Smart Cities - D100

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A Day in the Life

Imagine waking up in the morning to your cell phone alarm. As you reach to turn the alert off, you are presented with today’s weather and the top news in the city. As it is a weekday, your phone automatically tells you the quickest route and total time required to travel to your workplace. There is a city wide run this morning and you are suggested to take an alternate route to arrive at work at your usual time.

Once you arrive to the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled bus stop, you are able to check in to the bus stop and receive real time updates of when the next bus will arrive. As you wait, you are able to stream your favourite podcast with the free public Wi-Fi. Although there is large group waiting at the bus stop, boarding is a seamless interaction since everyone has their passes on their cell phones. You manage to arrive at work early and you’re able to chat with your co-workers and grab a coffee before starting your day.

After work, you have to run errands and buy groceries before cooking dinner. Although you normally avoid visiting the mall during peak hours, you remember the city has recently implemented smart parking meters that help drivers find free parking spaces. This will decrease congestion in parking lots and avoid drivers circling around the lots searching for a spot. As you approach the store, you are alerted of the available spaces and you are able to quickly secure one and quickly finish your shopping trip.

You are living in a smart city.

What is a Smart City?

Smart cities are urban areas that collect and utilise a wide array of electronic data to improve the lives of their citizens. In today’s world, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), sensors for Internet of Things (IoT), and automation, are at the core of what propels and collects the necessary data to create a smart city [1].

By collecting data continuously, these cities are better able to analyze information, understand patterns, and plan for growth and improve processes. This includes improving and managing urban services such as energy in power plants, traffic and transportation services, waste disposal systems, police departments, hospitals, schools, and other community programs.

The adoption of smart cities has increased exponentially in the last decade. Some notable cities that are leaders in smart city implementations include London, Barcelona, Singapore, Seoul, and New York[2]. Arup estimates that the global market for smart urban services will be $400 billion USD per annum by 2020[3].

Main Goals

Although no two smart cities may look or operate in the same way, all smart cities strive to achieve the same goals.

  • Better Quality of Life
  • Economic Competitiveness
  • Sustainability
  • Government Efficiency
  • Sustainability
  • Health and Wellness
  • Mobility
  • Public Safety

Why do Smart Cities Matter?

Put simple, cities are important. Urban centers are critical drivers for economic growth and opportunity for a country. Major attractions, historical museums, and large company headquarters are all found in the city. “By 2025, the world’s top 600 cities are expected to account for 60 percent of global GDP.” [4]. For example, London’s gross product attributes to almost a fifth of the United Kingdom’s gross product. According to Forbes, around 50% of our population are living in urban areas [5].

Moreover, urban centres are where we live, where we work, or where we travel to almost everyday. Whether we are a resident, business, municipal organization, or visitor, the improvements that smart cities hope to achieve will affect each one of us. The world population is now well over 7 billion and this number is only growing. Issues such as increasing population, hyper-urbanization, climate change, and globalization are becoming more and more apparent. If cities are not equipped to handle the influx of people and the associated challenges they bring, there will be serious ramifications.

Sometimes these consequences are hard to imagine and it’s hard as a citizen to see why you should care. However, examples such as traffic congestion in city centres or full skytrains during peak hours demonstrate the need to create smarter transportation methods using information technology.

Cities that have implemented smart city technologies have already started to see drastic improvements to the area. According to McKinsey Global Institute, “nearly 60 current smart-city applications could affect multiple quality-of-life dimensions in 3 sample cities with varying legacy infrastructure systems and baseline starting points. Among other positive outcomes, these tools could reduce fatalities by 8 to 10 percent, accelerate emergency response times by 20 to 35 percent, shave the average commute by 15 to 20 percent, lower the disease burden by 8 to 15 percent, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10 to 15 percent” [6].

Components of a Smart City

There are a multitude of components that can make up a smart city, including one or more the features listed below [7].

Smart Infrastructure

Smart infrastructure can be seen as the basis of a smart city. The following are examples of smart infrastructure that can improve transportation and enhance city streets.

