Around the world, cities seek to be smarter

Around the world, “smart cities” are changing the nature of daily life, especially work. Rapid urbanization and developments in data and digital technology are helping governments across the world in their quest to make cities “smarter.”

A “smart city” is usually defined as an urban area in which data about activities and conditions is harnessed to adjust system workings. Technology and data collection play a major role (CentreforCities).


  • Dan Pardi, CEO of HumanOS, a “personal health mastery” platform – interview September 6 16:30 BST/8:30 PST

    • Expertise: urban planning, personal health, light

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  • James Bridle, author, New Dark Age
    • Expertise: data’s impact on the environment, carbon footprint of big data
  • Peter van de Crommert, project manager, the Dutch Institute for Technology, Safety and Security
    • Expertise: The Netherlands’ smart city projects, including in Stratumseind in Eindhoven
  • Saswat Bandyopadhyay, a professor at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT) in New Delhi – email interview done

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The boom of smart cities has even prompted courses of study on the subject. In India, the government has committed to building 100 smart cities in a five-year ₹98,000 crore ($14 billion) program funded by central and state governments. Locations include New Delhi, the capital, and Lavasa, a completely new city being built near Pune, the second largest city in Maharashtra state.

Smart cities can make workers more efficient, improve ease of living and increase quality of environment, said Saswat Bandyopadhyay, a professor at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT) in New Delhi who teaches a course on smart cities.

“Efficient public transport and smarter mobility, smart health care and innovative education via e-learning or mobile learning are some of the important initiatives in global smart cities,” he said.

A photo of Amsterdam's Rijksmonument at night
Street lamps in Amsterdam, considered a smart city, have been upgraded to allow municipal councils to dim the lights based on pedestrian usage. Photo by: Massimo Catarinella via Wikimedia Commons

But the growing number of individual initiatives to improve the wellbeing of workers – like apps and recharging facilities – fall short of improving the entire landscape of work, Bandyopadhyay told WikiTribune.

“Although these are welcome initiatives, [the] majority of them are either curative or mitigative. We need to focus more on preventive and more sustainable approaches through better quality of life and sustainable practices,” he said.

Cities like Singapore, Barcelona, Bristol, Amsterdam are the “poster boys” for important initiatives, Bandyopadhyay added.

Smart cities worldwide

Japan is also thought of as a smart city pioneer, known for its capsule hotels (CNN), efficient transport and technological innovation.

Amsterdam has been undergoing a smart city initiative and various experiments to make the city more innovative, efficient and technology focused. Its smart lighting scheme has allowed councils to decide when to light streets based on pedestrian prevalence.

In Barcelona, a “hive flat” company developed a series of 15 flat set out across 100 square meters to house tenants with economic difficulties for long stays (El País). However, the city council there opposes the niche housing initiative because it fails to comply with the minimum measures for legal housing in Spain.

In Greece, Trikala, in the midst of an agricultural area, is the country’s first smart city. Innovations have improved life there despite Greece’s financial crisis (The Guardian).

Yinchuan, China is undergoing a sustained transformation that now enables citizens to pay for services using facial recognition, use smart refuse bins that run on solar power and double as compactors, and access remote therapy and prescriptions, reducing overcrowding in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. The city is one of nearly 200 smart city pilot projects in China (CNN).

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