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.


The smart city concept is amorphous and there is no shared understanding of commonly accepted definition of what the term encompasses.[15]: 71  Deakin and Al Waer[16] 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.[17] 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.

Alternative definitions include:

In the context of China, smart city concepts are focused on enhancing urban management and services through information technology advancements like the internet of things, big data, 5G technology, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.[15]: 72 


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.[31]
  2. Engage effectively with local governance[32] 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.[33][34]
  3. Learn, adapt and innovate and thereby respond more effectively and promptly to changing circumstances by improving the intelligence of the city.[11][35]

They evolve towards a strong integration of all dimensions of human intelligence, collective intelligence, and also artificial intelligence within the city.[36]: 112–113 [37] 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)".[38]

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

Bletchley Park often considered to be the first smart community.
  1. Orchestration intelligence:[11] Where 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.[39]
  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.[40]
  3. Instrumentation intelligence: Where 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.[41] 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."[42]

Data collection

Smart cities have been conceptualized using the OSI model of 'layer' abstractions. Smart cities are constructed by connecting the city's public infrastructure with city application systems and passing collected data through three layers, the perception layer, the network layer and the application layer. City application systems then use data to make better decisions when controlling different city infrastructures. The perception layer is where data is collected across the smart city using sensors. This data could be collected through sensors such as cameras, RFID, or GPS positioning. The perception layer sends data it collects using wireless transmissions to the network layer. The network layer is responsible for transporting collected data from the perception layer to the application layer. The network layer utilizes a city's communication infrastructure to send data meaning it can be intercepted by attackers and must be held responsible for keeping collected data and information private. The application layer is responsible for processing the data received from network layer. The application layer uses the data it processes to make decisions on how to control the city infrastructure based on the data it receives.[43][44]


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:[45]


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.[46]


Smart city initiatives have measurable positive impacts on the quality of life of its citizens and visitors.[55] The human framework of a smart city – its economy, knowledge networks, and human support systems – is an important indicator of its success.[56]


According to Mary Anne Moser[61] 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[64] 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[61] 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.[52][59] 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.[32] 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,[65][66] age,[67][68] race, and other human characteristics.[69]

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.[20]


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.[70] 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."[71] 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.[72]

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.[73]

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.[74]


A smart city roadmap consists of four/three (the first is a preliminary check) major components:[5][75]

  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.[76]


Early conceptions of future smart cities were found in utopian works such as New Atlantis.[77] 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[78] and the establishment by Singapore of the National Computer Board in 1981 are cited as among the earliest cybernetic interventions into urban planning.[79]

IBM (which counts among its founding patents a method for mechanical tabulation of population statistics for the United States Census Bureau in 1897), launched its “Smarter Cities” marketing initiative in 2008.[80] 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.[81] 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).[82]

China's smart cities movement began with a pilot program launched in 2012 through its Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.[15]: 58–59  The development of smart cities is addressed in China's National New-Type Urbanization Plan for 2014-2020.[15]: 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.[15]: 60 

As of 2016, there were approximately 500 smart city projects in China.[15]: 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".[83] 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.[84]


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.[85]: 337–355 [86] The EU has developed a range of programmes under "Europe's Digital Agenda".[87] 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.[86] Arup estimates that the global market for smart urban services will be $400 billion per annum by 2020.[88]

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.[89]


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. [90]

Mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) are another key technology allowing citizens to connect to the smart city services.[91][92][93]

Smart cities also rely on smart homes and specifically, the technology used in them.[94] [95][96][97][98]

Bicycle-sharing systems are an important element in smart cities.[99]

Smart mobility is also important to smart cities.[100]

Intelligent transportation systems and CCTV systems are also being developed.[101]

Digital libraries have been established in several smart cities.[102][103][104][105][106][107]

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.[108][109]

Additional supporting technology and trends include remote work,[110][111][112] telehealth,[113][114] the blockchain,[115][116] online banking technology,[117]

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.[16]

In 2022, the Russian corporation Rostec developed the SmartAirKey. This is an electronic key that gives access to doors, barriers, elevators and turnstiles. Registration takes place through the "Gosuslugi"[118][119]

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[120] but can even be done by means of ANPR cameras connected to the bollard system.[121]

Energy Data Management Systems (EDMS) can help to save cities energy by recording data and using it to increase efficiency.[122]

Cost-benefit analysis

Cost-benefit analysis has been done into smart cities and the individual technologies. These can help to assess whether it is economically and ecologically beneficial to implement some technologies at all, and also compare the cost-effectiveness of each technology among each other[123][124][125][126]


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.


University research labs developed prototypes for intelligent cities.


See also: Surveillance issues in smart cities

The criticisms of smart cities revolve around:[31]

See also


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Further reading