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Smart city

Possible scenario of smart and sustainable mobility

A smart city is a technologically modern urban area that uses different types of electronic methods and sensors to collect specific data. Information gained from that data is used to manage assets, resources and services efficiently; in return, that data is used to improve operations across the city.[1] This includes data collected from citizens, devices, buildings and assets that is processed and analyzed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems,[2] power plants, utilities, urban forestry,[3] water supply networks, waste, criminal investigations, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other community services.[4][5] Smart cities are defined as smart both in the ways in which their governments harness technology as well as in how they monitor, analyze, plan, and govern the city. In smart cities, the sharing of data is not limited to the city itself but also includes businesses, citizens and other third parties that can benefit from various uses of that data. Sharing data from different systems and sectors creates opportunities for increased understanding and economic benefits.[6][7]

The smart city concept integrates information and communication technology (ICT), and various physical devices connected to the Internet of things (IOT) network to optimize the efficiency of city operations and services and connect to citizens.[8][9] Smart city technology allows city officials to interact directly with both community and city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city and how the city is evolving. ICT is used to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to increase contact between citizens and government.[10] Smart city applications are developed to manage urban flows and allow for real-time responses.[11] A smart city may therefore be more prepared to respond to challenges than one with a conventional "transactional" relationship with its citizens.[12][13] Yet, the term itself remains unclear in its specifics and therefore, open to many interpretations.[14] Many cities have already adopted some sort of smart city technology.

Smart city initiatives have been criticized as a marketing fad, poorly adapted to residents' needs, as largely unsuccessful, and as a dangerous move toward totalitarian surveillance.

Understanding and defining smart cities

Throughout history, cities have served as hubs of innovation, yet the digital age has introduced fresh opportunities and hurdles for urban progress. Consequently, cities are undergoing a transition into "smart cities" to foster the creation of urban environments that are more efficient, sustainable, and livable.[15][16][17][18] Importantly, this transformation extends beyond the urban domain and holds considerable social, cultural, and economic significance. It requires a fundamental overhaul of both internal and external city management and operations, prompting a rethinking of urban governance, citizen involvement, and the delivery of public services.[19]

The smart city approach underscores the importance of collaboration among diverse stakeholders, including government, businesses, and citizens, to co-create innovative solutions and address intricate urban challenges. By embracing this concept, cities aim to not only upgrade their infrastructure and service provision but also to nurture social inclusion, technological adoption, and economic advancement. Leveraging digital technologies facilitates the enhancement of residents' quality of life, the promotion of sustainability, and the stimulation of economic growth by fostering the emergence of new industries and job opportunities.[19][20][21][18]

The transition to a smart city entails internal changes in urban planning, management, and operation, with digital implementation serving as a driving force and objective.[22] Specifically within smart city trajectories, there is a heightened emphasis on utilizing data to inform decision-making processes. For instance, smart city technologies enable the monitoring of traffic flow, energy consumption, air quality, and various other parameters.[23][24] Subsequently, this data can be analyzed to pinpoint areas for enhancement and optimize urban services. Moreover, smart city technologies facilitate improved communication and collaboration among different departments and stakeholders.

Challenges of defining smart cities

The smart city concept is amorphous and there is no shared understanding of commonly accepted definition of what the term encompasses.[25]: 71  Deakin and Al Waer[26] 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 in government systems.
  4. The territorialisation of practices that brings ICT and people together to enhance the innovation and knowledge that they offer.

Deakin defines the smart city as one that utilizes ICT to meet the demands of the market (the citizens of the city), and states that community involvement in the process is necessary for a smart city.[27] 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.

