The Future of Urban Living: An Introduction to Smart Cities

edited August 2023 in Green

With smartphones, chat apps, and the flow of data, we are now more connected than ever before. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected through global offerings of goods, services, and ideas, global value chains remain focused on developing a more affluent world. But the issue of interconnectedness is more local than we may think. On a local scale, governments and city planners are also looking for ways to embrace the benefits of technology and make positive changes within their cities.

The number of smart cities in the world is growing. Whether you have heard of smart cities or not, advancements in technology mean they will soon be impossible to avoid. So, what is a smart city, and how can we spot them.

How do smart cities work? 

Smart cities are frameworks backed by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that create and implement sustainable development practices that tackle modern urbanization challenges. They also consider issues such as climate change and try to find ways to overcome them.

Alongside Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cloud Computing Services, Smart cities use modern technology like the internet of things (IoT) to improve living environments and promote sustainable urban developments. The IoT is regarded as the most important interface for smart cities and involves a network of intricately connected devices designed to communicate and exchange data. Furthermore, the IoT uses edge computing, which delivers only the most relevant and crucial data over its communication network. 

Our current living status is assessed and optimized using technology for maximum efficiency. Smart city solutions aim to improve the use of resources while reducing emissions, which is achieved by implementing smart transport networks, finding more innovative and efficient ways to keep buildings and homes warm, and improving waste disposal facilities. Such cities must consider the demographic of their inhabitants and find ways to become more interactive and responsive to local issues.  

Do smart cities benefit their inhabitants or the environment? 

A staggering 54% of the global population lives in cities. This amount is projected to rise to 66% by 2050. As a result, a solid smart city management system is crucial to handle the environmental and economic sustainability of the rising population. Connected cities offer many benefits to their residents and positively impact the environment.  

How smart cities benefit inhabitants 

The main aim of smart cities is to use technology to improve the quality of life for their residents. This can be achieved in several ways, such as using IoT to optimize traffic flows and make roads safer for drivers and pedestrians. Some smart traffic control systems use sensors to detect the number of cars on the road at a given time and adjust the timing of traffic lights to ease congestion. IoT also facilitates smart parking, helping drivers to navigate parking lots, find parking spaces, and use digital payment methods.

In addition, the introduction of smart toll roads is also changing the ways we use our roads. Gone are the days of throwing coins into the tollbooth or employing workers to calculate our toll fees. Smart toll roads are equipped with sensors that detect when a car drives through a toll plaza and simply deduct the fees from a linked account.

It is not just drivers that feel the benefits of smart cities. Homeowners living in smart homes or smart city apartments can also use IoT and data to control technology. Smart homes are usually set up via wireless systems, and allow homeowners to remotely control appliances, lights, and heating through a smartphone or tablet device. Homeowners can save money and preserve energy through only switching on heating or lights at certain times, and can even create schedules for appliances to turn on automatically. Furthermore, they can access cameras remotely, giving them peace of mind during working hours or vacations. 

Environmental benefits of smart cities 

It is no secret that our environment is suffering the consequences of air pollution and an overpopulated planet. Smart cities can help us to be more conscientious about our environment and future, too. Smart technology helps cities reduce energy by using real-time data and sensors to control streetlights. On quieter streets, sensors can be used to detect motion from cars and adjust light brightness accordingly.

Autonomous or driverless vehicles are also examples of how technology is taking over our roads. Cars will one day be able to communicate with each other to change lanes more safely and to measure stopping distances while driving. Low-emission electric vehicles are cleaner and more efficient, and do not rely on fossil fuels to run. As a result, reduced vehicle pollutants and smart sensors that continuously monitor air quality and measure pollution levels can reduce the negative impact of poor air on residents.

Smart cities can also implement systems to control water wastage. Pipes that leak wastewater cause significant environmental damage and are costly to fix. As such, city governments should find ways to reduce the risk of damage to water pipes. Smart sensors can be fitted to water pipes, detecting ruptures and leaks before they cause serious and costly damage.

Some countries are prone to natural disasters like extreme storms, fires, flooding, and earthquakes. Smart cities can implement systems to analyze data and predict such occurrences, then warn officials and residents of the potential danger. This allows for a quicker response time, as they can swiftly develop contingency plans to help residents escape before disaster strikes.

In the aftermath of natural disasters like earthquakes, it is imperative to monitor buildings for structural damage to prevent even more devastation to the local area. Using smart sensors, experts can quickly check for structural damage and use the data provided to create safety plans that protect residents. This is also safer for emergency service staff, as they can use data to determine whether they should cordon off buildings without manually checking for damage.

What are the top smart cities to visit in 2023? 

Despite having no fixed criteria to define a smart city, there is thought to be over 140 smart cities worldwide. And with the development of technology, this number is increasing quickly.

Most countries are open for business now that the Covid-19 pandemic has passed its peak. Flights are back to normal and most restrictions have been eased, so it’s the perfect time to explore new places. Here are the top three smart cities in the world according to the latest IESE Cities in Motion Index.  


With its creative traffic control systems and myriad of sensors designed to monitor air and noise pollution, Paris is ranked the third smartest city out of a total of 183. The Paris Respire, or Paris Breathes, initiative ensures car-free zones on weekends and holidays in some of the city’s most bustling areas. The plan promotes cleaner transportation options to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. 

New York 

Ranking in second place, New York is also adopting a smart city approach to tackle sustainability and urbanization issues. The city is implementing climate adaptation projects that reduce the negative effects of climate change and ensure a sustainable future for local residents. Locals can also make free WiFi calls within the city limits using LinkNYC. Furthermore, the NYCx Challenges initiative challenges tech professionals to create innovative solutions to urbanization issues.  


According to the 2022 IESE Cities in Motion Index, London is the most advanced city in the world. With an estimated population of 10 million people within a 1,500 km2 area by 2030, the local government has invested heavily in AI, IoT, and 6G solutions to provide convenience and enhance interconnectedness between residents. The city Mayor has implemented a roadmap and several initiatives to ensure London becomes the “smartest city in the world.” The roadmap includes working alongside universities, the tech community, and other cities to create resources for new digital-driven projects across London. There are also plans to reuse residual heat from the underground train system, which is estimated to fulfill up to 38% of the city’s heating requirements. 


Cities around the world are racing to become more technologically advanced. Systems like IoT and cloud computing are catapulting outdated, emission-producing cities to smart cities interconnected by intricate data exchanges. Smart city projects are happening so fast that many people may already live in smart cities without even knowing it. Electric vehicles, remote heating and camera systems, and even smart roads all contribute to the evolution of cities as we know them. Smart cities also have their part to play in the reduction of emissions. As our cities currently use 78% of the world’s energy, experts hope that smart cities will help to control the negative impact of climate change and carbon emissions on our environment.

Jeni is a translator and writer based in Taiwan. She is passionate about business development and loves helping companies enter international markets. She is fluent in English, German, and Mandarin Chinese, and combines these with her industry experience to provide practical market entry solutions.


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