  • Smart Lighting
    • Dims street lights when no one is around
  • Smart Parking Management
    • Detects available parking spaces through sensors
  • Connected Charging Stations
    • Promotes the use of smart cars

Smart Buildings and Properties

This includes any plans to increase the safety, security, and maintenance of buildings.

  • Perimeter Access Controls
    • Detects when people enter restricted areas of property

Smart Industrial Environment

This includes applications associated with IoT used in the industrial environment.

  • Forest Fire Detection
    • Monitoring of combustion gases and preemptive fire conditions
  • Snow Level Monitoring
    • Identifying real time condition of ski tracks for avalanche prevention

Smart City Services

This include services that improve public safety and reaction times in emergencies.

  • Public Wi-Fi Services
    • Free mobile charging stations
  • Automatic Healthcare Dispatch
    • 24/7 healthcare by dispensing medicine and drugs and calling ambulances

Smart Energy Management

This includes understanding and utilizing smart energy to make energy consumption more efficient [8].

  • Smart Grids
    • Digitally monitored energy systems that deliver electricity or gas from generation sources
  • Smart Meters
    • Provide real-time information on energy consumption

Smart Water Management

This includes monitoring water quality and planning for optimal use of water resources. [9]

  • Portable Water Monitors
    • Monitors the quality of tap water
  • Swimming Pool Remote Measurement
    • Controls the swimming pool conditions remotely

Smart Waste Management

This includes systems that look to track waste services to reduce costs and improve inefficient waste collection.

  • Fill Level Sensors
    • Track the location of your container
    • Sense all material types

The Present State of Smart Cities

Humble Beginnings

It’s important to note that the concept of smart cities is not new. During the late 1980s, a nonprofit investment corporation known as the Trust for Sustainable Development supported the Bamberton Project [10]. Bamberton, now an industrial site located on Vancouver Island, 45km north of Victoria, was intended to be the first sustainable community [11]. For over four years, varying professionals and surrounding residents met to bring this project to life. They strategized and designed sewage systems, waste reduction methods, environmentally conscious buildings, and sustainable transportation systems. The construction of a tertiary level sewage treatment plant was critical in the Bamberton project – this would ensure protection of the surrounding waters. However, this project required a large sewage treatment plant that the technology of the late 1980s could not provide. Had the Bamberton project been proposed with today’s technology, it may have succeeded with the implementation of smaller sewage plants [12].

International Cities

Smart city concepts are currently being applied globally at various scales of complexity. For example, the city of Barcelona is using the idea of superblocks to reduce traffic congestion in its streets [14]. A superblock is defined as “an area of city land larger than the usual block, treated according to a unified plan and generally closed to vehicular through traffic” [15]. Since Barcelona is built in a distinctively uniform city block structure, applying the superblock concept is simple. Barcelona’s superblocks are executed by taking nine city blocks and cutting them off to through traffic. Local business owners and residents are allowed to drive within the superblocks at low speeds, while the public is forced to use the perimeter. This has effectively reduced the air and noise pollution generated by heavy vehicular traffic and increased livability in Barcelona streets, the latter of which is an underlying motive of smart cities [16].

20 years ago, Stockholm developed a universal fibre optic system to be used throughout the city, by all residents and organizations on equal terms [17]. By implementing this system, Stockholm is able to provide faster communication over longer distances without interference [18]. The city's Green IT program is using the fibre optic system as a base to build energy efficient buildings, develop effective traffic monitoring models, and reduce its overall environmental impact [19]. The implementation of these programs has been successful; in 2016, the city was named the third most sustainable after Zurich and Singapore, and was given a sustainability rating of 74%[20].

Vancouver's Applications

In the midst of self-contained biodomes and self-driving cars, there are simpler technologies that can make a city smart. For example, Vancouver provides free Wi-Fi in over 500 public places, ensuring its residents and visitors are constantly connected to the online world. Further, in an effort to reduce traffic congestion, Vancouver uses video streaming to collect traffic data and help drivers plan routes [21]. As mentioned above, a smart city is one which uses information and communication technologies to improve the lives of its citizens [22]. By this definition, Vancouver is noticeably smart, and on its way to become smarter.