In recent years, the term "smart city" has gained widespread popularity, prompting cities worldwide to invest in digital technologies and data to enhance their urban landscapes. However, despite its common usage, there remains a lack of consensus on what precisely constitutes a smart city.[15] This presents a paradox, as measuring the impact and outcomes of a concept without a clear definition proves challenging. The absence of a universally accepted definition of a smart city poses a significant challenge for policymakers, planners, and researchers. Without a clear understanding of its parameters, evaluating the effectiveness and impact of smart city initiatives becomes difficult. It also hampers the ability to compare and derive insights from various smart city projects and identify best practices.[28][29][22]

Early examples of smart city definitions include:

  • Caragliu et al. (2011): “A city is smart when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic growth and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory governance.”[30]
  • Bakici, Almirall, & Wareham (2013): “Smart city as a high-tech intensive and advanced city that connects people, information, and city elements using new technologies in order to create a sustainable, greener city, competitive and innovative commerce, and an increased life quality.”[31]
  • Nam and Pardo (2011): “A smart city infuses information into its physical infrastructure to improve conveniences, facilitate mobility, add efficiencies, conserve energy, improve the quality of air and water, identify problems and fix them quickly, recover rapidly from disasters, collect data to make better decisions, deploy resources effectively, and share data to enable collaboration across entities and domains.”[32]

These definitions underscore the significance of employing technology and data to enhance urban services and foster sustainable, liveable environments. They also stress the importance of citizen involvement and cross-sector collaboration. However, alongside these shared principles, there are notable disparities among the suggested definitions. For instance, while some definitions concentrate more on the economic advantages of smart city endeavours, others prioritize environmental or social benefits. Additionally, certain definitions give precedence to specific technologies or sectors over others.[19]

The process of defining and conceptualizing smart city development is ongoing, resulting in a division within smart city research. Researchers are actively seeking interpretations that can unify and overcome the fragmentation created by the initial two decades of knowledge production in this field. The main issues surrounding early smart city debate the research include the following:[33]

  • The absence of intellectual exchange among researchers in the smart city development domain, which is crucial for advancing ICT-driven urban sustainability initiatives.
  • The inclination of smart city researchers to pursue subjective avenues of research in isolation from their peers.
  • The resulting division within the scientific community due to this fragmented approach to knowledge production.
  • The challenge faced by the community in establishing a shared understanding or common ground amidst the diverse knowledge generated by smart city research.[33]



The smart city concept comprises various dimensions, each integral to its overall success. These dimensions, totaling six conceptually distinct characteristics, span the key facets of urban life, encompassing the economy, mobility, governance, environment, living conditions, and people.[34][35] They are fundamental in shaping a contemporary and sustainable urban landscape capable of fulfilling the requirements of both residents and businesses.


This facet embodies a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, labor market flexibility, global integration, and adaptability. It serves as the cornerstone for fostering a vibrant and resilient urban economy capable of navigating evolving market dynamics and fostering business expansion.


Smart Mobility pertains to local and trans-local accessibility, ICT availability, and the development of modern, sustainable, and secure transportation systems. It plays a pivotal role in ensuring citizens' access to dependable and efficient transportation alternatives, thereby mitigating congestion, pollution, and travel times


Smart Governance encompasses citizen participation in decision-making, governance system transparency, public service availability, and political strategy quality. It forms the bedrock of a democratic and participatory urban milieu, catering to the needs of both citizens and businesses.


Smart Environment underscores the allure of natural conditions, pollution mitigation, and resource sustainability. This dimension is imperative for fostering a healthy and sustainable urban habitat conducive to the well-being of residents and businesses alike.


Smart Living involves quality of life, gauged by the availability of cultural and educational amenities, tourist attractions, social cohesion, environmental health, personal safety, and housing standards. It is paramount for crafting a habitable and inclusive urban sphere catering to diverse communities' needs.


Smart People correlates with human and social capital qualifications, adaptability, creativity, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and civic engagement. Smart People are instrumental in cultivating a diverse and innovative urban landscape, attracting top talent, and nurturing business growth.[36]

Nurturing smart city dimensions

To guarantee the efficient coordination and equilibrium of smart city dimensions, cities ought to establish comprehensive and interconnected planning frameworks that address all dimensions concurrently.[37] This strategy enables cities to synchronize the goals and initiatives of each dimension, fostering a unified and harmonious approach to smart city advancement. By integrating smart city objectives into urban planning procedures, cities can streamline resource allocation and reduce duplications. For instance, during infrastructure development endeavors, cities can evaluate how the smart mobility dimension can be integrated to enhance transportation systems.[36]

