A Smart City is More Than Just About Technology

The definition of a “smart city” is changing. Not only does it refer to a community that adopts technological tools to make itself more efficient, but the term also encompasses the ideas of sustainability, compassion and equity for all stakeholders.

As cities embrace initiatives to become more connected, data-driven and resilient, leaders must prioritize among the various needs of the community they serve. The key is to strategically pick the projects that will bring the most impact to a city and result in the most good. When we embark on the smart city journey, the focus will be on bringing the right technology on board.

In this first phase, municipalities will work with technology partners to do such things as deploy sensors to manage utilities and used the data generated for descriptive rather than predictive analytics. Smart Cities municipalities will take a bigger lead role as they leverage the Internet of Things and use technology proactively and on a much wider scale to produce a better quality of life. In Smart Cities the city positions itself as a platform that actively interacts, collaborates and co-creates with its citizens as valuable stakeholders. GETTING BACK TO BASICS. The first big test is to decide where to begin the smart-city journey. We will start with the basics.

The four big pillars for smart cities are urban mobility, energy, telecommunications and public safety, It’s important to get the basics right before attempting any profile projects. Cities should be concentrating on what they need to do and what they can do best, which is very often not very glamorous, These may have to do with the management of urban space, roadways, and how to deal with local public  — that’s picking up garbage, making sure people get water, do not get lead poisoning, and so forth.

It’s also important to think holistically, even with individual projects. For example, aim to maintain a high degree of connectivity with residents by offering a single-point access to services with a consistent user experience on one platform. The best way to achieve that is with “an integrated, cross-cutting approach,” where one app could connect citizens with different departments. It might help to think about the city as a business with the  member of Parliament as the CEO, The city is essentially the caretaker of land. … The MP’s job is to manage that location.” As you craft a smart-city vision for guidance, we focus on three aspects. One is how to drive innovation at the local level, that would counter the challenges brought by rapid urbanization. Partner with local companies, which understand their markets better as well as the residents’ needs and challenges. Second, redefine public-private partnerships in a way that includes the voice of labor unions.

Including the labor unions in these partnerships can close the digital gap and create more equal opportunities for everyone,” she said. Third, looking ahead and coming up with smarter regulations that keep pace with technology. “When we have a new technology in place, we tend to take the rules of the past and apply it to the new technology. Before launching a smart cities project, it is important to set up the right framework for success. First, a city’s leaders and financial backers must truly care about this endeavor. “Without that … push from the real leaders and the decision-makers, things will stall. Second, cross-departmental facilitation is a must to get things done. But take note that it won’t happen automatically. “You need a push from the leader. “You need a reason for them to come together and make change, otherwise they will just return to the status quo.” Third, city departments “need to know what to do; they need a plan. The city must prioritized the use of the latest technological innovations such as big data analytics to improve the quality of life for its residents. Those tools, especially the data component, drive decision-making and improve outcomes by enabling the switch from a reactive model to a proactive and predictive one. The other “game changer” is to set up an enterprise data platform with data links and analytics tools. It would aggregate data from multiple sources, contextualize the information and make it available to others who could use it to improve the quality of life in the city. 

IT teams will need to develop mobile solutions for city services. The city should be delivering one mobile app every month and cross-training employees on mobile technology. A central data analytics team will working with the Central Government departments to build analytics components. “You don’t get all those gains if you don’t have an employee base that is bought into the vision. To be sure, cities know that their grand visions will get moving only when there is economic growth. That means cities have to attract both employers and skilled workers. But which do they entice first — the employers and then the talent will follow, or the other way around? “Talent first, employers later” seems to be the answer. Begin by making the city a desirable place to live and work for employees, which means investing in the amenities they seek. For instance, a city might want to invest in mass transit systems to make mobility easier for residents and expand shopping, dining and entertainment options. Once a critical mass of talent becomes available, employers will follow.

Finally, it is easy to get excited about smart cities and overestimate what they could deliver and underplay any potential challenges. Be realistic. City leaders will “work under the pretense of execution. That is, ‘We need to drive this big plan and this big plan will be key in local economic development policies. We respect technology as an enabler, but won’t allow it to dominate the decision-making process. We have been trying to sell technology and don’t necessarily understand how smart cities work.” 


