What are Smart Cities? Features, Frameworks, Quotes

By Dinis Guarda - Apr 28, 2020
Smart Cities - Insights, image by Dinis Guarda for citiesabc.com

What are Smart cities? Smart Cities Features, Framework, Insights, Thoughts, Quotes

The world is now urban and humanity lives and fosters in cities and smart cities are framework of our times. For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and the numbers will increase and citiess need to be prepared to become 100% smart cities. Over 90 percent of urban growth is occurring in the developing world, with a population young and ambitious but also struggling with the future of work, the challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic and economic recessions coming out of that but also lacking a narrative and storyline that can create better present and future.

We need more than ever a bold new Magna Carta of citizens liberties and we need a cities based new wave of ideas and innovation that usess smart cities frames as a ways to foster and increase holistic solutions for society, industry and academy where we should focus on creating short term solutions and adding value creation for the estimated 70 to 100 million new residents to urban areas each year. Demand for smarter societies and improvement of services in urban areas is therefore increasing exponentially, and the capacity of cities and their local governments to manage this demand is challenged. Smart cities can be a foundational infrastructure and framework that if well used can create a better and more inclusive technologic Sustainability ecosystem.

Smart cities have to focus on building a smarter society using standards smartness and focus on collective intelligence alignment. The most important when designing a city and planning smart cities is the emphasis that needs to be on the design of adding value to the city and adapt the tech to solve problems and not the other way around

A smart city is all about building connections which transcend geography—something more deep-rooted and emotional. Better infrastructure is an integral part of building smart cities, but first comes building awareness about existing resources and then preparing for easier accessibility and navigation. The starting point is changing our obsolete addressing system. I have co-founded a digital addressing system that creates an eight-digit alphanumeric address for every location in a city. This can form the crux of all services: transportation, retail, governance, emergency services, etc. My aim is that people should be able to travel hassle-free, thereby forming indelible connections.
— Vaibhav Belgaonkar, co-founder, Joomzee, Geotracker Pvt Ltd, Mumbai

The world’s 100 largest cities represent around 70% of the world GDP and has 974 million inhabitants; more than a fifth of the global urban population. Tokyo is the largest, with 37.4 million inhabitants; to get into the top 100 list, a city would need to match the population of Ürümqi in China with 4.4 million people. To make the top ten, a city would need 19.2 million inhabitants.

If we go back on time in 1800, London topped the largest 100 list, with 1.1 million inhabitants. A city with the population of Turin (at just 66,000 inhabitants) would have made the list and a city with 400,000 inhabitants would have been one of the ten largest. But by 2020, a city would need to be almost 50 times this size to make the top 10 cut.

Figure: Average size of the world's 100 largest cities (millions of inhabitants), 1800-2035

The average population of the world’s 100 largest cities has increased dramatically: 9.7 million in 2020 compared with 2 million inhabitants in 1950 and 184,270 in 1800.

Technology companies are running the world and in the last 10 years Silicon Valley has failed to create effective solutions for our society that are facing a civilisation crisis as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. These technologies giants cannot drive the world, only communities and cities can with tools and technology. The public and private sector have to leverage technologies to improve cities and their infrastructure services, deliveries and efficiency. So far governments have failed to fully embrace the benefits that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought, with the social, financial and privacy issues we have are creating issues that are destroying trust in organisations, governments, and political leaders.

Governments have to change their game and especially community leaders who have to take action to be able to deliver more sustainable solutions and services for their cities, in a more efficient and effective way, utilising the resources and tools at their disposal. Cities are now somehow all relatively smart cities, but the challenge is how to make this holistically “smart”, in a way, that all cities need to take seriously all technological requirements to manage, optimise, educate, coach and grow their multiple ecosystems, and at the same time focus on sustainability, in finding the best ways to create short term results, innovate and create the new tools and approaches that empower citizens and respective ecosystems.

A smart city, if well set up with digital technology, data, and multiple advanced technologies will improve the lives of its communities and people. This requires groundbreaking open-minded strategic leadership by the multiple stakeholders and administration. Highly promising smart cities have to be about not only embracing technology and innovation but also nourish the creativity, compassion, empowerment, fostering economic and social development of their citizens. Without involving all the communities and social fabric of the cities, including special young and talented tech academics, entrepreneurs pushing to transform cities with their ideas, they cannot become truly smart on a large scale.