The effective coordination of smart city dimensions requires active collaboration and involvement from diverse stakeholders, including government agencies, businesses, community organizations, academia, and citizens. Collaborative partnerships enable cities to harness a wide range of expertise, resources, and perspectives to tackle complex challenges and devise innovative solutions. Involving stakeholders in decision-making processes fosters inclusivity, ownership, and a shared vision for the city's future. For instance, engaging citizens in co-creating smart city initiatives ensures that solutions are tailored to meet the community's specific needs and aspirations. Collaborating with businesses and academia brings technical know-how and research capabilities, driving innovation and the adoption of state-of-the-art technologies.[38][39][40]

These partnerships also facilitate the exchange of knowledge and insights among stakeholders. By sharing best practices and lessons learned, cities can expedite their smart city development efforts and circumvent potential challenges. Moreover, collaborations with community organizations guarantee that the social dimensions of a smart city, such as equity and inclusivity, are adequately considered in both planning and implementation phases.[36]

Results of smart city dimensions

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

  1. Make more efficient use of physical infrastructure (roads, built environment and other physical assets) through artificial intelligence and data analytics in order to support a strong and healthy economic, social, cultural development.[41]
  2. Engage effectively with local governance[42] by use of open innovation processes and e-participation, improving the collective intelligence of the city's institutions through e-governance,[11] with emphasis placed on citizen participation and co-design.[43][44]
  3. Learn, adapt and innovate and thereby respond more effectively and promptly to changing circumstances by improving the intelligence of the city.[11][45]

They evolve towards a strong integration of all dimensions of human intelligence, collective intelligence, and also artificial intelligence within the city.[46]: 112–113 [47] The intelligence of cities "resides in the increasingly effective combination of digital telecommunication networks (the nerves), ubiquitously embedded intelligence (the brain), sensors and tags (the sensory organs), and software (the knowledge and cognitive competence)".[48]

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

Bletchley Park is often considered to be the first smart community.
  1. Orchestration intelligence:[11] Cities establish institutions and community-based problem solving and collaborations, such as in Bletchley Park, where the Nazi Enigma cipher 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.[49]
  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 and Kyiv.[50]
  3. Instrumentation intelligence: 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 are those implemented in Amsterdam.[51] This is realized through:[11]
    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

According to David K. Owens, the former executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, two key elements that a smart city must have are an integrated communications platform and a "dynamic resilient grid."[52]

The need for smart cities

Growing cities

By 2040, cities will accommodate 65% of the world's population. Every other second, two individuals relocate to urban areas across the globe. By 2050, urban centers will host 70% of the global population. These societies will consume 80% of the overall energy, generate 75% of total CO2 emissions, and utilize 75% of available resources.[53] As these cities grow, more lives will need to be supported for, more energy will need to be supplied, more waste will need to be accounted for.

Many cities in their current state possess inefficiencies which will only worsen with their growth:

  • In Germany, the daily consumption of coffee-to-go paper cups amounts to 320,000, resulting in an annual waste production of 40,000 tons.
  • Basel, a city in Switzerland, boasts 31,000 public parking spaces alongside an additional 69,000 spaces on private property. However, despite this abundance, the city's residents have only registered 57,000 automobiles, indicating inefficiency.
  • On average, drivers in Frankfurt spend 65 hours annually searching for parking spaces, incurring costs totaling 1,419 euros.[53]

Pollution and air quality

While the most alarming instances of smog are often associated with China, its presence also raises significant concerns for European cities, where its gravity is often underestimated. In 2013, London witnessed the continuous surpassing of threshold values for most air pollutants in every district. Stuttgart has frequently experienced extreme concentrations of air pollution, necessitating driving restrictions. Similarly, in Graz, Austria, threshold values for fine dust pollution are consistently exceeded. In 2017, the permissible maximum of 25 days of excessive pollution per year was surpassed as early as February, with fine dust pollution remaining high for 30 of the year's initial 47 days.[53]

