What is the role of Technology in Smart Cities?

Smart city

The discussions about smart cities have been going on for many years because of increased access to emerging technologies.  Smart cities are designed to benefit their citizens, but a lot of cooperation among stakeholders is necessary.

People have been shifting from rural areas to urban centers seeking employment, education, etc.  In fact, people living in urban areas will rise to two-thirds of the global population by 2050.  Nearly 90% of these are those in Africa and Asia.

This will present unique challenges in technological advancement, organization, and governance.

Urban citizens will get a lot of opportunities from emerging technologies, including new business models, education, digital ethics, UN sustainable development goals, and much more.

The article will highlight the benefits of smart cities.

What is a Smart City?

The definition of a smart city varies from country to country and city to city based on the level of development and the aspirations of the government and citizens implementing the reforms and changes.  In a smart city, technology and data are used to enhance the lives of its citizens and visitors.

The adoption of advanced technologies influences the development of smart cities in order to boost urban efficiency.  Technologies like artificial intelligence, 5G, and big data can bring significant improvements to the quality of life of urban citizens.

One keen supporter of smart cities is the Chinese government.  As a result, its president endorsed blockchain technology because of its numerous opportunities in smart city projects.  In Amsterdam, emerging technologies are used to power smart cities.  Developers designed a GPS data platform to help traffic controllers improve traffic around the city using real-time data.  Smart mobility enhances the flow of vehicles, thus benefiting its citizens.

As mentioned above, new technologies provide real-time data used to manage city operations more efficiently and on a large scale than ever.  Cities can use data and 5G as well as install smart infrastructure to build a network supplying weather data, energy readings data, and other useful urban information.

Barcelona, for example, has installed roughly 20,000 smart meters.  The goal is not only to measure energy consumption but to improve efficiency.  The mobile operator KT in South Korea provides first responders with augmented reality glasses in order to connect directly with doctors.  They also help them provide emergency treatment whenever a disaster strike.

Further, 5G technology will bridge the gap of the digital divide and faster urbanization rate by ensuring that all residents access services that the cities provide as well as build digital capacity to create more opportunities for its citizens.

Key Factors in the Development of Smart Cities

Strong Leadership: The development of smart cities requires adequate support from political establishments.  It also needs leaders that serve as spokespeople, public support, perseverance, and time to cultivate a long-term vision.

Strong Talent Pool: The city must attract and retain talent in order for it to apply the emerging technologies.  Cities can’t generate innovative ideas, nor can they implement new technology solutions without a strong talent pool.

Proof of Concept Projects: Managing a wide range of these projects enables citizens of smart cities to identify the potential benefits that the initiative provides.  It also helps project leaders to gather valuable feedback, thus enhancing collaboration among the stakeholders.

Establish Effective Alliances: Building strong collaboration with the private sector is crucial.  The partnership plays a vital role in both collecting and analyzing data as well as creating compelling campaigns that city authorities can easily implement.  A single party can’t implement any smart city initiative because they are too large.

Prioritize Stakeholder Needs: All smart city initiatives should prioritize the needs of all stakeholders and beneficiaries.  Data is key because it drives new efficiencies, but it’s only applicable when there is effective communication and meets different stakeholders’ specific needs.

Opportunities for Smart cities

Education: The education system should be transformed in order to train and provide a future workforce.  Some of these changes can be accomplished through new educational curricula, education delivery models, and certifications.  Major global digitization and automation have initiated rapid change in employee training and development.  In fact, business leaders are concerned about reskilling and upskilling.

Data Exchanges: Working in silos is dangerous, as was shown by the Covid-19 pandemic.  In view of that, smart city ecosystems should prioritize global data exchanges and governance.

Digital Ethics: The next industrial revolution requires proactive digital ethics programs.  The emerging technologies deployed in the smart cities should have customized digital ethics frameworks to support sustainability, inclusion, and diversity.  They will also mitigate against cyberethics concerns common in innovative urban living ecosystems.

New Business Model: A smart city revolution can only be accomplished by developing and implementing new business models perfect for this digital era.  These models include partnership-driven and innovation-driven business models.

Challenges of Smart Cities

The deployment of new technologies faces numerous challenges.  They include:

  • Significant regulatory, legal, and compliance barriers to overcome
  • Key stakeholders engagement
  • The financial and digital divide in many markets globally
  • Trust and privacy concerns
  • Lack of collaboration among business leaders
  • Huge interoperability and portability gaps require the development and implementation of international certifications, standards, quality assurance, and KPI
  • Cyber threats that cause major security breaches are expected to increase due to large-scale emerging technologies adoption.

Considerations on Smart City Planning

Definition of Smart City

There is no universal definition of a smart city because the concept varies from place to place.  Each state or country should agree on a common definition from the beginning in order to set the focus and scope for this complex journey of transforming the city.  The process needs significant collaboration from a wide range of stakeholders.

It’s not easy to develop a collective vision for a city’s future because it needs a high-level collaboration of its key shareholders.  Further, its vision includes the city’s unique character, inhabitants’ needs, strengths, and challenges, among others.

Local Community Engagement

The best way to smart city planning is to involve its citizens.  Engaging them enables planners to understand what really matters to these people and what they need or want since the end goal of the innovative city projects is to improve its citizens’ welfare.  In fact, it’s pretty easier to plan a smart city when you know what the people want.  It’s also easy to achieve buy-in when implementing the project.

Identification of the Best Resources

Private and public sectors should be brought together when determining the capability of the city to deliver the established vision and identify the best resources.  The academic institutions and private sector partnerships are helpful when sourcing funding or expanding resources.


Huge investments are needed when creating smart cities.  Funds are required in order to modernize the infrastructures and much more.  But a good business model can help attract private financing to turn the vision into reality.

There should be a strategic plan that capitalizes on the smart city project’s strong points, provides innovative financing structures for financiers and investors as well as clear socioeconomic impacts.

Evaluation of Current Technology

Basically, smart city technologies should help a city derive more benefits from its assets, including its extensive legacy systems.  Innovative technologies add new capabilities to existing assets by upgrading their core components.

What is the Future Direction of Smart City?

Technology is essential, especially today, but smart city development’s impact on society should be considered.  Therefore stakeholders should develop a purposeful mission and metrics to measure the effect of a smart city on the environment, community, and governance to ensure long-term sustainability.  Human-centric approaches should be used when designing these cities whose goal is to enhance the quality of life of the community.

Stakeholders should focus on growth and think globally for the sake of the future generation rather than concentrating on the negative elements affecting society.  People should embrace change and design unique strategic roadmaps for a better future.

These smart city developments are for future generations.  Therefore young generations should use their creativity and nurture transformative thinking to shape these projects.  Indeed they have novel skills that the older generations lacked, which they can use to address problems plaguing society for many decades.

Purity Muriuki
I'm a passionate full-time blogger. I love writing about startups, technology, health, lifestyle, fitness, electronics, social media marketing, and much more. Continue reading my articles for more insight.


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