Deciphering The Connotation Of Smart City

Samiya Khan, Senior Researcher, Department of Computer Science, Jamia Millia Islamia

2018-12-18 10:41:30



Smart city initiatives have revolutionized urban development plans around the world. The Government of India has also jumped on this bandwagon and commenced a juggernaut drive that identifies cities with potential and initiates the process of transforming them into smart cities. With the rising buzz around smart cities, people are usually tempted to ask if their cities are really ‘smart’. This article explores the different dimensions of smart city and their generic relevance to cities with different ethnic, cultural, economic and social backgrounds.

The simplest definition of smart city is an area that has sensors installed for data collection, which is thence used for effective management of city assets and resources. Sources of data collection include information systems, devices, citizens and assets. Smart management systems for transport, waste, water supply, hospitals, educational organization and other arrangements use the results generated by analysis of the acquired data.

Therefore, smart city uses the data collected from devices or sensors, forming Internet of Things (IoT) network, to improve the operational efficiency of the city, thereby integrating information and communication technology (ICT) with IoT. Such integration facilitates communication betweenauthorities and other entities of the city like citizens and organizations. Moreover, it also allows authorities to monitor the city and its evolution on a periodic basis.

Human Facets– Key Drivers for Smart City Development

City development heavily relies on human resource and infrastructure. Therefore, the smart city agenda for a city needs to take this axis of development into account. On the basis of this dimension, a smart city can be classified as –

  • Creative City

The objective of a creative city is to nurture creativity in its citizens and allow them to indulge in emotionally satisfying activities. Thus, this concept amalgamates culture, arts, education, learning and business, allowing the city to make use of its social infrastructure, to its best capacity and capability.

  • Learning City

For a learning city, development is based on individual and institutional learning. Formal or informal acquisition and renewal of knowledge at the individual level shall contribute to skill improvement, which in turn ensures better income and job opportunity for the individual concerned. It is important to mention here that learning is not restricted to any educational level, and is a lifelong process. Every individual is part of an institution and society, at large. Thus, individual learning contributes to creation of a skilled workforce, from an institution’s point of view.

  • Humane City

A city that uses human potential to create a land of hope and opportunity is named a humane city. This concept of smart city lays its prime focus on education, thereby working towards creating a skilled manpower, which promises to transform the city into a dynamic and proactive entity. It shall also attract better-educated people and in the process of becoming smarter, it will inevitably make other cities less smart.

  • Knowledge City

The development of such a city is based on creation, update and sharing of knowledge, which, in such an environment, is created as a result of interactions between citizens. Moreover, interaction between citizens of different cities shall also contribute to knowledge renewal and creation. In order to support such an environment, the city must have an apt design and IT infrastructure to support interactions at different levels.

Technology: The Core of Smart City Infrastructure

Smart cities heavily rely on technology for the execution of its agendas, which makes technology the core of this system. Typically, a smart city is expected to use a combination of technologies to develop a customized solution on the basis of the human facets and requirements of the city concerned. On the basis of the technological framework used for a smart city, it can be classified as –

  • Wired City

Such a city may not be conventionally ‘smart’, but it sure is a precursor of a smart city. A city with laid out wires and established connectivity is a wired city.

  • Digital City

The main objective of creating a digital city is to interconnect the citizens and allow easy sharing of information between them. Therefore, a digital city is a combination three elements: communication infrastructure for creating a network, service-oriented infrastructure for sufficing the computing needs of the system and innovation services to meet the requirements of citizens and organizations.A digital city is a web-based reproduction of a city, including its different social, ideological, political and theoretical dimensions.

  • Virtual City

This type of a city is built on the concept of a hybrid city where the real city coexists with a parallel city in the virtual space. These two parallel cities have real entities and are supported by IT infrastructure that includes exchanges, data centers and cables. Such a city concentrates on creating a digital representation of the city concerned.

  • Information City

This concept of smart city deals primarily with data collection. Data is collected from the government and other agencies involved in city management and made openly available via web portals.

  • Intelligent City

A city that focuses on learning and innovation is indicated to be an intelligent city. Such a city attempts to use the true potential of human creativity in its realm. Therefore, human capital is the most critical resource for this concept. Technologically, the infrastructure used for communication must be latest and up-to-date.

  • Ubiquitous City

This smart city type extends the idea of digital city to create a neighborhood in which any citizen can access any service at any time with the help of any device. Therefore, ubiquitous city is a city with ubiquitous IT services.

  • Cognitive Smart City

As the idea of smart city evolves, cognitive smart city integrates new-age technologies like artificial intelligence, big data and Internet of Things (IoT) to add dynamicity to the core components of the system. Therefore, the system dwells on continuous learning and improves itself on the basis of human interactions and behavior.

Institutions and Organizations – Vital Elements of Smart City Ecosystem

The quality of life of people living in a smart city can only improve if the citizens work hand in hand with the government and other institutions in the area. Government can play a pivotal role in pushing the use of information technology in solving daily needs and enforcing the smart city agendas set for the area.

On the other hand, if the institutions in the area agree upon the use of IT and deployment of technology for specific needs, then they are capable of taking the smart city initiatives to a completely different level. It is important to understand that the non-involvement of institutions in this regard can make technology use and upgrade rather difficultand demanding.This makes institutions and organizations, a significant dimension for describinga smart city. A classification of smart city definition on the basis of this dimension is presented below.

  • Smart Community

This expression refers to a geographical area, the population of which makes use of information technology for transformation of their city into a smart city. This use is coordinated between the citizens, government, institutions and organizations of this area.

  • Sustainable City

A city that is making use of information technology to improve the environment of the city is a sustainable city. Such efforts may be focused towards, but are not limited to, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and improving the energy efficiency of its existing systems.

  • Green City

A sustainable city, once successful in its action plan, transforms into a green city. A city that makes a conscious effort to improve the environment, better its waste management, maintains the biodiversity of its region and makes efficient use of its natural resources, with the effective use of information and communication technology, is referred to as a green city. Evidently, such efforts can play a key job in improving the economic growth of the area.


The smart city concept stands on the three pillars of technology, humans and institutional setups. A coordinated adoption of technology by humans and institutional setups is vital for fulfilling the agenda set by smart city initiatives for the city concerned. Planned investment in IT infrastructure and human and social resources of the city is critical for improving the quality of life in the city. Although, there are roadblocks like deployment challenges and social limitations, integrative use of technology is sure to alter the way people live their lives and this is truly the essence of the ‘smart city’ concept – it promises to change your life, for good!