Smart City Mobility

Smart cities, mobility, and the road in between

Smart Cities, Smart Villages, and Everything in Between

Many cities, irrespective of their size, are harnessing new smart city technologies to improve the quality of life of their citizens. Such cities are labeled as smart cities. With technology widely available, even villages can be smart.

In this article you'll learn about:

What Defines a Smart City?

A smart city uses data collected from interconnected sensors to optimize city operations, manage assets and resources, and improve the day-to-day lives of its citizens. Smart cities leverage technology to improve traffic management and access to public transport, optimize power and water supply, improve waste management, improve services provided by law enforcement, hospitals, libraries, schools, and more.

How a City Becomes a Smart City?

The following three layers provide the foundation for smart city operations:

  • Layer 1: Technological base — a large number of interconnected devices and sensors.
  • Layer 2: Designated applications — the availability of information systems used by city officials and/or citizens to improve city operations.
  • Layer 3: Application usage — achieving a critical mass of usage of the applications within the city or by designated users.

The technological base for a smart city typically includes:

  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT): The platform citizens and governments use to communicate with one another. Governments can use ICT to analyze data and feedback from citizens and make changes to city services.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): Internet-connected devices and sensors deployed in the field, which can communicate with each other and send data to the management center. IoT is used in smart cities to gather information and to actively solve problems through actions taken by IoT devices.
  • Sensors: Data is gathered using sensors distributed throughout cities. Sensors can gather different types of information, such as temperature, light, pressure, quantities of people or vehicles, etc.

Three examples of city activities that can be smart:

  • Smart transport: Infrastructure designed to improve traffic management, including smart cards, navigation apps, and signal control systems. These smart transport technologies help manage traffic by updating navigation systems in real-time, notifying travelers of traffic and other road conditions, detecting accidents, guiding drivers directly to available parking spots, and more.
  • Smart energy and water: Involves home, municipal, and state or country-level energy and water systems. Smart energy and water management are based on smart meters that gather data about energy demands and use. The additional data collected by smart meters make it possible to better regulate supplies—for example, to divert water or energy to parts of the city that consume more than others.
  • Smart health: Improving health diagnosis and treatment via new technology and smart devices. For example, sensors deployed across a city can help identify sources of air or water pollution before they turn into a public health risk, and data from medical clinics can be aggregated at a municipal level to detect the spread of disease.

Examples of Large Smart Cities


In collaboration with the University of Washington, Seattle has implemented many smart city systems, including systems that monitor the weather to alert people of dangerous conditions. Seattle has smart traffic lights that respond to changes in traffic and weather conditions. It also uses cameras and other sensors to aid law enforcers. Efforts are also being put into reducing pollution via traffic optimization.


Ranked as the world’s leading smart city (according to Juniper Research), Barcelona is using sensors, smart streetlights, and smart parking technologies to improve the flow of traffic. Barcelona is also known for its sustainable energy usage and smart use of energy (for example, motion-activated LED lights are widely used). The city is saving water and using data about water consumption from smart meters. Learn more about the Barcelona smart city initiative in our in-depth post.


The city has deployed a vast number of sensors used to detect littering and smoking in forbidden areas. In addition, Singapore is developing a platform called “Virtual Singapore”. This is a 3D virtual map of the city used to test city-wide plans, such as evacuation plans. Smart systems including traffic lights and smart parking help to effectively manage traffic, and by 2020 it will be mandatory for vehicles to be connected to satellite navigation systems.  

How Mid-Sized Cities, Small Cities, and Villages Can Be Smart?

Large cities are not the only ones utilizing smart city technology. An example of a mid-size city implementing smart city technology is Belfort, France, a city of 50,000. Belfort carried out a lightweight implementation of smart technology, using existing information systems.

Belfort combined existing data about bus payments, ticketing, and existing GPS technology deployed on buses, using Intelligent Urban Exchange software, to get a picture of congestion across the city and passenger flow. Over one month, city officials gathered and analyzed data, and used it to respond to changing transport demands, optimize bus routes and adapt the number of buses driving on specific routes throughout the day. City officials report dramatic improvements in the transportation network, as well as cost savings.

Villages Can Be Smart Too

Communities of all sizes can utilize smart technologies. For small communities like villages to become smart, they need to connect to ICT to absorb information and communicate with innovators and other communities. Improving connectivity and leveraging mobility and commerce applications can turn a village into an integral part of a regional economy.

Third world villages can become smart too. Villages in third world countries cannot leverage advanced infrastructure in the surrounding areas. But they can use smart technology independently to improve the well being of their residents.

Smart villages in developing countries use sustainable energy to improve education, healthcare, and democratic procedures. Residents who have access to reliable energy sources may have access to the Internet, electrical light, and improved nutrition due to better cooking options. People can study more effectively when they have access to reliable energy sources, and this can improve education in the village.

Residents of third-world smart villages can have better access to information concerning government, political rights, and democratic procedures, and can actively participate in political proceedings.

Smart City Success Factors

The following success factors were important in the implementation of many smart cities. Whether you are implementing smart city concepts in a large city, a small town or a village, take these best practices into account:

  • Stakeholder benefits: A smart city strategy must be centered on user benefits, and should be simplified and contextualized so citizens and stakeholders can understand and use it.
  • Engagement and buy-in: A smart city should include citizens in its strategy and planning. It should encourage citizens to deal with and buy from locally owned businesses. It should also encourage the participation of citizens and organizations.
  • Regional alignment: A smart city should collaborate with regional initiatives, such as economic development strategies, alongside local activity. Citizens expect services to be available even if they live nearby.  
  • Clarity: An effective smart city strategy should contain examples and outcomes. This helps simplify the strategy and makes it more approachable.
  • Dust-proofing the strategy: An efficient strategy ensures the level of detail is controlled and balanced. It provides a framework that guides operations. The framework should avoid outdated or irrelevant details.
  • Lessons learned: It is important to learn from the successes and mistakes of existing smart cities while keeping in mind that no two cities are alike.
  • Alignment with urban planning: Smart city strategies are more likely to be relevant and seamlessly incorporated into city life when they are aligned with existing urban development plans.  
  • Performance indicators: The elements of a smart city strategy must be measured for success. A city should develop simple performance indicators that are relevant to the city and its residents.  
  • A culture of communication: A successful strategy should promote communication and shared information between city government and citizens.

Smart cities are no longer a futuristic vision, but a reality for many communities around the world. Some smart city initiatives involve major investments in infrastructure such as sensors and data platforms. But smart city principles can also be implemented by simpler means, such as mobile applications and sustainable energy innovations. We are nearing a time when any community, with sufficient commitment from its leadership and residents, can apply smart technology to change lives for the better.