Noise pollution

As per the European Environment Agency projections, a minimum of 100 million Europeans endure street noise levels surpassing the 55 dB(A) threshold. This noise detrimentally affects the quality of life for numerous urban residents, contributing to increased stress levels and health issues.[53]

Tragedy of the commons

Yet another among the numerous challenges confronting contemporary cities is the concept known as the "tragedy of the commons," or more precisely, the exploitation of shared resources. This concept highlights the phenomenon wherein the pursuit of individual self-interest results in the overutilization of collectively owned assets, contrary to the common good. This sets in motion a detrimental cycle: as individuals capitalize on public resources for personal gain, these resources diminish, intensifying competition for access to them. This feedback loop ultimately leads to further overuse or complete depletion of the resource.

Many cities witness residents exhibiting such behavior. For instance, the widespread use of individual motorized transport significantly impacts the urban populace negatively through traffic congestion and environmental degradation. However, each individual driver reaps substantial benefits such as time savings, freedom, flexibility, and autonomy. Consequently, more citizens opt for personal vehicles, often prompting reductions in public transportation services, further incentivizing private vehicle usage, exacerbating congestion, and overburdening roads. Addressing the tragedy of the commons through the integration of information and communication technologies forms a central tenet of smart city initiatives.[53]

Smart city foundations: information and communication technologies and smart city technologies

Cities in the digital era

UN forecasts predict the global population will likely hit 9.6 to 13.2 billion by 2100, with cities absorbing 80% of this growth. This shift mirrors the urban-rural breakdown in EU countries, nearing 75-25%. The surge in population poses daunting challenges for cities, which already grapple with meeting the needs of a growing populace sustainably.[54] This demographic shift has led to rising inefficiencies that parallel the growth of urban populations, necessitating a reevaluation of strategies for sustainable urban development. Novel approaches to urban sustainability are imperative, and leveraging the potential of technological advancements in the digital revolution will be essential in attaining this goal.[54]

During the latest wave of technological innovation, cities shaped by the Industrial Revolution have undergone rapid transformation due to the advancements of the digital revolution. This evolution has seen new ICT devices and infrastructure assume a myriad of roles within urban areas, resulting in profound shifts in the dynamics of urban development. Present-day society is experiencing what can be described as "a rapid and silent revolution," presenting a fresh opportunity to bolster sustainable urban development by leveraging information and existing communication technologies to address sustainability challenges. The task at hand is to grasp the emerging technological trends spawned by the digital revolution and capitalize on their potential to effect social, economic, and environmental enhancements necessary for sustainable urban development. Utilising existing ICTs is becoming increasingly easy, as modern electronics have only become better whilst also become more affordable and accessible to wider populations.[55][56][57]

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have been pivotal in shaping contemporary society, revolutionizing our lifestyles, professions, and modes of communication. In recent years, their significance has surged within urban contexts, with cities worldwide embracing digital technologies to enhance governance and urban structure.[58] This utilization of ICTs in urban settings has given rise to the smart city concept, where digital technologies and data are harnessed to cultivate more efficient, sustainable, and livable urban environments.[59][60] The incorporation of ICTs and allied digital technologies into urban landscapes stands as a central tenet of the smart city ideology. Cities are deploying various ICTs, including sensors, data analytics, and mobile applications, to oversee and regulate diverse urban systems such as transportation, energy, and waste management. These technologies furnish real-time urban data, empowering cities to make well-informed decisions and refine their services.[61][62]

Although ICTs hold promise for Smart Cities, their integration presents challenges. Cities encounter hurdles in adopting and implementing new technologies, including financial limitations, technical obstacles, and apprehensions regarding privacy and security. Moreover, the advantages of ICTs are not uniformly accessible across urban communities, contributing to a digital divide where certain groups are marginalized.[62]

Digital innovations and technologies

Smart grids are an important technology in smart cities. The improved flexibility of the smart grid permits greater penetration of highly variable renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind power. The modern smart city policy also focuses on online monitoring of real time energy consumption of households and businesses, identification of problems with energy efficiency, adjusting tariffs to achieve resource saving and ecology goals, stimulating sustainable buildings. [63]

Mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) are another key technology allowing citizens to connect to the smart city services.[64][65][66]

Smart cities also rely on smart homes and specifically, the technology used in them.[67][68][69][70][71]

Bicycle-sharing systems are an important element in smart cities.[72]

Intelligent transportation systems and CCTV systems are also being developed.[73]

Digital libraries have been established in several smart cities.[74][75][76][77][78][79]

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.[80][81]

Additional supporting technology and trends include remote work,[82][83][84] telehealth,[85][86] the blockchain,[87][88] online banking technology,[89]

Electronic cards (known as smart cards) are another common component in smart city contexts. These cards possess a unique encrypted identifier that allows the owner to log into 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.[26]

Retractable bollards allow to restrict access inside city centers (i.e. to delivery trucks resupplying outlet stores). Opening and closing of such barriers is traditionally done manually, through an electronic pass[90] but can even be done by means of ANPR cameras connected to the bollard system.[91]

Energy Data Management Systems (EDMS) can help to save cities energy by recording data and using it to increase efficiency.[92]


The creation, integration, and adoption of smart city capabilities require a unique set of frameworks to realize the focus areas of opportunity and innovation central to smart city projects. The frameworks can be divided into 5 main dimensions which include numerous related categories of smart city development:[93]


A smart city relies heavily on the deployment of technology. Different combinations of technological infrastructure interact to form the array of smart city technologies with varying levels of interaction between human and technological systems.[94]

  • Digital: A service oriented infrastructure is required to connect individuals and devices in a smart city. These include innovation services and communication infrastructure. Yovanof, G. S. & Hazapis, G. N. define a digital city as "a connected community that combines broadband communications infrastructure; a flexible, service-oriented computing infrastructure based on open industry standards; and, innovative services to meet the needs of governments and their employees, citizens and businesses."[95]
  • Intelligent: Cognitive technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, can be trained on the data generated by connected city devices to identify patterns. The efficacy and impact of particular policy decisions can be quantified by cognitive systems studying the continuous interactions of humans with their urban surroundings.[96]
  • Ubiquitous: A ubiquitous city provides access to public services through any connected device. U-city is an extension of the digital city concept because of the facility in terms of accessibility to every infrastructure.[97]
  • Wired: The physical components of IT systems are crucial to early-stage smart city development. Wired infrastructure is required to support the IoT and wireless technologies central to more interconnected living.[98] A wired city environment provides general access to continually updated digital and physical infrastructure. The latest in telecommunications, robotics, IoT, and various connected technologies can then be deployed to support human capital and productivity.[99][100]
  • Hybrid: A hybrid city is the combination of a physical conurbation and a virtual city related to the physical space. This relationship can be one of virtual design or the presence of a critical mass of virtual community participants in a physical urban space. Hybrid spaces can serve to actualize future-state projects for smart city services and integration.[101]
  • Information city: The multiplicity of interactive devices in a smart city generates a large quantity of data. How that information is interpreted and stored is critical to Smart city growth and security.[102]


Smart city initiatives have measurable positive impacts on the quality of life of its citizens and visitors.[103] The human framework of a smart city – its economy, knowledge networks, and human support systems – is an important indicator of its success.[104]

  • Creativity: Arts and culture initiatives are common focus areas in smart city planning.[105][106] Innovation is associated with intellectual curiosity and creativeness, and various projects have demonstrated that knowledge workers participate in a diverse mix of cultural and artistic activities.[107][108]
  • Learning: Since mobility is a key area of Smart city development, building a capable workforce through education initiatives is necessary.[104] A city's learning capacity includes its education system, including available workforce training and support, and its cultural development and exchange.[109]
  • Humanity: Numerous Smart city programs focus on soft infrastructure development, like increasing access to voluntary organizations and designated safe zones.[110] This focus on social and relational capital means diversity, inclusion, and ubiquitous access to public services is worked in to city planning.[100]
  • Knowledge: The development of a knowledge economy is central to Smart city projects.[111] Smart cities seeking to be hubs of economic activity in emerging tech and service sectors stress the value of innovation in city development.[100]


