ^ "Network as the Next Utility for "Intelligent Urbanisation"". CISCO. 
  21. ^ "About IBM". IBM. 
  22. ^ Asín, Alicia. "Smart Cities from Libelium allows systems integrators to monitor noise, pollution, structural health and waste management". 
  23. ^ "Vehicle Traffic Monitoring Platform with Bluetooth over ZigBee". 
  24. ^ Gascón, David; Asín, Alicia. "Smart Sensor Parking Platform enables city motorists save time and fuel". 
  25. ^ "Designing Smart Urban Water Systems (Marcus Quigley at TEDxBeaconStreet)". 
  26. ^ Boyle, D.; Yates, D.; Yeatman, E. (2013). "Urban Sensor Data Streams: London 2013". IEEE Internet Computing 17 (6): 1. doi:10.1109/MIC.2013.85.  edit
  27. ^ "WikiSensing: An Online Collaborative Approach for Sensor Data Management". doi:10.3390/s121013295. 
  28. ^ Bell, R., Jung, J., and Zacharilla L. (2009) Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century, New York, Intelligent Community Forum.
  29. ^ IJIRD (2009) Intelligent Clusters, Communities and Cities: Enhancing innovation with virtual environments and embedded systems, Special Issue, International Journal of Innovation and Regional Development, Vol. 1, No. 4.
  30. ^ Mitchell,W. (2007). "Intelligent cities". e-Journal on the Knowledge Society. 
  31. ^ Schaffers, H., Komninos, N., Pallot, M., Trousse, B., and Nilsson M. (2011). The Future Internet. Vol. 6656. pp. 431–446. ISBN 9783642208973. 
  32. ^ Chen-Ritzo, C.H, Harrison, C., Paraszczak, J., and Parr, F, (2009). "Instrumenting the Planet". IBM Journal of Research and Development. 53 (3): 338–353. 
  33. ^ "The Intelligent Communities of the Year 1999-2010". 
  34. ^ Greenfield, A. (2013). Against the Smart City. London: Verso. ASIN B00FHQ5DBS. 
  35. ^ Graham, S.; Marvin, S. (1996). Telecommunications and the city: electronic spaces, urban place. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780203430453. 


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. ^ Komninos(2009) Pages 337–355
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ Dept Business(2013) Page 5 "Challenges Faced by Cities and the Need for Smarter Approaches"
  6. ^ 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."
  7. ^ a b c d Hollands(2008) Pages 303–320
  8. ^ Komninos(2002)
  9. ^ Komninos(2002)
  10. ^ Komninos(2006) Page 53-61
  11. ^ Komninos(2006) Page 17-18
  12. ^ Komninos(2008) Pages 112-113
  13. ^ Komninos(2002) Pages. 195-201
  14. ^ Komninos(2008)
  15. ^ Komninos(2008)


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