Understanding Smart Cities

Understanding Smart Cities


What is a smart city?
In 2016, the global spending on smart city technology reached $80 billion, and by 2021, it is predicted to increase to $135 billion. The international community has consistently lauded several cities who have adopted smart city solutions. The impact of smart cities to citizens has influenced countries to commence initiatives that support this technology-based governance.


The urgency to shift towards the model of smart cities and invest in innovative solutions will be greater in the coming years since by the year 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population are expected to be living in urban areas.


Among the leading smart cities are New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Reykjavik, Singapore, and Seoul. In identifying the strength of these cities, the indicators used include the city’s human capital, the level of social cohesion, the health of its economy, the quality of governance, environment, mobility and transportation, urban planning, international outreach, and technology.


According to the International Data Corporation, “Smart Cities catalyze the digital transformation of urban ecosystems to produce systemic environmental, financial, and social outcomes. Smart Cities are, by definition, focused on using emerging technologies and innovation to make cities more livable, and offer new services and economic opportunities.”


A smart city is comprised of technology or the hardware and software infrastructures, people or the dynamics of creativity, diversity and education, and institutions or the governance and policy.


A smart city utilizes information and communication technologies in order to improve delivery of social services and efficiently cater to the needs of the citizens. Becoming a smart city entails a local government that is able to pursue sustainable and inclusive economic development benefitting the general population. PWC elaborates that smart cities are “powered by advanced technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT) and sensors along with the traditional information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems and devices.” Both traditional and advanced technologies are used in the city in a centralized or “integrated manner” allowing its residents to experience daily life in the most efficient and intelligent manner.


Benefits of smart cities

The benefits of smart cities are seen as both practical and economic. Some of the major developments and successes in building smart cities are related to addressing issues on public security, water and waste efficiency, infrastructure, and transportation.


City governments are finding ways to adapt smart city solutions due to several advantages such as more effective, data-driven decision-making, enhanced citizen and government engagement, safer communities, reduced environmental footprint, improved transportation, increased digital equity, new economic development opportunities, efficient public utilities, improved infrastructure, and increased workforce engagement. Not only can a smart city create efficiencies and bring about drastic changes in daily life, it can also help cities save millions worth of spending, if done correctly.


These benefits of smart cities can only be reaped if the research and blueprint is heavily based on the needs of the citizens. Generally, technology aims to provide ease of movement and improve quality of life. To ensure that smart cities will be ‘intelligently adaptive’ to the people’s needs, decision makers and stakeholders must look after the overall design to ensure that the smart city initiatives will impact on everyone.


Privacy issues

To date, smart cities across the globe have solutions that tackle a wide-array of concerns – from traffic and transportation, pollution, parking, patient applications in hospitals, energy management, emergency response, and video surveillance. Providing solutions to these areas, have helped cities and municipalities to collect data and respond intelligently and immediately.


While large part of making smart cities work is about the quality of design and innovation, the success of smart cities is also said to depend on the level of trust that citizens will have on the system. Given its scope of application and the cyber securities breaches reported affecting global smart cities – from a Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks disrupting trains in Sweden, to hacking causing damage at German steel works, breach on healthcare data covering 1.5 million patients including the Singaporean Prime Ministers, and other related cyber attacks – creating cyber secure cities require persistence in learning about what went wrong with recent breaches and adopting ways to prevent them.


Privacy-related issues are one of the primary concerns that must be addressed to maximize the advantages offered by smart cities. To ensure the safety of private data and personal information, smart cities must be able to update its software security systems and a more robust firewall.


Government’s role in building smart cities

A McKinsey Global Institute study reports that city governments must be able to acquire and invest in “fundamental systems and services but they can use smart solutions to get more capacity and lifespan out of their infrastructure assets and deliver for their residents in a more effective way.” Some of the technologies which allow easier and faster data-collection on traffic, air pollution, and crime are sensors, cameras and smartphones. By using analytics systems and mobile apps, data collected is translated into alerts, insights, and tools. Thereby giving users information they need to make decisions.


Dubbed as the world’s largest smart city to rise in the Philippines, the New Manila Bay – Pearl of the Orient aims to be a smart and sustainable city. It is visualized to include greener features such as the installation of over 60 water-facing frontage that will maximize the surface area for tidal and wave renewable energy production.


With the high congestion level in Manila, urban development issues has become a major challenge to the growing population. The impact of the latest smart city technologies is seen to positively affect the quality of life in major cities in the Philippines.  Thus, the role of the government and the collaboration with the private sector are crucial in ensuring that the technology will be efficiently used and redundancies will be avoided.



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