According to Mary Anne Moser[109] since the 1990s, the smart communities movement took shape as a strategy to broaden the base of users involved in IT. Members of these Communities are people that share their interest and work in a partnership with government and other institutional organizations to push the use of IT to improve the quality of daily life as a consequence of different worsening in daily actions. John M. Eger[112] said that a smart community makes a conscious and agreed-upon decision to deploy technology as a catalyst to solving its social and business needs. It is very important to understand that this use of IT and the consequent improvement could be more demanding without the institutional help; indeed institutional involvement is essential to the success of smart community initiatives. Again Moser[109] explained that "building and planning a smart community seeks for smart growth"; smart growth is essential for the partnership between citizen and institutional organizations to react to worsening trends in daily issues like traffic congestion, school overcrowding and air pollution.

Technological propagation is not an end in itself, but a means to reinventing cities for a new economy and society.[100][107] Smart city initiatives require co-ordination and support from the city government and other governing bodies for their success. As has been noted by Fleur Johns, the increasing and evolving use of data has significant implications at multiple levels of governance. Data and infrastructure include digital platforms, algorithms, and the embedding of information technology in the physical infrastructure of smart cities. Digital technology has the potential to be used in negative as well as positive ways, and its use is inherently political.[42] Care needs to be taken to ensure that the development of smart cities does not perpetuate inequalities and exclude marginalized groups in relation to gender,[113][114] age,[115][116] race, and other human characteristics.[117]

The importance of these three different dimensions is that only a link among them can make possible the development of a real smart city concept. According to the definition of smart city given by Andrea Caragliu et al., a city is smart when investments in human/social capital and IT infrastructure fuel sustainable growth and enhance quality of life, through participatory governance.[118]


Smart cities use data and technology to create efficiencies, improve sustainability, create economic development, and enhance quality of life factors for people living and working in the city. A variety of different datasets may need to be integrated to create a smart energy infrastructure.[119] More formally, a smart city is: "An urban area that has securely integrated technology across the information ... and Internet of Things (IoT) sectors to better manage a city’s assets."[120] Employment of smart technologies enables the more efficient application of integrated energy technologies in the city allowing the development of more self-sustaining areas or even Positive Energy Districts that produce more energy than consume.[121]

A smart city is powered by "smart connections" for various items such as street lighting, smart buildings, distributed energy resources (DER), data analytics, and smart transportation. Amongst these things, energy is paramount; this is why utility companies play a key role in smart cities. Electric companies, working partnership with city officials, technology companies and a number of other institutions, are among the major players that helped accelerate the growth of America's smart cities.[122]

Data management

Smart cities employ a combination of data collection, processing, and disseminating technologies in conjunction with networking and computing technologies and data security and privacy measures encouraging the application of innovation to promote the overall quality of life for its citizens and covering dimensions that include: utilities, health, transportation, entertainment and government services.[123]


A smart city roadmap consists of four/three (the first is a preliminary check) major components:[5][124]

  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 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.

Whether to improve security, resiliency, sustainability, traffic congestion, public safety, or city services, each community may have different reasons for wanting to be smart. But all smart communities share common attributes—and they all are powered by smart connections and by our industry's smarter energy infrastructure. A smart grid is the foundational piece in building a smart community.

— Pat Vincent-Collawn, chairman of the Edison Electric Institute and president and CEO of PNM Resources.[125]


For a detailed look at the history of the concepts of smart cities see: History of Smart Cities

Early conceptions and failures

Early conceptions of future smart cities were found in utopian works such as New Atlantis.[126] The idea and existence of smart cities is relatively new. Following in the path of "Wired Cities" and "Intelligent Cities", the concept of the smart city is focused on a city’s use of ICT in urban problem-solving. The use of computational statistical analysis by the Community Analysis Bureau in Los Angeles in the late 1960's[127] and the establishment by Singapore of the National Computer Board in 1981 are cited as among the earliest cybernetic interventions into urban planning.[128]