The Smart Cities Challenge is one that encourages communities across Canada, including Vancouver, to take smarter initiatives. The program asks communities to submit their smart city proposals in an effort to win government funding to support the implementation of their ideas [23]. Vancouver partnered up with the city of Surrey and proposed “Canada’s first two collision-free multi-modal transportation corridors”, to be used by autonomous shuttles. If implemented, Vancouver and Surrey would add cameras and sensors to the peripheral lanes of existing roads in order to accommodate said autonomous shuttles. This is proposed with the aim of reducing traffic congestion and associated emissions, as well increasing efficiency and safety [24]. Finalists for the Challenge were announced on June 1, 2018 with Vancouver and Surrey included in the $50 million prize category. Winners will be announced in Spring 2019 [25].

The Future State of Smart Cities

Internet and Communications Technologies

Margaret Rouse at TechTarget explains Internet Communications Technologies (ICT) as the basis for digital interaction between hardware, software, and individuals in any and all capacities. This includes organizations, governments, and nonprofits being able to digitally communicate through the use of devices and software applications. ICT has abilities to encompass the wireless, internet, and mobile driven resources as well as more archaic technologies such as radio, and landline telephones. The greatest outlook of ICT lies within the “application of all those various components” and by interconnecting them, Rouse explains that their true “potential, power and danger” can be unleashed[26].

An example of the success driven by ICT can be seen in undertakings in Amsterdam. They have set up an open collective by bringing citizens, businesses, knowledge institutions, and public authorities together to shape their city of the future.
Illustrating connections between active connections to the Internet through the use of NYC Mesh nodes and supernodes [27]
They share knowledge to come up with innovative solutions for current metropolitan issues. Their projects include energy, mobility, digital city, and more themed ideas that will positively impact their cities sustainability and global footprint in the future. An example of these innovations would be City-Zen. City-Zen is a virtual power plant system made up of a network of smaller production units including rooftops made up of solar photovoltaic cells (PV). A virtual power plant is built through aggregating smaller units in a neighborhood. By doing so, a balance of the supply and demand of energy can be managed. Instead of requiring a full sized power plant, a virtual plant will provide the same benefits with next to no ecological footprint, in comparison. Despite not suffering from routine power shortages, they are taking proactive action in order to develop ways to store renewable energy[28].

A more relatable example would be wireless mesh networking. Community-based network providers within New York City are bypassing commercial internet providers and attempting to offer a free, open and neutral telecommunications network modeled after Guifi[29], a Spanish provider. The network operates by customers purchasing equipment upfront and then having these customers connect to one another through these ‘nodes’. As more customers connect, the network spans further. NYC Mesh, the non-profit in New York, controls a few ‘supernodes’ which connect to the main Internet foundation. The associated image illustrates these active connections between ‘nodes’ as well as between ‘nodes’ and ‘supernodes’. Aside from offering prices that large corporations are unable to compete with, these non-profits are offering areas previously disregarded the ability to finally have a reliable internet connection[30]. Further, these community based networks derive a native advantage over traditional providers in that they do not collect or store any user traffic data that passes through their network[31]. With the advancements of technology and associated data utilization, an opportunity to keep browsing data confidential may become extremely attractive. These innovative solutions for connecting communities that larger corporations choose to avoid due to infrequent customer bases portray a significant benefit of the advantages of ICT. Minimizing the digital divide is definitely associated to the benefits that Internet and Communications Technologies can bring.

Improvement of Transportation

Autonomous vehicles are a hot topic that most people would defer to when thinking about the future of transportation within smart cities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, full time workers commute on average of 4.35 hours a week[32]. This has led many to argue that autonomous vehicles have a strong appeal to commuters that are looking to regain these hours. Conversely, a true smart city transportation system is much more complex and requires a diversity of solutions.

