Future is already here: “Smart Cities”

With 3.3 billion people living in cities today- a number that will double by 2050- the job of mayors has begun to be a great challenge. In bold reaction, city leaders all around the world are moving beyond policy-based decisions of the past and reshaping...


With 3.3 billion people living in cities today- a number that will double by 2050- the job of mayors has begun to be a great challenge. In bold reaction, city leaders all around the world are moving beyond policy-based decisions of the past and reshaping their cities with evidence- based decisions (IBM, 2012).

It is true that we all wondering how cities will be in the future, but there is no more need to use the imagination.  We just need to look over some smart cities, for example Singapore capital, Amsterdam (Netherland) or Vienna (Figure 1, Austria).

Because the definition of a “smart city” is not very clear, it will be defined according to Cohen: “Smart cities use information and communication technologies (ICT) to be more intelligent and efficient in the use of resources, resulting in cost and energy savings, improved service delivery and quality of life, and reduced environmental footprint–all supporting innovation and the low-carbon economy.”

Therefore, the idea of smart cities is not just apply to old cities, as well to cities that will be built from the bottom, will follow sustainable principles. For example in the following 5 years India is going to create 6 megacities in the suburbs between Delhi and Bombay.

But how can we get to a Smart cities management?

The aim of the smart cities goes to a sustainable economic growth and prosperity for their citizens.

To reach this target it will be study and analyses 3 factors:

  • A good planning and management: Government, building and urban planning.
  • The infrastructure: Environment, energy, water and transportation
  • Human: Education, Healthcare, Social programs and public safety.

Specific objectives (SETIS, 2012)

  • To trigger a sufficient take-up (reaching 5% of the EU population) of energy efficient and low carbon technologies to unlock the market (i.e Innovative hybrid heating and cooling systems from biomass, solar thermal, ambient thermal and geothermal with advanced distributed heat storage technologies).
  • Reduce by 40% the greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, that will have not only environmental and energy security benefits but also to provide socio-economic advantages in terms of quality of life (i.e New buildings with net zero energy requirements or net zero carbon emissions when averaged over the year by 2015)
  • To spread across Europe best practices of sustainable energy concepts at local level. (i.e: Sustainable mobility: advanced smart public transport, intelligent traffic management and congestion avoidance, demand management, information and communication, freight distribution, walking and cycling).

One of the ways to get to this efficient cities is to follow and invest in new technologies, for example there is a tool such IBM Intelligent Operations Center that coordinate and share data in a single view creating the big picture for the decision makers and responders who support the smarter city, or the smart grids: that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity (Wikipedia,2012).

However, after some studies and analysis of factors like air pollution, transportation, safety, energy used, and water use…the top of the Smartest cities in the globe are (Cohen, 2012):

1. Vienna

2. Toronto

3. Paris

4. New York

5. London

6. Tokyo

7. Berlin

8. Copenhagen

9. Hong Kong

10. Barcelona

This list has a lot of lack of information, and sometimes the election of the cities rank can be under doubts. Anyway, this is the results that are globally accepted.

There are 3 good actual examples of this kind of cities:

Smart_cities_3There is no need to wait too long to be under the fascination of the most smart cities in the planet; the City if Songdo (South Korea). In 2015, when it will be finish, the 6 km square that this sustainable urban area and the eco building will be an example to follow. The Songdo International Business District will feature the Northeast Asia Trade Tower and the Incheon Tower (ArchDaily,2012).

Schools, hospitals, apartments, office buildings and cultural amenities will be an example of a good energy use and efficiency for the rest of the world.

The second city is: Rio de Janeiro, the Mayor of this great city is responsible of the safety and life quality of 6.3 million people. That means coordinating and integrating diverse, gather information from the city´s more than 30 public agencies. This coordination gets more complicated when the rainy season arrives, that floods the infrastructure, and drains the city of millions of dollars. Moreover, Rio has an Intelligent Operations Center which helps to bring a new level of safety, coordination and efficiency. Last information shows that reaction times have improved by 30% (IBM, 2012).

The 3rd one is Honolulu, Hawaii. To improve the relationship and the efficiency in the city the Mayor Peter Carlisle made real data available to citizens, and allow to population to report about everyday problems, like burned-out traffic lights (IBM,2012).

In conclusion, Smart city planning, is now a worldwide trend and is becoming the norm in countries as different as the USA, China and in Europe. Making this project the most important to design the future cities, for the future society.


By Maria Teresa Navarro.



Arch Daily.2012.  The Key to South Korea´s Future Growth. Available at: http://www.archdaily.com/155499/the-key-to-south-korea%E2%80%99s-future-growth/

IBM. 2012. Mayors of the world, may we kindly have 540 words with you? Available at: http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/smarter_cities/overview/

SETIS (Strategic Energy Technologies Information System). 2012. Available at: http://setis.ec.europa.eu/about-setis/technology-roadmap/european-initiative-on-smart-cities

Smart Cities Summit.2012. Available at:  http://www.reeep.org/43.22427/smart-cities-summit-2012.htm

Cohen, B. 2012.The top 10 Smart Cities on the planet. Available at: http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679127/the-top-10-smart-cities-on-the-planet

Wikipedia. 2012. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_grid

Figures description:

Image 1: Vienna, The top 1 city.

Image 2: Smart Cities model                                                                                                 

Image 3: Songdo City Model (KPF: http://www.archdaily.com/118790/songdo-international-business-district-kpf/

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