Over two thirds of the European Union population lives in cities now. Across the world, the number of urban residents is growing by nearly 60 million people a year. Imagine the strains this growth puts on city economies and the challenges city administrations face every day. Increased energy consumption, poverty, inequality, and traffic management are just a few of the areas, in which cities need to become more efficient in order to retain their attractiveness as good places to live and work.
Fortunately, smart city technologies are coming to the rescue to enable city management efficiency and aid economic prosperity. A number of European cities, which have successfully embraced initiatives, such as smart grids and smart traffic management, are well ahead of the curve and could easily be called ‘smart’ cities themselves.
But how do we define a smart city? Let’s have a look at the definition, provided in the paper “Mapping Smart Cities in the EU”, commissioned by the European Parliament, prepared by RAND Europe:
Smart City Definition
‘A Smart City is a city seeking to address public issues via ICT-based solutions on the basis of a multi-stakeholder, municipally based partnership’. A Smart City initiative has one or more of the following six characteristics:
|Smart Governance||Interconnected within-city and across-city governance, including services and interactions that link and, where relevant, integrate public, private, civil and European Community organisations so the city can function efficiently and effectively as one organism. The main enabling tool is ICT.|
|Smart Economy||E-business and e-commerce, increased productivity, ICT-enabled and advanced manufacturing and delivery of services, ICT-enabled innovation, as well as new products, new services and business models. Local and global connectedness includes physical and virtual flows of goods, services and knowledge.|
|Smart Mobility||ICT supported and integrated transport and logistics systems. Sustainable, safe and interconnected systems for trams, buses, trains, metros, cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Prioritises clean and green options. Real-time information can be accessed by the public to improve commuting efficiency, save costs and reduce CO2emissions.|
|Smart Environment||Smart energy including renewables, ICT-enabled energy grids, metering, pollution control and monitoring, renovation of buildings and amenities, green buildings and green urban planning. Urban services such as street lighting, waste management and water resource systems that are monitored for efficiency and to reduce pollution.|
|Smart People||Those with e-skills, working in ICT-enabled roles, having access to education and training, human resources and capacity management, within an inclusive society that improves creativity and fosters innovation. Enables people and communities to input, use, manipulate and personalise data to make decisions and to create products and services.|
|Smart Living||ICT-enabled lifestyles, behaviour and consumption. Healthy and safe living in a culturally vibrant city with diverse cultural facilities and good quality housing. Linked to high levels of social cohesion and social capital.|
According to RAND, 51 percent of cities with a population of over 100,000 inhabitants in the EU, could be identified as “smart”. It is interesting to note, though, that most smart city initiatives are at their early stages of development. Smart environment and smart mobility are the areas, where most efforts have gone.
Although implementing ICT solutions generates a significant impact on the well-being of a city, it is not the only crucial factor for successful Smart Cities. A clear vision, the involvement of citizens, representatives and local businesses as well as efficient processes are also critical when entering the path of smart city development.
The distribution of smart cities across Europe is uneven, with the highest number of smart cities found in Spain, Italy and the UK. Another recent study also acknowledges Spain, and particularly Barcelona, as the worldwide leader in smart city technology. See our infographic “What is a Smart City?” to learn more about smart cities in Europe: