Introduction to Smart Cities


Welcome to the Readiness Guide. This document was assembled with input from many of the world’s leading smart city practitioners – the members and advisors of the Smart Cities Council. It will help you create a vision for the future of your own city. Equally important, it will help you build an action plan to get to that better future.

The first goal of the Readiness Guide is to give you a “vision” of a smart city, to help you understand how technology will transform the cities of tomorrow.

The second goal is to help you construct your own roadmap to that future. It suggests the goals to which you should aspire, the features and functions you should specify, the best practices that will gain you the maximum benefits for the minimum cost, at reduced risk.

The Readiness Guide is intended for mayors, city managers, city planners and their staffs. It helps cities help themselves by providing objective, vendor-neutral information to make confident, educated choices about the technologies that can transform a city.

Cities around the world are already making tremendous progress in achieving economic, environmental and social sustainability, in export-based initiatives and in the creation of 21st century jobs. All of these are excellent ways to improve city living standards and economies. The concept of smart cities doesn’t compete with these efforts. Instead, smart city technologies can support and enhance work already underway.

In this chapter, we will define the smart city, explore its benefits and introduce the framework that underlies this Readiness Guide.

Taking a holistic view of ‘city’

This introductory section defines smart cities and explores the trends that are driving this global phenomenon. It also discusses some of the barriers cities may face and strategies to overcome them.

Before we define the “smart” piece, however, we should first deal with the word “city.” Real-world smart city examples are rarely a city in the strictest term. Many are more than a single city, such as a metropolitan region, a cluster of cities, counties and groups of counties, a collection of nearby towns or a regional coalition. Other examples are less than a full-scale city, such as districts, neighborhoods, townships, villages, campuses and military bases. Indeed, many municipalities are taking a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to modernization. This Guide is designed to address all of these human ecosystems.

Because it is in common use, we will continue to use “city” throughout this Guide. But we use it to mean all relevant examples big and small. Regardless of size, we are taking a comprehensive, holistic view that includes the entirety of human activity in an area, including city governments, schools, hospitals, infrastructure, resources, businesses and people. As you’ll read, smart technologies have matured to the point that cities of all sizes can afford and benefit from their implementation. For example, new cloud computing offerings allow even the smallest city to affordably tap into enormous computing power. So the lessons of this Guide apply regardless of size – and you’ll see real-world examples in the case studies featured throughout.