Prince Amir Al Saud




As the term “smart city” gains wider and wider currency, there is still confusion about what a smart city is, especially since several similar terms are often used interchangeably. Many definitions of smart cities exist, a range of conceptual variants is often obtained by replacing “smart” with alternative adjectives, for example, “intelligent” or “digital”. The label “smart city” is a fuzzy concept and is used in ways that are not always consistent. There is neither a single template of framing a smart city, nor a one-size-fits-all definition of it. The term was first used in the 1990s.

A smart city – full definition

A smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently. This includes data collected from either citizens, devices,or assets, then processed and meticulously analyzed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation system, water supply networks, law enforcement, information systems, as well as schools, libraries and hospitals and other community services. This concept integratesICT(Information and Communications Technology) and all sort ofdevices to a global network in order to provide an optimization of the efficiency of operations and services, as well as to better connect to the population. ICT is used to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and, most importantly, to increase relations between citizens and the government. A smart city must be a good place to live, offering the best possible quality of life with the lowest possible use of resources, but also an inclusive place, using technology and innovative solutions to improve social inclusion and combat poverty and deprivation, a dramatically actualparadoxto an eraprojected into the future.

In the last two decades, the concept of “smart city” has become more and more popular in scientific literature and international policies. To understand this conceptit is important to recognize why cities are considered key elements for the future. They play a prime role in social and economic aspects worldwide,and have a huge impact on the environment. According to the United Nations Population Fund, 2008 marked the year when more than 50 percent of all people, estimated in about 3,3 billion, lived in urban areas, a figure expected to rise to 70 percent by 2050. The importance of urban areas as a global phenomenon is confirmed by the diffusion of megacities of more than 20 million people in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, with no difference of latitude.

Benefits of being a smart city as a help to the citizens

The current scenario requires cities to find ways to manage new challenges. Cities worldwide have started to look for solutions which enable transportation linkages, mixed land uses, and high-quality urban services with long-term positive effects on the economy. For instance, high-quality and more efficient public transport that responds to economic needs and connects labor with employment is considered a key element for city growth. Many of the new approaches related to urban services have been based on harnessing technologies, including ICT, helping to create what some call “smart cities.”

Smart nations and cities

We might simply argue that a Smart Nation is one where people are empowered by technology to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives. From east to west, smart cities quickly arise, with such ambitious projects ranging from cutting-edge transport to virtual healthcare, we look at some of the leadings cities worldwide. At the top of this technologically advanced list there is the Republic of Singapore, with its “smart nation” initiative designed to quickly transport it into the digital era. Its “Smart Nation Program”, was created in 2014 by putting trials in place across different sectors – like housing, health and transport. Already,the city can detect if people are smoking in unauthorized zones or if they are throwing litter out of high-rise buildings. More data is coming, according to the Wall Street Journal, which announced in a recent headline that “Singapore is taking the “Smart City” to a whole new level”.

According to the National Geographic Channel, San Diego is the only U.S. city as part of its “World’s Smart Cities” documentary series. It was chosen for its strong technology sector, local innovators, green practices, smart public planning and an unparalleled quality of life. Other selection factors included San Diego’s size of population, demographics/cultural diversity, livability, economy and business climate, educational institutions, leadership and strong sense of community, which makes it the 8th largest U.S. city where technology, talent and innovation create a new urban environment.

European cities on forefront as smart cities for the next future

The European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC) is an EU funding instrument that brings together cities, industry and citizens to improve urban life through more sustainable integrated solutions. It addresses city-specific challenges from different policy fields such as energy, mobility and transport, and ICT, and strongly builds on the engagement of citizens, industry and other important stakeholders to develop innovative solutions and participate in city governance.

Today, 78% of the European Union (EU) population lives in cities and 85% of the EU GDP is generated in cities. They are the driving forces of the European economic and societal growth. From one side, urban areas are becoming ‘smarter’ and more ‘sustainable’ through, among others, the widespread use of ICT, and thus improving the quality of life and well-being of their citizens. Nevertheless, cities are still responsible for the 70% of the global energy consumption and energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. 