Current Example: China's Railway system

One large scale transportation example that is currently experiencing growth around the world is high-speed rail systems. These rail systems have numerous benefits that make them a progressive choice for future smart city initiatives. Primarily there is an environmental benefit in that high-speed rail produce less CO2 emissions when compared to the number of private automobiles that would be used otherwise. This also results in less traffic congestion in the city, and lessened degradation of roadways. Rail systems can also have a significant economic benefit if planned and executed properly. The construction results in immediate job creation, and subsequent job positions for infrastructure and station operations. Rail also creates long-term growth through commercial, residential, and industrial development. Finally, there is great social benefits to high-speed rail by creating a sense of connectivity among populations that live fairly distant from one another. Large countries with substantial distances between populated cities can see an increase in tourism, with urban residents enjoying a higher quality of life by virtue of more travel[33].

Given these benefits above, it is understandable that global use of high-speed rail is increasing, most notably in China. About a decade ago China only had one magnetic-lift railway connecting Shanghai airport to the outskirts of Shanghai, and one high-speed rail from Beijing to Tianjin. Within 10 years China has expanded to build over 20,000 km of high-speed rail, which is more than the rest of the world combined[34]. Traditionally, high-speed rail is deployed in smaller, wealthier nations such as Germany or Japan. China on the other hand is both large and has only recently reached middle income GDP[35]. The major trend that allows for China’s rail growth is population density. With a population of approximately 1.4 billion[36], there is greater necessity for high-speed rail compared to alternatives. This is because rail is cheaper, can carry more passengers, and can be operated more frequently. For future smart cities with increasingly dense populations, high-speed rail will be a crucial aspect of transportation efficiency. In effect those living in smart cities can expect to travel around seamlessly, allowing for easy travel between the next closest smart city. This has the potential to revolutionize how society functions as a whole, by removing the boundaries that limit us to live and work in the same city.

Future Example: Hyperloop
Hyperloop [37]

Although we continue to make impactful strides in transportation development using traditional high-speed rail, there are more futuristic approaches that are also worth considering. A promising concept, regarded as Hyperloop, consists of underground reduced-pressure tubes riding along magnetic rails. The purposed idea would revolutionize current rail speeds, as conceived Hyperloop estimates are to have a top speed of approximately 1,000kph[38]. While these speeds have yet to be reached as of 2018, Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson and his Hyperloop One team have achieved speeds of 385kph. This is promising since Hyperloop is still very much in the early stages. Viability of such projects are strongly correlated to specific regions and populations. As of February 2018, Hyperloop One has announced that they will build a route that will link Central Pune and Navi Mumbai International Airport to Mumbai. The entire trip is expected to take 25 minutes in contrast to the current three hour driving time. Further justification for this is that this route will support 150 million passenger trips per year, resulting in a reduction of greenhouse emissions of up to 86,000 tons over 30 years[39]. A Hyperloop system can also create an incredibly efficient means for transportation of goods, changing the manufacturing process drastically by reducing lead time. All these benefits can play a crucial role in developing and maintaining smart cities.

A Major Shift in Energy

There are significant environmental benefits to a smart city. Further, these benefits do not have to come at a major cost dependent on cities are already structured. We can already begin to implement sustainable alternatives that have cost benefits in the near future.

Tesla Power Pack (Australia)
Tesla Powerpacks in Australia [40]

An example of this is Tesla’s 100 Megawatt (MW) Powerpack project that was completed in late 2017 in Southern Australia. Tesla was aiming to solve the constant brownouts (power loss) that Australia was facing. Although Australia has only recently been in need of a solution, this brownout phenomenon is common around the world[41]. Issues arise during peak energy hours when everyone is in need of energy from the grid. Currently most countries use back-up coal plants, called “peaker plants”, to be able to provide the extra necessary energy. These “peaker plants” are extreme polluters of the environment since it takes a tremendous amount of energy to turn these plants on and off constantly. The Union of Concerned Scientists have stated that, “Although limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have helped prevent some of these emissions, many plants don’t have the necessary pollution controls installed”[42]. Furthermore, consumers end up paying ludicrous amounts for power as the energy companies that run these plants have an extremely high cost. Regarding Australia’s high electricity prices, The Granted Institute says this is because of three underlying reasons,

