Cities on the ‘smart’ radar, worldwide…

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Smart city ©

We have already discussed what makes a city smart in a previous article. To continue with the same track, let us put together some smart cities that are in progress to practically illustrate the theory. All of them can be called ‘experimental’, works in progress, as given the lifetime of a city, the ‘smart’ approach is still quite young. How smart can the city be will keep evolving and changing with time, as people and technology move forward. Also, different cities display smartness in different areas depending on the actual context or the perceived requirement by the decision-maker. Nevertheless, the 3 aspects that make a city smart are liveability, economics, sustainability all facilitated and enhanced by the best use of the latest technology.

The usual suspects taking the lead are:

  1. New York: the pulsating centre for everything from culture to commerce to innovation, New York City is smart because there is no other choice, it is expected to be. The city administration has launched various projects in partnership with private players to ease the lives of the citizens. These projects fall in each of the three categories mentioned above and are doing their part. In a city as complex as New York, it would be hard to focus only on one aspect. They must all be tackled simultaneously and equitably for different population groups to gain the advantage of the initiatives. To get a detailed view, see
  2. London: Like any big city and the kind of history London that has, the smart city initiative of London, addresses core issues. Infrastructure issues like energy, water, and waste management, health and assisted living, transportation, business, and education. To be ‘smart’ it is the digital businesses and data that require a combined effort from machines and humans to be successful. This is the integrated ‘city-systems approach’ that London is attempting to adopt. With its history of commerce and creativity, London is leveraging its historic strengths with technology to catapult into the ‘smart’ era. See,
  3. Singapore: According to (to promote good health among citizens), housing (to provide homes to all citizens) and mobility (realising that mobility determines the quality of life) are the areas that Singapore is focussing on by adopting technology to make things better for citizens and businesses. At the same time, it also offers courses for different population groups to educate them about ‘smart’ technologies. At ‘Digital twin’ of Singapore has been created to experiment and simulate layers of changes proposed before they get implemented in real-time. Realising the importance of being a smart city in the 21st century, the Singapore government is letting the reigns be a bit loose and ‘allow people with ideas to lead’…
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Singapore ©
  1. Tokyo: The government of Tokyo has identified its objectives for becoming a smart city as “a city leading the world in environmental policies and a global financial and economic centre”. The city is now regarded as the greenest city in the Asia-Pacific region and a ‘smart-energy city’ because of the policies implemented. The project had gained a lot of impetus due to the impending 2020 Olympics. The bringing of the ‘human’ into the arena of smart cities was initiated in Tokyo due to its social issues and the conscious focus to improve the quality of life of the citizens, thus giving rise to the term ’human smart city’.
  2. Paris: Another old, historic city that imbibes technology to retain its charm and its status. Common themes found in these cities include using technology to solve the problems that have multiplied over the years such as sustainability, energy, waste, water, people, green spaces. The architect Vincent Callebaut has taken the lead to propose Paris in 2050.

  1. Amsterdam: Considers itself an early adopter of the smart city in Europe. The approach followed is “a quadruple helix concept – government, businesses, universities & research institutions, and citizens”. The smart city platform is an enabler for smart collaboration to foster initiatives like the Internet of Things (IoT) Living Lab, and other Labs for the city involving different groups like kids and senior citizens. Other initiatives involve social, circular economy, and mobility issues.

  1. Barcelona: We have discussed Barcelona in the previous article too. To reiterate, Barcelona is regarded among the champions of the Utopian Citizen centric Human Smart Cities where the focus is to improve the lives of the citizens more than the monetisation of the data they generate. The various discussions on the approach are on:

to list a few. This is probably the epitome of what we must aspire for a truly human smart city…

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Barcelona ©
  1. Montreal: After conducting case studies of smart city projects around the world and detailed discussions with citizens, the Montreal Government concluded, “…the proposal developed by Montreal and its partners aims to improve the quality of life and the well-being of its citizens through two main pillars: mobility and food access…through innovation and open data.”

  1. Shanghai: A data and people-centric approach for the smart city in Shanghai focuses on the use of a new generation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). “where AI technologies will be applied to other industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, transports, education, finance, government affairs, and security. The objective is to enhance Shanghai’s role as a pioneer of AI application, and the public awareness of the key role of AI technologies.” 47d572c8e8df

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ai-iot ©
  1. Sydney: Aims for a digital strategy for its residents, visitors, and businesses to be able to use and stay connected – not as a burden but a tool to navigate day to day city life. A people-centric approach where Sydney is a better place to live, work, and play for all…

Other added on to the smart arena include:

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digital twin ©
  1. Seoul
  2. Songdo
  3. Helsinki
  4. Toronto
  5. Oslo
  6. Hongkong
  7. Melbourne
  8. Shenzhen
  9. Taipei
  10. New Delhi

The list is, by no means, exhaustive or in order of any kind. Cities keep getting added to it endlessly, as technology and infrastructure keep evolving. The themes remain common for all the cities discussed, as the target of it all remains the same – the human being…

The truth of the matter is that all city administrations consider their city to be the best example of a smart city. As they must. With all their research and interactions, it better be the best possible outcome for their city, otherwise, the whole exercise would be pointless. So, let us also give that leeway to them. Best possible. There’s no such thing as best of all. Each city has done it’s best to adopt technology to ease the lives of its citizens. Let’s just give it to them… The bubble of smart cities is getting bigger and bigger, spreading the world over. How long will this euphoria last? Let us also look at some of the problem areas to be able to understand and address them from within this bubble.

Smart is a loaded word. It can mean smart in two ways. The good smart and the nasty smart. Tech can be used to do both. It is now smart enough to even become a bother. Mostly though it does ease our lives. Smart can also mean letting go of data control and privacy. This is the nasty side of smart. Smart cities are smart because of the data their servers harbour and use to provide solutions for the citizens. The same data can be put to not so noble uses. Smart cities are a worldwide phenomenon, where technology and the internet are being used to become smart enough to respond to users by gathering and using their Data! A common thing we all can relate to is to check out the traffic on the route to somewhere and deciding our route accordingly. City services available online like paying taxes or traffic violation fines contribute to good smartness too. In all this, there is also data gathering about your interactions and your whereabouts. Your search history, your health history, your movements can all be kept track of and recorded. They can then be mined for curiosity or for vested interests too. Not to be an alarmist but that is the truth of our life today… Good to be aware of it and learn to live with it or circumvent it.

Smart Cities are now the norm for all cities, so things are going to keep evolving. Keep yourself updated and abreast. Good resources for smart cities in general are: and many more that a good search will throw up…

Smart resources for smart cities!!


An architect by training,who has practised for over 20 years. Her chosen path nowis of a researcher, writer and creativity coach. Shebelieves that it is nowthe era of compassion - for humans to do away with attitudes of segregation and to heal all that we have ravaged!

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