Origins, definitions and critique of smart cities

Lecture 17.3.16 by Professor Chris Petit

“the concept of the ‘smart city’ has recently been introduced as a strategic device to encompass modern urban production factors in a common framework and, in particular, to highlight the importance of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the last 20 years for enhancing the competitive profile of a city”

-Caragliu, 2009

The concepts of smart cities revolve around smart devices, smart people and smart ideas from innovators and incubators.

CISCO (2012) have provided a “smart city framework” through 4 layers:

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and the rest of the document describes the Smart City Movement, barriers, and implementation. The definition of a smart city varies, and depending on what you’re doing I’d come up with a definition for yourself to follow but to me a smart city essentially is a city – either a newly designed one or an existing one – that implements technological advances to make a city “smarter”. Obviously this is not the best definition as it uses the term in its own definition but it works more me. This means that personal apps  coupled with GPS location services can be used to better predict public transport and traffic conditions. Data collected over a period of time can be massivell collected and integrated to make predictions such as car accidents (by looking at traffic, weather, etc.), Emergency Room conditions (such as number of broken arms to expect in a day) etc. I do not fully understand how this all happens, because smart cities rely on a huge amount of data input from a huge range of sources and I do not have the mathematical skills to comprehend how this data is used.

The schematics involved in smart cities are as follows:

  • economic development
  • transportation/traffic
  • social services
  • education
  • healthcare
  • public safety
  • energy and utilities

The most exciting part, for me, about smart cities is the move to make much of this information available to the public to be used however necessary; think of the potential we have at our fingertips for city design. We can make smarter design choices that actually respond to real world data rather than making assumptions, or being limited in the resources we have

Smart City example: San Diego:

Further resources


Caragliu A. 2009, “Smart Cities in Europe”,3rd Central European Conference in Regional Science , <;

CISCO 2012, “Smart City Framework: A Systematic Process for Enabling Smart+Connected Communities”, <;

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