  1. Two big, old, low-cost, coal-fired power stations closed (Northern in South Australia in 2016, and Hazelwood in Victoria in 2017), reducing supply and pushing prices up. This accounted for about 60% or $6bn of the increase in the value of electricity traded annually in the Nem between 2015 and 2017.
  2. The cost of key inputs, especially gas but also black coal, rose just when the plants they fuel were needed more often, pushing prices up further. This accounted for nearly 40% of the increase in wholesale prices between 2015 and 2017.
  3. Generators were “gaming” the system: using their power in concentrated markets to create artificial scarcity of supply and so force prices up. The Grattan Institute says gaming is completely legal within the current market rules and may add as much as $800m to the value of electricity traded in the Nem in some years. It says gaming has occurred in Queensland and South Australia, there are signs of it in Victoria since the closure of Hazelwood, and it could appear in NSW as supply tightens with the scheduled closure of the Liddell coal-fired power station in 2022[43].
Tesla’s Powerpack acts as an alternative by storing energy during the day, from both wind and solar, into the world's largest battery. Once the grid faces extra demand, the battery is activated within milliseconds to output the required energy. According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, “"Upon completion by December 2017, this system will be the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world and will provide enough power for more than 30,000 homes, approximately equal to the amount of homes that lost power during the blackout period". All this results in a sustainable, low cost alternative to the rising power demand than many countries will continue to face. Furthermore, Tesla’s Powerpack is scalable to power any site, from small business to regional utilities[44]. According to The Guardian, Tesla’s battery is on track to make back a third of its cost in just a year[45]. This is significant and proves to be sustainable since the lifetime of Tesla’s Powerpack in South Australia is estimated to be 10 years. Further, Tesla approximates the Powerpack to have 70% energy retention left following the initial installation date[46]. Smart cities will require energy alternatives, such as Tesla’s Powerpacks, in order to move away from the current natural gas and coal reliance.


Autonomy of Citizens

With the introduction of new data collection methods that are tied into smart cities, a citizens’ autonomy may come into question. This means that communities are now being impacted in how they are formed and how they interact. China recently introduced their robust infrastructure, better known as the Chinese Social Credit System[47], and it is having a clear and significant impact. Alexandra Ma, a writer for BusinessInsider[48], conducted an interview with a 32-year-old Chinese entrepreneur who said that the infrastructure changes in the last six months has resulted in “people’s behavior to get better and better.”

The underlying reason is the impact of scoring. Essentially, points are either added or removed based on one’s behavioral patterns. An interview conducted by The Wall Street Journal discusses the extremes that such a system can cause. A Chinese lawyer, Li Xiaolin, found himself blacklisted from purchasing a return flight to his home city after an inter-country work trip due to failure to carry out a court order in 2015[49]. The scoring considers a variety of factors, including prior events and incidents that may be unrelated to current circumstances. As such, it evidently has the capacity to impede into one’s livelihood. An additional consideration is that this system is aware of who you regularly connect with, and more importantly how they are ranked. This has driven a modern form of segregation where having highly ranked friends bodes well, and having friends that are poorly ranked labelled as not ideal[50]. In essence, this exemplifies and aligns with the Chinese governments ideals to “make trustworthy people benefit everywhere and untrustworthy people restricted everywhere”[51].


Massive amounts of data are necessary for smart city technology to be implemented. In cases of waste removal and air quality, the individual data of citizens doesn't have to be touched. However, for aspects of smart cities involving people services, individual privacy starts to become an issue. The associated video shows how police in the city of Guiyang, China, utilize closed-circuit television (CCTV), facial recognition software and number plate recognition software to monitor the movement of every citizen in real time. Security systems like this rely on complete, crowd-sourced user data; the Guiyang police have catalogued pictures of every single citizen of the city to implement their system. The bigger issue is not that the city has taken its citizens pictures, though. Even in countries with stricter privacy laws, social media would serve as a catalogue of citizens on its own. What is more concerning is that individuals are constantly tracked, from the moment they leave their private residence to when they return[53]. Another issue is one already present and widespread in society: how long is the personal data kept, and how is it used? Guiyang police report that data is only collected when needed, and otherwise sits dormant in large databases. This assurance is not particularly convincing to anyone aware of historic data leaks, both by government and non-government bodies.