Europe is playing a leading role when it comes to smart cities, from north to south it’s all a flourish of new entities entitled to become the top in the nearest future. European cities are forging ahead with efforts to become smart cities, with 60% of the world’s leading smart cities based in the old continent. It was found that innovation to reduce congestion and energy consumption were keys initiatives across may European cities.Here are some examples of the most technologically advanced cities and their innovative plans for the future.

Barcelona, the chic capital of Catalonia, has made extensive use of sensors to help monitor and manage traffic, which, according to the city plans, will reduce the flow by 21%. The city is doing more than using smart technology to reduce traffic, and it has installed smart parking technology as well as smart streetlights, and also sensors for monitoring air quality and noise. Not less important, it is expanding a network of free wi-fi in public spaces, and it is rolling out smart LED lighting.The greatest city’sstrength lies undoubtedly in its sustainable energy, with a comprehensive plan for reducing carbon emissions. Barcelona has also been a trailblazer regarding irrigation, after the city ran out of water a few years ago. As a result, it has developed a smart city sensors system for irrigation.Sensors in the ground analyze rain alongside the predicted level of rain forecast and will modify the city’s sprinklers accordingly to help save water.

London has long ranked near the top of the list of smart cities in the world. It began to take early action by using technology to help tackle congestion and make parking simpler. One of the tech hubs of the world, the city planners recently announced a plan to implement information technology to curb congestion. A £4-billion pound investment in roads over the next decade, including a £200-million investment in the bus network was announced, a huge amount in smart traffic technology. Not only do the traffic lights respond in favor of buses to smooth the progression of public transport, but there is also a congestion charge that was implemented back in 2003.London has also committed to making available data from its smart city initiative public via its London Datastore. For instance, the city has an app that will take your location, one can say where to go, and the app will tell the routes to take. Despite excelling in many areas, London’s score has lowered because of its reliance on unclean energy and its “relatively poor energy use reduction initiatives”.

Oslois the capital of one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and a contender in lists of the smartest cities in the world. It has made strides in using information technology to curb energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission. It is estimated that by 2020 the capital of Norway is aiming to cut emissions by 50% by remaking its transportation grid; by 2030 to be 95% climate neutral. Like other smart cities, Oslo has installed sensors to help monitor parking, a network of smart street lighting, which has already reduced energy consumption by nearly two-thirds, and, like no other city, a special sensor network to help improve the care of sick, elderly patients. The capital’s smart city approach is very typical of northern cities, with an emphasis on sustainable energy. It has developed a comprehensive electric-vehicle charging network and is getting attention for its aggressive plans to cut carbon emissions from cars. Projects include banning private vehicles by the end of the decade, in order to cut greenhouse emissions significantly by 2019, although at present the city has a high level of private vehicle ownership. Furthermore, like Barcelona, the city’s overall approach to energy reduction focuses on an aggressive policy to reduce carbon production.

Financial analysts are predicting that Switzerland is set to become the global epicenter for the forthcoming cryptocurrency and blockchain technology that it is built on. Reports have emerged that investors are flocking to the affluent Alpine nation in an effort to get in on the virtual action. Zurich became the first city in the world to setup a bitcoin ATM in 2014, whilst the Swiss national rail company has given passengers the opportunity to purchase virtual currency at over 1,000 distributors across the country since 2016.

Moscow has announced that it will pilot a project which implements blockchain technology into its electronic voting system. The Russian capital will become the first city in the world to implement the emerging technology in e-voting on such a large scale. It will allow city residents to be able to count votes and verify the authenticity of results in real-time.

But, regardless of which city tops the 21st-innovation list, there are some “smart city models” to use; all aspects that make up sustainability and quality of life in 181 key world cities, which take into account 77 indicators, covering 10 distinct dimensions of urban life: the economy, technology, human capital, social cohesion, international outreach, the environment, mobility and transportation, urban planning, public management and governance.


Europe, and the whole world, is aiming to become a smarter and better place to live, by respecting the environment, and by making an extensive use of all the newest innovations and technologies that will lead us to see the not-so-far future painted in softer shades.


Article by Sonia Russo

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