What Makes Cities Smart?

 What Makes Cities Smart?

In the world of urban development ‘smart cities’ is the buzzword of the decade. This is reinforced by UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, that aims to ‘make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’. Space can play an important role in making cities resilient, sustainable and smart.

FIRE Forum

FIRE, the industry-led Forum for Innovation and Research in European Earth Observation, focuses on the Research and Innovation Strategy for Earth Observation (EO) solutions in Europe. It has created a user community across different sectors, starting with agriculture, energy, raw materials, infrastructure, marine, and urban development. A dedicated EO Evangelist programme promotes the adoption of EO solutions in these sectors. Open dialogue with the demand side guides the development, delivery and uptake of EO services in Europe.

See the FIRE Forum website for more info

Join the FIRE Forum 2023 event (1-3 February 2023)

Challenges of cities

Increasing urbanisation of populations entails various challenges for mobility, air quality, critical infrastructure, security, poverty, health, or housing. EO can facilitate the planning, monitoring, and management of urban environments and contribute to more liveable and more sustainable cities.

Criteria for Smart Cities

Space data can help a city more sustainable and resilient, which are two important elements of cities qualifying a ‘smart cities’. But what makes a city smart?

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According to Wikipedia a smart city is ‘a technologically modern urban area that uses different types of electronic methods and sensors to collect specific data. Information gained from that data is used to manage assets, resources and services efficiently; in return, that data is used to improve operations across the city. This includes data collected from citizens, devices, buildings and assets that is processed and analysed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems, power plants, utilities, water supply networks, waste, Criminal investigations, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other community services.’

Literature shows that the smart cities concept focuses on six key areas of urban management:

1. Smart governance

A city administration is smart when it is people-centred, transparent, accessible and open towards its citizens.

2. Smart economy

The economy of a smart city is collaborative and participatory and based on innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability.

3. Smart environment

A smart city is a city that is conscious about its natural and produced resources. This includes waste management, water security and energy efficiency, based on the idea of a circular economy.

4. Smart people

The wellbeing of the people in the city is central to the idea of a smart city. Citizens and visitors play a central role in urban management. This includes all layers of society, across the full diversity of the population, with equal access for all. This category also includes equal access to education and career opportunities.

5. Smart living

This category is about quality of life. Living conditions for all all citizens and visitors of the city are healthy, safe, and comfortable and social and digital facilities are accessible for all.

6. Smart mobility

Smart mobility solutions are about mobility of the future, in the form of shared or electric mobility. Public and private transport become more sustainable, favouring less polluting solutions and promoting shared and green mobility.

Smart cities certification

Based on above criteria there are several ways to assess the ‘smartness’ of cities. The most widely adopted is based on the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) standards. According to ISO, there are 2,599 standards that support SDG11, but there are three standards that are specifically aimed at certifying a city as a smart city:

  • ISO 37120 – indicators for city services and quality of life
  • ISO 37122 – indicators for smart cities
  • ISO 37123 – indicators for resilient cities

International Space University Team Project: Space for Smart Cities

These three standards were used in the certification of the first certified smart city in Brazil: Sao Jose Dos Campos. This ‘smart city’ will be the host AND subject of one of the upcoming International Space University (ISU) Space Studies Program (SSP) team projects.

Registration for SSP23 is now open, with interesting scholarship opportunities for Netherlands-based students and professionals. Check out this opportunity now!

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Urban development and smart cities are an important application area for space data. Read more in our special topic area on this website!

Remco Timmermans

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