Focus on the basics first: urban mobility, energy, telecommunications and public safety.

• Craft a vision that incorporates these three aspects: driving innovation at the local level, including labor unions and other stakeholders, and making sure regulations keep pace with changing technologies.

• Set up a framework for success: Leaders and financial backers must truly care about the initiative, facilitate inter-departmental cooperation and give city departments a plan to follow.

• Be realistic about what a smart city can achieve.

Smart Cities: Identifying Needs, Finding Solutions

After crafting a smart city vision, cities must prioritize their needs before they can find solutions, shortlist vendors, deploy equipment and implement projects to deliver the desired outcomes. Public safety is typically the topmost need for many cities, followed by other priorities such as connectivity, sustainability, resilience, equitability and inclusivity as well as job creation and economic growth.

AREAS OF EARLY FOCUS Public safety. Planning for and maintaining safety in urban settings calls for a coordinated approach among departments and agencies. Technology can help — by using data to do predictive analytics using data culled from multiple sources, such as video feeds from the CCTV traffic cameras and sensors on everything from water tanks to street lights and trash bins. We will be able to distill its analytics down to the individual level and “tell an officer which crime is most likely to happen in his or her neighborhood today, and can be watching out for that.” Analytics and cloud storage infrastructure also will help police departments  deploy body cameras, or bodycams, worn by officers on duty. The bodycams generate huge volumes of data, usually in terabytes, that conventional data storage facilities cannot handle. 

Urban mobility.

This is a priority that lends itself neatly to technological solutions. Mobile applications, or apps, not only provide access to mass transit schedules and purchase of tickets, they also can map optimal routes for drivers to avoid traffic congestion or accidents, supply weather information. A bonus would be a reduction in the city’s carbon footprint as a result of an improvement in urban mobility.


We will focus on energy efficiency. These cities will launched a program that would track energy performance, and assign Energy Star ratings based on their energy efficiency. The program is designed to measure energy usage and reduce water usage. Over time, it could indirectly encourage property owners to make energy efficiency investments, although they are not required to do so.

Serving the needs of the most vulnerable.

Smart Cities will become more compassionate towards the needs of the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, poor, and disabled. In public transportation, that often involves last-mile and first-mile access, which essentially is to provide transport from residents’ homes to mass transit points and get to essential service centers, a job or other locations. Compassionate cities would also try to have affordable mass transit for all neighborhoods and not just some parts. “Most of the of the solutions we’re talking about, especially in areas like transportation, are aimed at solving some of the underlying issues that we see in cities around disadvantaged communities. That could mean providing opportunities or access to transportation to communities that have traditionally been geographically isolated and are economically disadvantaged. Another example: efforts to bridge the so-called ‘digital divide,’ which may take the form of free public Wi-Fi. “Start with a needs-based assessment — what do we really want? What are the challenges and the problems we want to solve? Such introspection, is “an embedded piece of a smart city. A central data system to develop applications for the delivery of services. These can include scheduling and automatically rescheduling of appointments with transit tracking, apps for multimodal trip planning, payment systems and assistance for people with disabilities. It also planned a “smart corridor” that connected underserved neighborhoods to jobs and services, smart traffic signals, smart street lighting, traveler information and payment kiosks, and free public Wi-Fi. 

That life expectancy gap occurs because of health disparities. “But health disparities don’t occur unless there are also disparities in transportation, education, housing, food access and work force development. Smart cities must balance resources for the betterment of the country. In order  to take an integrated, cross-cutting approach to building a smart city, one early goal would be to provide a single portal where citizens can access all city services. In a smart city, this could mean providing access through mobile devices or setting up smart street kiosks. Cities should aim to provide one common experience for users, whether they are seeking a license, pay taxes or report an open manhole. It becomes unwieldy if each city department had its own portal or app — be it garbage collection or water service. 

• Focus urban policymaking on solving specific problems that come with dense populations rather than imposing blanket rules.

• Prioritize the accessibility of movement. It links land use and transportation, the two main areas of urban consumption.

• Recognize that shortcomings in urban planning and governance structures could have long-term repercussions.

• Remember that regulation plays an important role.