Modern conceptions

IBM launched its “Smarter Cities” marketing initiative in 2008,[129] called Smarter Planet, which included the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge. In 2010, Cisco Systems, with $25 million from the Clinton Foundation, established its Connected Urban Development program in partnership with San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Seoul. In 2011, a Smart City Expo World Congress was held in Barcelona, in which 6000 people from 50 countries attended. The European Commission in 2012 established the Smart Cities Marketplace, a centralized hub for urban initiatives in the European Union.[130] The 2015 Chancellor’s Budget for the United Kingdom proposed to invest £140 million in the development of smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT).[131] Other smart city competitions were launched in the 2010s by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the United States Department of Transportation (the latter won by Columbus, Ohio).[132] In 2016, AT&T launched an alliance with Cisco, Deloitte, Ericsson, General Electric, IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm, with municipal partners Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; and Dallas, Texas.[132]

China's smart cities movement began with a pilot program launched in 2012 through its Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.[25]: 58–59  The development of smart cities is addressed in China's National New-Type Urbanization Plan for 2014-2020.[25]: 59–60  It identifies six important aspects for developing smart cities: (1) information network and broadband, (2) digitization of planning management, (3) smart infrastructure, (4) convenience of public services, (5) modernizing industrial development, and (6) sophisticated social governance.[25]: 60 

As of 2016, there were approximately 500 smart city projects in China.[25]: 59  In 2021, China took first in all categories of the International AI City Challenge, demonstrating the national commitment to smart city programs – "by some estimates, China has half of the world’s smart cities".[133] As time goes on the percentage of smart cities in the world will keep increasing, and by 2050, up to 70% of the world's population is expected to inhabit a city.[134]


ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) is a collaborative platform which aims to synergise Smart city development efforts across ASEAN by facilitating cooperation on smart city development, catalysing bankable projects with the private sector, and securing funding and support from ASEAN's external partners.

The European Union (EU) has devoted constant efforts to devising a strategy for achieving "smart" urban growth for its metropolitan city-regions.[135]: 337–355 [136] The EU has developed a range of programmes under "Europe's Digital Agenda".[137] 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.[136] Arup estimates that the global market for smart urban services will be $400 billion per annum by 2020.[138]

The Smart Cities Mission is a retrofitting and urban renewal program being spearheaded by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. The Government of India has the ambitious vision of developing 100 cities by modernizing existing mid-sized cities.[139]


Large IT, telecommunication and energy management companies such as Apple, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, and Schneider Electric launched market initiatives for intelligent cities:

Chinese enterprises

Alibaba has created the City Brain.[145][146] Its first overseas implementation began in 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.[147]: 82 

Baidu is working on Apollo, a self-driving technology.[148] Tencent is working on medical technology,[148] such as WeChat Intelligent Healthcare, Tencent Doctorwork, and AI Medical Innovation System (AIMIS).[149]

As of at least 2024, "Safe City" digital products have been increasingly marketed abroad by Chinese companies like Dahua Technology, Huawei, ZTE, and Hikvision.[147]: 80  Huawei has its Safe City Compact Solution which focuses on improving safety in cities.[150][151][152] In 2018, the Serbian government announced a Safe City project for Belgrade in conjunction with Huawei, through which a thousand cameras with advanced facial recognition and license plate recognition capabilities would be installed in the city.[147]: 82 

Research and global interest in smart cities

While the concept of smart cities has gained increasing popularity over time, it saw a surge in adoption around 2005, particularly among technology companies. These companies sought to integrate smart city principles into urban infrastructures and services, creating sophisticated information systems to enhance operational efficiency within urban areas or cities.[153][154][155][156]

Labs and research centres have been built to help academic researchers study how smart cities develop. They are now working with some of the top research institutions worldwide.

University research labs developed prototypes for intelligent cities.

Similar interest in the concept is illustrated by government commitments. In Africa, the advancement of smart city development stands as a central component of the national agenda for socioeconomic progress. The 55 member states of the African Union Commission, representing nearly the entire continent, have pledged to utilize ICTs to advance sustainable urban development.

