Smart Cities: An Introduction

Utopian City

The Utopian City

Imagine living somewhere where traffic jams were a thing of the past, where ambulance crews started on-route to an emergency before anyone had dialled 999 and where critical infrastructure operated at maximum efficiency.

This utopian city may not currently be possible, but the Internet of Things could change that in the not too distant future. By connecting various aspects of the urban landscape to the Internet, local administrators will gain access to countless extra datasets that could help them provide better services for their citizens. These smart cities not only promise to improve the lives of their inhabitants, but also provide potentially lucrative commercial opportunities for a number of businesses.

What is a Smart City?

The UK Government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 2013 defines a Smart City as:

“The use of digital technologies to enhance performance and wellbeing, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and also to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens.”            

The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), a New York-based think tank, prefers to focus on Intelligent Communities, defined as “cities and regions that use technology not just to save money or make things work better, but also to create high-quality employment, increase citizen participation and become great places to live and work.”


The definition of the Smart City can be broken down in to 6 distinctive dimensions:

  1. Economy
  2. Environment
  3. Government
  4. Living
  5. Mobility
  6. People

Each of these dimensions can be broken down further to give specific, measurable, accepted, realistic, time bound goals.

The Benefits of Gaining SMART City Status

  • Developing strategies to plan for long-term growth
  • Creating more energy-efficient environments
  • Improving the infrastructure
  • Keep citizen’s safe
  • Creating employment

Successful Smart Cities have similar strategies and a common timeline approach.

Step 1: Create a Vision with Citizen Engagement

Smart cities would make use of the latest technology to acquire citizen input through a range of software and mobile tools for cities to communicate and engage citizens in a dialog about city projects, business sector maps, retail maps and visitor monitoring.

Step 2: Develop Baselines, Set Targets, and Choose Indicators

Before creating numerical targets for achieving a smart city vision, it is helpful to actually benchmark where you are. Let’s take Smart Mobility as an example. The Smart Cities Wheel has three key drivers for Smart Mobility: mixed-modal access; prioritized clean and non-motorized options; and integrated ICT.

Step 3: Go Lean

It is important that cities could and should embrace lean startup principles. Once a city has established quantifiable goals and selected the indicators to measure its progress, it needs to snag some early wins while also building plans for longer-term actions.

Home Grown Examples

Milton Keynes has made a commitment to making itself a Smart City. Currently the mechanism through which this is approached is the MK: Smart initiative, a collaboration of local government, businesses, academia and 3rd sector organisations. The focus of the initiative is on making energy use, water use and transport more sustainable whilst promoting economic growth in the city.

The MK Approach

Central to the project is the creation of a state-of-the-art ‘MK Data Hub’ which will support the acquisition and management of vast amounts of data relevant to city systems from a variety of data sources. These will include data about energy and water consumption, transport data, data acquired through satellite technology, social and economic datasets, and crowdsourced data from social media.

The Wakefield Approach

Looking to Milton Keynes for inspiration. The first step is to create the Smart City Vision unique for Wakefield, this will require help from you the business community, the citizens of the district and the council. Once the vision has been created it can be broken down in to small individual projects with defined deliverables that are easier to manage.

There is interest from within the council, they have been down to Milton Keynes and met with the team to understand how they have started the process.


  • The Smart cities framework is not a one size fits all.
  • Wakefield could benefit from adopting a framework like Smart Cities that will allow a common language to develop amongst citizens, city staff, the public and the private sectors.
  • With the help from the Cognitiv community we need start driving the Wakefield Smart City vision forward and ultimately realise this vision.
  • In doing so we will make Wakefield a better place for one and all.