Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Defining Smart Cities


Cities consume 75 per cent of worldwide energy production and generate 80 per cent of CO2 emissions (  Many have therefore argued that a sustainable urban model requires a “smart city.” EC initiatives for Smart Cities focus on sustainability issues such as buildings, energy networks and transport.

Smart Cities have been characterised and defined by a number of factors including sustainability, economic development and a high quality of life.  Enhancing these factors can be achieved through infrastructure (physical capital), human capital, social capital and/or ICT infrastructure.

Rick Robinson, Executive Architect at IBM, describes a Smart City as one that aims to achieve the goals of a Future City by utilising ICT.

What is your definition of smart city?  What is the role of the citizen in a smart city?

49 users have voted.


Mohamad Alsakka's picture

Masdar City aims to be one of best smart cities worldwide (, located near Abu Dhabi (capital of United Arab Emirates). Obviously, Abu Dhabi government introduced it as a full solution project includes eco-friendly business hub, family life style, and friendly environment retailing sector (organic food..etc). indications show that citizens of such smart cities segment are those with highly income citizens. All of my colleagues have lived at Masdar they have another traditional villa/ apartment and Masdar comes as second choice and mainly if there is a reason to move there such as finding a government scholarship/ job to live there. However, satisfaction is highly recognized for people residents there (kids, wives, ..) but lots of complains regarding the high living cost and fees.
The big question face Abu Dhabi government is that Masdar is isolated from the rest of Abu Dhabi, and many low and middle income people even they have not heard of Masdar city itself and too far from their priorities (UAE is 16% local people and 84% expatriate) so saving is crucial factor for the 84% ..
These days Abu Dhabi government insists on new building constructors to manage smart solutions in their building. Again nothing clear in terms of car emission since petrol is reasonably cheap and studies shows no alternative is needed for the rest of 30 coming years!

63 users have voted.
Juan Pablo Laporte's picture

Any attempts to find a definition for the concept of ‘Smart City’ should take into account the concept of sustainability; therefore, by adapting the propositions of Dr John Elkington, a Smart City should consider to extend the life expectancy of: ecosystems, societies and economies. This means that this kind of city must excel in the utilisation of natural resources and the impact on the environment, provide satisfaction and well-being to its citizens and surrounding communities, and also be economically or financially efficient. This has to be considered not only within the city; the effects that the city might cause in other areas, in its suppliers and customers need also to be addresses.

ICT is an enabler to become a ‘Smart City’ as these technologies certainly foster the efficient use of resource and collaboration/integration within citizens. On the other side, ICT is not a sufficient condition. For a City to become a ‘Smart City’ it needs fully engagement of its government and its citizens. They need to be aware of the importance of the environmental, social and economic challenges and tackle them. ICT is necessary condition to effectively overcome these challenges, but it is not sufficient by itself.

58 users have voted.
Paul Foley's picture

Your comment about enagement by citizens and government is very interesting. ICT and Smart City facilitated behavioural change is the topic of a new post.  As you note ICT can be beneficial in overcoming challenges, but it is not sufficient by itself, behavioural change will be essential.

50 users have voted.
Richard Potter's picture

A Smart City for me is one where I can make choices based on knowledge. So if I wanted to have a meeting cheaply, and I would prefer a cheap meeting with minimum CO2 emissions. What are my options? A video conference? Travel via car pooling? Public Transport? Cycling? So I need to know what the options are and how to trust them and use them.

And a Smart City is one which can change itself according to what I (and other residents) need. So if it would be best to cycle to a meeting maybe I would do that with a little investment in cycle routes. The City needs to listen to the people that live there and adapt itself to their needs (which traditionally is achieved partly through economic market mechanisms: but the market doesn't work for everything).

50 users have voted.
Manu Fernandez's picture

Most discourses and celebratory projects on smart cities tend to share an underlying negative vision about current cities. It seems that cities need a remedy and I do not share such a negative attitude . Every day, in every street, thousands of voluntary and involuntary acts facilitate (or hinder) life. The real intelligence of cities lies in the almost miraculous, unstable, spontaneous order of city life. The social relationships between people generate the functional intelligence of cities. Imperfect, conflicting, disastrous at times, always open to improvement. Technology only facilitates certain processes, and the logic of collective life will defeat any attempt to implement systems that exceed the required level of sophistication.

I think this is a starting point to understand that the most promising chances in the role of citizens in digitally enabled civic engagement are already happening. Putting so much expectations in the future means a risk to forget how pwople are already using mobile apps to engage in community problems, how new technologies are used in a DIY approach with cheap and accesible resources,...
Without fogetting about the impact of technologies in smart cities, there is a need for political context, for interaction design, for social issues and so on that are also important. In the end, intelligence of cities is on the streets.

59 users have voted.
Paul Foley's picture


This is appears to be an  rally cry for the need for social inclusion (whether ICT facilitated or not) as an important element in any city.  I totally agree, something that is vitally important.


54 users have voted.
Giovanna Galasso's picture

Several key principles can apply to a Smart Cities:
Smart Cities empower their citizens to make more informed decisions about their city through access to data about the city, its resources and its planning processes;
Smart Cities seek to offer best in class educational facilities and learning environments
Smart Cities promote private sector investment and support for achieving smart growth solutions
Smart Cities encourage building designs that create better neighbourhoods and use green building technologies
Smart Cities allow greater access to its authorities and citizens for a more complete view of their urban environment
Smart Cities are designed to serve everyone — the elderly on foot, children on bicycles, people commuting by public transit to work — not just motor vehicles users

All over the world there are several examples apart from Masdar city. However, the big challenge is not build up smart and perfect cities in the desert fully in line with the perfect definition, but turn the existing large cities with their problems and cuts in municipal budget in "smart cities"

54 users have voted.
Sebastiano Peluso's picture

I would like to share with the community the example of the city of Mantova, in Italy, about how to manage a touristic destination using ICT and Collaboration.

I've been working as a consultant for Mantova since 2005 and for them I developed what I called the A.S.R. model, that starts from the challenging tourism industry, where threats are well known, but also opportunities are widely available, mainly leveraging two strategies:
- taking advantage of the ICTs and the Internet;
- focusing on collaboration and interaction between private and public stakeholders.

A.S.R. stands for Attraction, Stay, Return; it simplifies the long term strategic guidelines for a destination:
- attract the right targets of tourists
- make their stay longer and
- increase their satisfaction and loyalty to support their return or their positive word-of-mouth about the destination

The model is based on two main pillars: ICT and Collaborations

On the Consumer Side: to satisfy the tourists unique and specific needs, through tailored dynamic products
On the Business Side: to improve stakeholders knowledge sharing, through powerful knowledge management tools and data analysis frameworks and through the support of bi-directional communication with tourists

is the strategy to reach economies of scale in marketing the destination and increasing its visibility in the global arena

Have a look at the paper below:


65 users have voted.
Ian Wiseman's picture

Here are some possible definitions of a Smart City to throw into the melting pot:
-where all the inhabitants are clever :)
-where the infrastructure makes best use of scarce resources and recycling capabilties
- where buildings all maximise use of renewables in construction and function
-where the fastest possible digital interconnectivity is available wirelessly across the whole city to all inhabitants free of charge
-where the transport networks are totally integrated and low carbon with no delays in peak hours

65 users have voted.
Paul Foley's picture

The comprehensive list of areas for 'Smart' demonstrates the opportunities that arise, but the wide range of activities that many definitions embrace.  It would seem to extend way beyond what used to be called 'urban planning'.

68 users have voted.