What Are Smart Cities? 4 Different Examples


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Cities and human settlements have come a long way over the last few centuries. For better or for worse, technology has changed the rhythms of the world we live in. 

One of the most recent developments in this regard is the adaptation of smart cities. Smart cities are a new type of metropolitan that implements information sharing in its infrastructure to better improve itself for the population living there.

These new smart cities aim to create living spaces with sustainable urbanization. With access to all of the events and information lined within city walls, government officials may utilize this data to support positive economic change.

What Is A Smart City?

Smart City Graphics

A smart city is an urban location that utilizes information and communication technology, or ICT, to improve the efficiency and sustainability of a city. By collecting data on a city’s functions, government officials can optimize a city’s layout and infrastructure for safe, resilient, and sustainable human settlement planning.

Before I get into the specific benefits of a smart city, I need first to lay out what characteristics define a smart city. Smart cities and human settlements go hand in hand, as many of their goals coincide.

Smart cities are defined by their technology-based infrastructure, sustainable transport systems, environmental resource efficiency, and progressive city plans. These aspects create the basis for sustainable cities and better the quality of life for those living there.

These cities also provide sustainable development and disaster risk management so that they can continue to work long-term. If your city can’t support its populous or gets destroyed by natural disasters, it won’t be a very effective settlement.

The bottom line is that smart cities are places that work towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization in a modern landscape. If governments use the tools to make settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and efficient, their cities can thrive for generations.

Technology-Based Infrastructure

Regarding cities and human settlements, using technology is humanity’s greatest asset. While human settlements adopting technology to further their safety is nothing new, using the internet of things is relatively new ground.

For those who don’t already know, the internet of things is the web of interconnecting technologies that can communicate with each other. These smart devices can be seen in many households, such as doors, kitchen appliances, TVs, phones, and even cars.

When devices can communicate with each other effectively, they can gather information to pick up on patterns and optimize their usage. This logic also applies to cities.

An excellent example of smart cities utilizing data effectively is disaster risk reduction. A smart city can collect data through cameras to pick up on car accidents. By tracking patterns in these accidents, the city can manage disaster risk reduction by notifying leaders that this location needs to be changed.

This effective optimization of disaster risk reduction not only makes the city safer for its inhabitants but also saves the city money in the long run. Lessening the direct economic losses relative to property damage is an excellent use of the technology found in a smart city.

See Related: Capitalism vs Socialism: What are the Differences?

Sustainable Transport Systems

The next aspect of smart cities and human settlements is their sustainable transport systems. It is no secret that traffic is a massive issue among the urban population. Universal access to expanding public transport is essential to proper urban planning.

Running a city entirely on personal transportation and public roads is an outdated transportation method. It stands as a failure of leadership to utilize proper foresight. I love my car as much as the next person, but I would much rather be able to catch a train, bus, or shuttle to commute with others.

While this might sound annoying on paper, proper resource efficiency in a city requires an expanding public transport system to account for a growing populous. To put it simply, as the urban population growth rate increases, so do the need for roads. Cities have a finite amount of land to use as a resource, so they can’t just build more roads indefinitely.

Human settlements adopting a growing populous involve moving these people around. Public ridesharing services such as trains, shuttle cars, and buses are better for sustainable cities because they can move more people around without using as much space.

A shuttle car can hold 20-40 people, depending on its size, which would take at least five personal vehicles to move around. This means that public transit can carry the same amount of people around using less road space, which allows more land to create sustainable and resilient buildings.

Environmental Resource Efficiency

Beyond just land consumption rate, smart cities will capitalize on their technical assistance to manage their other resources as well.

Rural areas don’t have to worry as much about good air quality, waste management, or environmental links to climate change. While rural areas are contributing to climate change, the world’s urban population in big cities is much larger, so changing the framework for disaster risk in these areas is much more impactful.

Poor resource efficiency can lead to increased waste or carbon emissions, which can further climate change and have a poor effect on the framework for disaster risk.

For example, water-related disasters such as droughts and hurricanes are much more common with the worsening effects of climate change. These disasters hugely affect the economic growth and safety of those living in an urban populous.

Those who live outside of civil society or in the urban dynamic will see a powerful effect from poor resource efficiency, as these people have fewer resources to mitigate the poor living conditions of their location. Poor waste management has also been shown to have the worst effect on these people.

This is why one of the main objectives of a smart city is implementing integrated policies that protect the city’s resources and reduce pollution.

