What is a Smart City?

We explore exactly what a smart city is, and what it means for its residents both present and future.

Within a smart city technology is king. 

What does this mean? It means a city that fully utilises technology in order to run and function. It means using technology to improve urban services, including transportation, resource management, utilities provision, and many other services as well.

It uses technology to build a city that is supposed to be more efficient, better connected, more intuitive to the needs of its residents, as well as more environmentally friendly and committed to sustainability. 

The use of technology within smart cities is supposed to improve equality and inclusion amongst urban residents, improve their quality of life, while at the same time reducing waste. 


Technology can reduce waste. Image by Jason Blackeye.

A smart city is one that responds to its residents, and is ultimately more efficient. It runs better, it functions better, it works better. 

How does technology create a city more in tune with its residents' needs?

The technology deployed in smart cities collects data. Lots and lots of data. This data is collected from residents as they move around their city, and collects information from all aspects of their daily lives. It also connects data on how they interact with services and resources within a city- from the transportation links, to the provision of electricity, to foot traffic in certain areas of the city, to the density of green and open spaces and their popularity on any given day and time. 

This data can be used by governments, municipalities, and local councils for what essentially amounts to better city planning. It is able to understand, for example, the need for more parking spaces in a specific area, or for the relocation of parking spaces from one to the next. It can understand which bus lines are overly busy, and might require more buses on the route, or if extra routes to and from different parts of the city are necessary. 

It allows cities to respond to issues with how the city functions, faster and more efficiently. Malfunctioning street lamps, out of order traffic lights and other crucial city services can be flagged and fixed quickly in a smart city. This makes for a city that is more pleasant to live in. It makes for a city that works. 


Out of order traffic lights and other crucial city services can be flagged and fixed quickly in a smart city. Image by Eliobed Suarez.

It also helps cities adapt on a macro level too. When a city understands better how it does or doesn’t, it can plan for development and improvements that allow the city to grow, flourish and innovate in line with its population. This could be the building of more schools, or the construction of more mixed-use developments, co-working spaces and more. It allows a city to innovate and change with its shifting population and adapt accordingly. To stay relevant, cities must evolve. 

There are concerns, some of them valid, about the collection and use of large amounts of data relating to how urban residents go about their day and live their lives. These are concerns that need to be addressed. However first and foremost, the aim of a smart city is to improve the lives of its residents through data and technology. Remembering this should help check 

What are the key features of a smart city?

Smart cities share many characteristics in common. They are all committed to building a better future for all of the residents, as a priority. The 2018/2019 Smart City government rankings saw London top the list as the world’s leading smart city, followed by Singapore, Seoul, New York and Helsinki. 

These leading smart cities are all dedicated to boosting, promoting and supporting innovation both amongst organizations, startups, and individuals. They promote the continued learning and education of their residents, including ensuring all are digitally literate. They understand the changing skills and knowledge employees of the future will need, and they plan accordingly. 

The world’s leading smart cities cooperate and communicate. They foster relationships with other cities, both within their own country and globally. They share ideas, projects and inspiration as to what works and doesn’t work in moving a city forward. They also involve their populations in planning what their city will look like- involving residents at a local, community level to build better neighbourhoods, but also involving them in larger urban planning strategy and development meetings. The governments of smart cities don't exist within a bubble, they are connected to their citizens, and their citizens likewise to them. 


The world’s leading smart cities cooperate and communicate. Image by Nasa.

Leading smart cities recognise and appreciate the role of its residents, from the oldest to the youngest. They understand the importance of both inclusivity and diversity. They create environments where every member can flourish, and has opportunities to develop themselves both professionally and personally. 

Cities by their very nature are resilient. They have survived because of their adaptability. The future of cities around the world now depends on their ability to embrace their positions as smart cities. The better and faster they become at responding to the needs of their residents will determine their continued growth. 

At Vonder we believe that pioneering a new approach to housing, evolved co-living, is an essential part of the future of cities, including the world’s leading smart cities. This means housing that understands how people live and work is changing, and that they need housing which reflects these diverse and evolving needs. We believe that mixed-use developments, combining housing, working spaces, and communal spaces for community events and socialising, are critical components of a smart city. 


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