Privacy itself is quite subjective. Whether Guiyang's security system is acceptable to someone would be influenced by the level of privacy they grew up with and accepted as normal. What can be said objectively, though, is that a new definition of privacy would have to be wholly accepted by all citizens of a city in order to implement a security system like the aforementioned one. For some current citizens of the world who are used to being monitored, Guiyang's included, this could be an easy transition. For others where personal privacy is more strict, the transition would be more difficult. There would be a large trade-off between giving up a former way of life and reaping the benefits of living in a smart city. If you were in medical distress or being robbed, you would never have to feel in danger, because an ambulance or police officer was being dispatched as the event was occurring and caught on CCTV. Yet, you would be watched every day, and privacy would possibly only exist in your home.

It will be interesting to see how much of a realistic issue these privacy concerns turn out to be. For many of us, especially in westernized countries, being monitored constantly is an abhorrent practice. However, new technologies have changed social norms in the past. Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat create and drive a culture of sharing parts of ours lives that originally were private. You can tell what your friends are doing and where they are in real time, without even contacting them. With the amount of time we spend online and the information we share, it could be argued that we are already allowing ourselves to be monitored. The only difference from living in Vancouver and living in Guiyang is that Vancouver residents upload their own data dictated by social norms, and Guiyang residents upload data dictated by government laws.


Depending on the current state of the city and the amount and complexity of smart city programs to be implemented, there can be challenges to enable a smart city. A smart infrastructure is the first step to implementing any project, from buses to streetlights. Smart cities are only possible with Internet of Things technology, and that means installing specific sensors, actuators, and high speed, all-reaching Wi-Fi across the city[54]. The costs of creating city-wide Wi-Fi and broadband networks, installing different types of sensors, and creating and managing previously nonexistent jobs are some expenses that could add up to a large initial investment for the city. The city of Barcelona invested $230 million USD into building a complex to analyze the city's numerous smart systems, and a new irrigation system cost the city an initial payment of $382,000 USD[55].

Of course, cities need people in them to be prosperous. Smart cities are not an exception; they possibly need to be filled with residents even more due to the financial costs of implementation. The challenge with populating a smart city is heightened by privacy concerns that people may have, discussed above. The more a city approaches the futuristic, utopian model that often come to mind when smart cities are discussed, the more resistance there could be from people clinging to their old way of life.

Data collection is another possible hurdle in the implementation process of a smart city. The need of prior data collection is entirely dependant on the city program. Programs with sensors monitoring things like smart waste bins, real time bus arrival, and vehicle speeds would need little prior data to run, and could start quickly. Other programs that relay on large amounts of prior data, like Guiyang's database of citizens, would need a longer setup time before going live. This would slow down the implementation of the program, and the smart city on the whole.



With the implementation of smart city elements, certain resources can be accessed faster and more effectively. Cities will be able to run services like Next Generation 911. Next Generation 911, or NG911, incorporates Internet Protocol systems with public safety answering points to provide a more reliable emergency services network[56]. Voice calls, videos, text messages, and photos can be received at emergency answering points. If NG911 were to be combined with smart monitoring systems and Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) in the city, the need for emergencies to be reported by citizens would significantly decrease. Emergencies could be caught in real-time on camera, flagged by a program, and reported to the appropriate authority, with emergency services being dispatched instantaneously.

A police officer in Zhengzhou wears smart eyewear [57]

Certain smart city elements could also provide city resources to citizens in a more accessible way. In the United Arab Emirates, citizens of Dubai can pay utility bills, traffic fines, buy public transit tickets, find a doctor nearby, inquire after court cases, and much more on the DubaiNow website and mobile app[58].The digitalization of tasks and errands that were traditionally accessible on an in-person, weekday basis can now be completed in a shorter amount of time and more reachable space.