About Smart Cities 

When we think about Smart Cities, we usually go in multiple directions but we need to narrow the focus and highlight that smart cities are in essence better-optimised cities and a concept any city has to master.

An intelligent city that is built or optimised to be amart using the best of tech to create a technology-intensive city. This means to have a tech structure at its center and be able to use the best of the 4IR revolution set of tools and tech such as AI and Blockchain to manage big amounts of data and create predictions and optimisation. To use Blockchain to distribute cloud computing and create more secure smart contracts based on identity for citizens and organisations. Using IoT with sensors in an ethical way and data conscientiously everywhere, where possible, will create highly efficient trusted public infrastructure services.

If well planned smart cities, can create economies of scale and efficiency that can save energy, augment productivity and have more transparent governance, then thanks to the information that is gathered, in real-time, by thousands of interconnected devices, then cities can understand the potential issues and create faster solutions to upcoming problems. (For example, trash cans can have sensors that indicate when they are full, and trash collectors follow a specific route based on this information.). If property and buildings become “intelligent”, one can augment innovation and economic and industry solutions with the right application of smart systems that include meters and energy saving systems, and transport optimisation according to the needs of the populations.

At the core a smart city there needs to be a city that cultivates a better relationship between citizens and governments - leveraging available technologies and efficient data management. They rely on feedback from citizens to help improve service delivery and creating mechanisms to gather this information. For example, Citizens are more active in managing their neighborhoods. Open government data is used by civil society to co-create smartphone applications (or an SMS service), e.g., to report a full trash can, and trash collectors can accommodate their routes based on this information.

We believe that a smart city approach is critical to any city in the woreld but one needs to kill myths, that the technology will solve all the problems. At the base of smart cities we need solid governance, united focused communities with leadership. For that we need to focus on building and developing global a universal smart city framework.

Smart cities vision, problem, solution - architecture, infographic by Dinis Guarda for citiesbac.com

Building a Smart City Development Framework

The proposed framework is divided in five components and based on research by Victor Mulas from the World Bank:

1. Smart city and smart government strategic road map: The starting point is a forward looking analysis that not only includes understanding the existing infrastructure, but also creatinga roadmap towards a smart city model for the next five to ten years. Based on this forward looking exercise, an action plan and an investment road map are proposed, tailored to the specific needs of each city.

2. Concentrate on Identification of city priorities and road map: In parallel, interactive consultations with main stakeholders are required. Civil Society organizations, local universities, technology communities, public officers, and specialists are gathered to put forward their main needs and priorities, focusing on those that could be solved through technology. Examples from other countries and cities are studied, and problem areas are further actioned.

3. Collaboration smart cities solutions: Based on the problem statements identified before, cities have several alternatives. They could, for example, develop specific applications directly. They could also participate in events such as hackathons and app challenges to crowdsource solutions, spurring innovation and entrepreneurship. Partnerships with universities and the private sector may also result in multidisciplinary teams co-creating solutions with innovative approaches. The idea of these activities is to create prototypes and concepts that are then tested in the field (in this case, in the city) and start a virtuous cycle of feedback from citizens and adaptation/responses from government, all aimed at creating a new or improved service.

4. Smart Innovation Urban Labs: To keep the momentum generated by this collaboration process, a space that allows for the ongoing interaction between all stakeholders mentioned above is vital; space where new ideas and solutions can be tested in a fail-safe environment. This Urban Innovation Lab should lead future iterations of the proposed process and support stakeholders in coming up with problems and solutions aimed at improving the quality of life in their city.

5. Smart and Networked inclusive cities: cities implementing this process could create a network to share applications and practices. Thereby, they can maximize the value of the solutions they develop by sharing them with other like minded cities, as well as learn from other experiences and evolve. Such networks could also link to already existing networks in Europe (for example, the European Network of Living Labs or the Open Cities initiative) and the US.

This smart city infrastructure approach will appeal to all cities globally. All cities are now or should be technology-data-intensive cities. As they create a longer-term technology investment strategy, they can start leveraging existing technologies (in most cases, mobile devices, smartphones, and broadband access) to co-create smart civic applications that will help improve public services and overall quality of life.

