What makes a city smart?

The term smart city can be relative. For a person in a developing country, it might mean something as straightforward as a city with good infrastructure designed to function efficiently. But in the developed world, the term “smart city” conjures up the Utopian vision of a more efficient world, with 20 billion connected devices by 2020, many of them making our lives easier even after we leave our homes.

A smart city, in its ideal form, offers a breadth of digital and electronic technology coming together to improve the quality of life of its citizens. Of course, reaching that ideal form takes work, and working through many layers of complexity.

A report from the National League of Cities states that two thirds of U.S. cities are currently investing in smart city technology. And although there is no agreed upon standard for what makes a city “smarter,” many cities are already integrating certain technologies into their infrastructure:

  • Smart meters for utilities
  • Intelligent traffic signals
  • E-governance applications
  • Wi-Fi kiosks
  • Radio frequency identification (RFID) sensors in pavement

Next on many cities’ wishlist, as they become smarter, is investing in the use of drones — for aerial photography, recording special events, surveying and public safety etc.

Besides providing benefits to the inhabitants, what these initiatives all have in common is that they are based on the idea of the Internet of Things. They rely on connectivity in the form of an energy efficient, cost-effective and scalable solution which will support these smart city IoT devices. They also rely on the right partners to make those connections between different devices seamless, secure and user-friendly. That is the challenge we face as we elevate cities from smart, to smarter to smartest.