To an extent, smart monitoring systems and CCTV create a safer and more secure city for its citizens to live in. With more monitoring systems and CCTV, city officials and police are able to track and detain criminals and wanted individuals faster and with ease. With higher risks of getting caught, the existence of these monitoring systems alone would provide a deterrent to committing any level of crime. In early 2018, police in Zhengzhou, China, piloted smart eyewear technology to help identify wanted individuals. The technology utilizes facial recognition and China's state database to catch suspects in public places. It was reported by the Chinese state media that the smart eyewear led to the capture of seven individuals and identification of 35 fake identification cards[59]. The city of Shanghai implemented a massive surveillance system that included connecting CCTV to police authorities, and saw crime rates and police response times drop significantly[60].


The environmental benefits of smart city technology stem directly from the vision of smart cities: to utilize less resources. Using data to better handle resource management and removal means there would be less resources used and less resources spent. For example, the Barcelona city council estimated that smart sensors for the city's irrigation system would reduce water consumption by approximately 25 percent[61]. Smart waste removal systems mean waste, organics, and recyclables get collected less frequently and more efficiently, using less resources to collect them and expelling less gases into the environment. Motion sensors enable streetlights to only brighten when they are needed, using less energy than normal streetlights. Environmental benefits are the most direct advantage to utilizing smart city technology.


With the implementation of smart city elements, cities can save a lot of money. Motion sensor lights save electricity, cutting down on energy costs. If waste removal only happens when it needs to, the need to use gasoline, machinery, employee wage will decrease. Smart cities enable us to use less, which results in the city spending less. In 2014, it was reported that the city of Barcelona saved more than €75 million through the implementation of smart lighting, water, and parking management[62]. Barcelona's decreased water usage alone is reported to save the city USD $555,000 annually[63].

Cities are not the only entities that can save money with smart technology. When supply meets demand of transit systems and sharing platforms (e-bikes, cars, and even e-scooters), the need to own a car significantly decreases. If the optimal commute or journey time is less on public transit the majority of the time, most people would logically choose the more efficient method of travel. Owning a car could become more of a status symbol, instead of a reliable mode of transportation. For most of the middle and lower class, this means saving money on all costs associated with owning a vehicle. Further, if ownership of cars did not disappear entirely, apps and parking sensors would decrease time driving and looking for a parking spot. Apps like Waze use crowd-sourced data to provide the most up to date traffic information[64], and sensor systems like the one implemented by the city of Palo Alto to know exactly where there is a free spot to park[65].

Next Steps

Knowing that smart cities are the way of the future, it’s important to stay informed and take part in the movement. Whether you are a citizen, business, or working for the government body, here are a few ways that you can kick start your smart city journey.


Smart city projects are usually initiated by the government body. However, ideas are not always received well in the community because of the costs involved and typically long timelines. Therefore, it is important to be transparent and communicative throughout the entire journey.

  1. Start with a compelling business case.
  2. Run the effort as a portfolio.
  3. Employ a phased approach with a series of “small wins”.
  4. Communicate throughout the journey.
  5. Focus on results.

Businesses, Non-Profits, Social Enterprises

Smart city projects can be driven by organizations outside of the government. With environmentalism and sustainability as primary organizational values and goals, smart city initiatives provide the ideal opportunity for businesses and non-profit organizations to get involved. Smart city projects can be valuable to the business, so it's important look beyond simple financing initiatives, and instead encourage partnerships and collaborations with the city.


As citizens, it is extremely important for us to recognize and take part in the movement of smart cities. Connectivity and information sharing is the key to creating a smarter city.

Take a Proactive Role: More-so than just being informed and knowledgeable of smart city initiatives happening in your city, try to take part in making new projects happen. Cities frequently hold Smart Cities Challenges that seek out ideas and bring the winning projects to life. For example, Canada is hosting a "Smart Cities Challenge" that accepted applications from communities all across Canada. The panel will select 20 of these applications to receive $250,000 to work on their projects.

Be Conscious and Vocal: There are implications with every project. Understand the costs involved, timelines for implementation, and any risks with security and privacy. Speak up if you have any concerns or questions with the project plan presented.[66].


Sasha Arash Harmeet Gill Man Hei Lee Meek Rahman Kedean Varga
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada


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