We should promote smart cities as foundational infrastructure frameworks for cities. A smart city should be an empirical and living innovative ecosystem community where all stakeholders share base circular economic values and build a Network of Living community Labs where “Public-Private-People-Partnerships,” are the base. Smart cities should also be an ecosystem where citizens, organisations and government services and investments are continuously improving through feedback from citizens, and universities with the private sector.

Smart cities should be about creating opportunities for citizens and new businesses based on data and research that will eventually increase the quality of life and a truly optimised ecosystem. At different scales, we believe this smart cities approach will be adopted by any city, despite its size or income level. Emphasis on smart cities is critical and should not only be placed on urgent solutions that are emerging out of the Covid-19 challenges and we should aim to create a default smart cities sustainability approach for the way we manage, optimise and build our cities.

Smart Cities Framework by Dinis Guarda for citiesbac.com

Quotes from leading world industry thought leaders:

Cities are built up over time from an infinity of small acts. They do not function like well-oiled machines but present complex organisms that are shaped by geographies, social milieus and inhabitants. The smart city concept overlooks the real drivers of cities: people. People come with messiness, as do cities. There are certain urban qualities that can only evolve with inefficiency, vacancy or unforeseeable events. In theory, smart city solutions can improve citizen participation and co-determination through open data and real-time participation technology. Currently, however, the concept is organised top-down, rather than from the bottom-up.
— Leona Lynen, city researcher, Berlin

“Smart cities do not mean creating jungles of concretes or sophisticated cities of glasses with HiFi technologies. But a smart city means a city, where humans, trees, birds and other animals can grow with all their glories, imperfections, freedom and creativity.”
― Amit Ray, Nuclear Weapons Free World Peace on the Earth

“A smart city is an intelligent town that provides enormous possibilities for human growth through art, culture, social, architectural, economic, political, environmental, and scientific flowering with the optimal mix of nature, technology, humanity, and arts.”
― Amit Ray, Peace Bliss Beauty and Truth: Living with Positivity

In a smart city, modern technology, especially smart devices, connect people with their surrounding areas. Citizens should be offered easily accessible services to keep them informed and their grievances should be taken seriously. City planners often rely on theoretical concepts and best practices in other cities, and want to adopt them without taking into account the unique attributes of their own cities and the peoples’ needs. They expect public participation via outdated procedures like public gatherings and filling forms. This can be prevented by enabling connected citizens to interact with the administration and have a say in city planning. We will then have more liveable smart cities.
— Michael Witte, public relations and event advisor, European Geography Association

“A smart city is a city where humans, trees, birds and other animals can grow with all their glories, imperfections, freedom, and creativity. They are not just cities of technology but cities of love, life, beauty, dignity, freedom and equality.”
― Amit Ray, Nuclear Weapons Free World Peace on the Earth

A smart city uses digital technology to improve the lives of people. This requires strategic leadership by the administration. Highly promising smart cities not only embrace technology and innovation but also nourish the creativity of their citizens. Without young and talented tech entrepreneurs pushing to transform cities with their ideas, they cannot become truly smart on a large scale.
— Faruk Tuncer, policy advisor, Berlin

“Smart cities are the intelligent cities of positivity and happy-energy, not the junkyards of technologies but cities of diversity, love, life, beauty, dignity, freedom, tolerance, and equality.”
― Amit Ray, Peace Bliss Beauty and Truth: Living with Positivity

“Smart is not just a word; it's an attitude.”
― Ogwo David Emenike

“Peace and Tranquility are the staple and cardinal sine qua nons for Sustainable Development.”
― Musharraf Shaheen, The Srinagar Smart City : prepositions and recommendations

The Indian smart city is essentially an entrepreneurial city. Like entrepreneurs, cities must gain insight into their uniqueness to be differentiators in the global competition between cities, rather than trying to be similar to each other. Technologising infrastructure provision and monitoring is moot in the Indian context, where equitable access to infrastructure is in itself a huge challenge. I wish “smartening” Indian cities would focus on openly sharing big data and analytics.
— Madhav Raman, co-founder and principal designer, Anagram Architects, New Delhi

Building smarter cities, co-authored by Arturo Muente-Kunigami and Victor Mulas (from the IC4D blog).
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