What REALLY Makes a City Smart?

smart cityAlthough there were cities as early as 4000 BC, ancient cities were generally small and had to be supported by much larger rural populations. Truly urbanized societies, in which a high proportion of the population lives in cities, developed only in the 19th and 20th centuries. According to the UN the year 2008 was the tipping point in which as many people in the world were living in urban centers as in rural areas. The UN predicts that by 2050 about 64% of the developing world and 86% of the developed world will be urbanized.[1]

The Role of Technology in Raising a City’s IQ

As urban populations grow, cities will continue to face unprecedented challenges in the management of energy, water, transport, buildings and societal needs. If historically cities grew in importance based on their connection to natural and man-made transportation resources, in today’s information-centric world, the essential backbone that will determine the quality of urban life is the information and communications (ICT) infrastructure.[2]

The growing “smart city” movement seeks to achieve the required efficiencies by letting real-time data from IoT-enabled sensors flow though the ICT infrastructure to cloud-based data analytics centers that smoothly coordinate services and quickly respond to problems. Thus, for example, in smart cities IoT-enabled water systems use streams of real-time data regarding flow, pressure, and chemical content to balance the water supply and quickly identify leaks or bursts. Even more importantly, all of the smart urban systems are aware of each other. So if a main water pipeline bursts, the smart traffic control system uses the ICT infrastructure and IoT-enabled traffic signals to automatically re-route traffic while the repairs are taking place.

In short, as Pascal Brosset recently wrote on the New Cities Foundation website[3], “…the convergence of inexpensive sensors, pervasive communication and the power of cloud-based analytics is enabling large scale operations to re-examine and fine-tune their businesses like never before. The result is a new level of optimization that is occurring across a wide variety of mature and developing industries.”

To Make a REALLY Smart City Requires Partnerships and Vision

As Lauren Riga, Acting Administrator – Redevelopment at City of Indianapolis, points out[4], achieving sustainable futures for smart cities requires more than just technology. Governments, industry and citizens need to share ideas and work together in order to truly leverage the technology platforms and solutions. An ecosystem of partners must be created to provide support, expertise and resources. Thus, for example, of the $15.8 million allocated for the Kansas City Smart + Connected Communities project, approximately $3 million came from Kansas City government and the rest from partners.

In a very recent blog Anil Menon, Cisco’s Global President of Smart+Connected Communities[5], notes that creating a smart city is more than installing hardware and software. He calls for cities to establish a new position – the Chief City Experience Officer (CCXO). The CCXO would be responsible for identifying the important characteristics that make the city unique and ensuring that those characteristics are preserved as the city moves into the smart era. “A CCXO would need to be able to see across the various city vertical industries – transportation, lighting, water management, parking services, traffic control, etc., to build alliances and create positive experiences on a daily basis.”

There’s no question that we live in an exciting era where smart technologies can translate progressive visions of safer, cleaner and more sustainable cities into reality. The Arad Group is proud to be playing its part in making truly smart cities a reality.


[1] Urbanization, Wikipedia
[2] Ben Algaze, How smart cities (will) work, ExtremeTech, April 19, 2016
[3] Pascal Brosset, How Cities Can Get to New Levels of Efficiency: Embrace the Internet of Things, New Cities Foundation, February 29, 2016
[4] Lauren Riga, Smart Cities and the Age of Urban Tech, Environmental Leader, April 12, 2016
[5] Anil Menon, Global President, Smart+Connected Communities, Cisco, Help Wanted: A Chief Experience Officer for Smart Cities Everywhere, New Cities Foundation, June 29, 2016


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