The United States has allocated more than $160 million toward smart city initiatives aimed at leveraging ICT to address challenges within local communities. These challenges include alleviating traffic congestion, fostering economic growth, combating crime and climate change, and enhancing the delivery of public services. This decision aligns with the findings of a trend analysis conducted by the National Intelligence Council (NIC), a think tank focused on long-term strategic planning that reports directly to the President of the United States.

Members of the EU have been working on smart city developments and ICT initiatives for over a decade. In order to optimize the benefits of digital technologies for both citizens and businesses, the European Union and its 28 member states have initiated the Digital Agenda for Europe. This strategic framework emphasizes the imperative for Europe to harness ICTs to confront numerous global challenges confronting modern society, and to foster the sustainability of urban environments. Within the 2014-15 budget of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program, the European Commission allocated approximately 200 million Euros to expedite advancements in the domain of smart cities and communities, as well as to expand the implementation of ICT solutions for addressing urban sustainability concerns.[170]

Europe's endeavours to adopt an ICT-driven approach toward urban sustainability align with its contributions to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda, both pivotal policy frameworks outlined by the United Nations (UN). These documents highlight the imperative for transformative actions aimed at fostering inclusivity, safety, resilience, and sustainability on a global scale. Specifically, the New Urban Agenda emphasizes the importance of supporting cities in facilitating smart city development, marking it as a fundamental commitment for the UN's 193 member states. This underscores the significance of addressing urban challenges through the deployment of ICT-related innovations. Such actions are crucial for: (1) fostering environmentally friendly, resource-efficient, safe, inclusive, and accessible urban environments; (2) sustaining economic growth grounded in principles of environmental sustainability and inclusive prosperity; and (3) ensuring equitable access for all to public goods and high-quality services.[171][172][173]

Recently, a global movement has emerged advocating the adoption of ICT solutions to foster a smart city approach towards urban sustainability. This movement is propelling a burgeoning technology market projected to experience exponential growth. According to IDC, expenditure worldwide on technological solutions for smart cities was estimated to reach $80 billion in 2018 and $135 billion in 2021. Additionally, market intelligence from consulting firms including ARUP, BCC Research, Research and Markets, and Frost & Sullivan offers even more optimistic projections. When these forecasts are combined, the smart city technology market is anticipated to reach $408 billion by 2020 and $775 billion by 2021. Subsequently, it is expected to surge to between $2,000 and $3,600 billion by 2025.[174][175][176]


The criticisms of smart cities are varied:[41]

  • The high level of big data collection and analytics has raised questions regarding surveillance in smart cities, particularly as it relates to predictive policing and abuse by law enforcement.
  • A bias in strategic interest may lead to ignoring non-ICT centered modes of promising urban development.[177]
  • A smart city, as a scientifically planned city, would defy the fact that real development in cities is often haphazard and participatory. In that line of criticism, the smart city is seen as unattractive for citizens as they "can deaden and stupefy the people who live in its all-efficient embrace".[178]
  • 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.[179]
  • 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."[41]
  • In the smart city environment there are many threats that affect the privacy of individuals. The technology is involved in scanning, identification, checking the current location, including time and direction of movement. Residents may feel that they are constantly monitored and controlled.[180]
  • As of August 2018, the discussion on smart cities centers around the usage and implementation of technology rather than on the inhabitants of the cities and how they can be involved in the process.[181]
  • Especially in low-income countries, smart cities are irrelevant to the urban population which lives in poverty with limited access to basic services. A focus on smart cities may worsen inequality and marginalization.[182]
  • If a smart city strategy is not planned for people with accessibility problems, such as persons with disabilities affecting mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive function, the implementation of new technologies could create new barriers.[183]
  • Digitalization can have a significant environmental footprint and there is potential for the externalization of environmental costs onto outside communities.[184][185][186]
  • Smart city can be used as a slogan only for land revenue generation, especially in the Global South.[187]
  • Urban planning professor Jennifer Clark writes[132] that the 2010s smart city craze in the United States was largely created by companies trying to sell various technologies to municipal customers. She says the technologies actually adopted tended to not be those trying to change physical infrastructure citywide, but those that deliver digital services directly to residents (like ride-hailing services and online food ordering) or which solve a specific problem of municipal government.

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