One of the best means of disaster risk management is to stop the problem at its source. Implementing initiatives to lower greenhouse gas emissions in these smart cities will substantially decrease water-related disasters and help the people affected over time.

Smart cities also support least developed countries by setting a standard for what does and doesn’t work regarding sustainability.

Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanization

Another big goal of a smart city is to utilize progressive city plans. This includes the development of public spaces and attempting to provide access to safe and affordable housing.

The heart of sustainable human settlement planning and sustainable urbanization is having happy people. People affected by a housing crisis and unwelcome in public spaces are much less likely to be satisfied.

People want human settlements to be inclusive and safe because it allows for a better quality of life. Progressive city plans make cities that give access to all necessities within a reasonable distance.

This supports the positive economic change because residents will spend less time commuting to locations and more time patronizing businesses. Another thing to consider in urban planning is the basic services given to residents.

Because urban areas host a more extensive job market, many people are attracted to this environment. This means that many people are coming into these metropolitan areas and may need financial and technical assistance to get situated.

While giving out this type of assistance may seem counterproductive to resource management, the direct economic losses relative to these immigrants are larger than the assistance. Giving financial and technical assistance to new citizens is cheaper than the losses gained by having them unemployed for an extended period.

The other part of making human settlements inclusive and safe is reducing, if not eliminating, discrimination. Segregating minorities or other groups of people from public spaces breeds resentment.

Beyond the moral qualms with inclusivity, opening doors to more public spaces will support positive economic involvement. If a city can provide universal access to public spaces and basic services, it will prevent city infighting that may result in protests, injuries, or riots. All of which take away from the city’s budget and resources.

Coupling open spaces for cultural and natural heritage with free basic services is a recipe for an inviting city with an easy transition. If your city is easier to move to and becomes self-sustaining, then it will attract more people and keep them from leaving.

See Related: Different Sustainable Infrastructure Examples

Holistic Disaster Risk Management

Holistic disaster risk management is a multi-step process that gives an emergency action plan. Smart cities have shown a track record of success in implementing integrated policies to mitigate direct economic losses from natural disasters.

Natural disasters such as droughts, tornados, and flooding are destructive to basic services and functionality. Unfortunately, these disasters will happen, and the best thing a city can do is utilize disaster risk reduction. Local governments must prove critical infrastructure resistant to the type of disasters their region is prone to.

Regional development planning in disasters begins with four different phases. The 4 phases of disaster management are as follows:

  • Mitigation
  • Preparedness
  • Response
  • Recovery

Disasters are a terrible part of living in certain areas, but the directly affected persons attributed as victims can be helped by managing these four steps. These phases make up the framework for disaster risk, and an excellent smart city will be prepared for all 4.

Mitigation is the most important step of disaster risk reduction, as it can prevent an issue altogether. Implementing proper infrastructure to deal with certain disasters can save residents from feeling a disaster’s effects.

Maintaining proper risk mitigation is especially essential to support least-developed countries. These countries don’t have a ton of resources to combat a natural disaster, so having preventative measures is especially useful.

The next phase is preparedness. Smart cities will be prepared for disasters with an educated populace. If your city is prone to tornadoes, then there will be underground shelters in public spaces, and the residents will be aware of these shelters.

Smart cities also have a good response team, meaning the city will hire and train professionals to help the general population when things go awry.

Lastly, there is recovery. Whether a city is or is not prepared for disaster, it will need to rebuild and recover from the economic losses of the situation. A smart city will have educated leadership on what to do after a disaster and the most efficient way to put the city back on track.

Sendai, Japan, boasts further guidelines that expand on this process. The Sendai framework for disaster is the gold standard for risk reduction, and any city looking to optimize its safety will implement some elements of these rules.

Sustainable Human Settlement Planning

The last aspect of a smart city is sustainable human settlement planning. I touched upon this briefly above, but the gist is that cities should be able to provide universal access to all needs within an inclusive, safe, resilient, and close distance.

No one should have to take a 30-minute commute to work. Assuming an average work week, this means a 1-hour commute both ways for five days a week.

When this loss of time is compiled with other distances, people need to bridge. There can be a lot of problems.

Urban populations living in smart cities make smaller commutes one of their sustainable development goals. Inclusive and sustainable urbanization requires safe, resilient, and sustainable gaps to necessities as long commutes result in a loss of happiness and a hit to the economy.

Workers who need to commute long distances will have less time and energy to spend doing activities. This weakens economic stimulation in a city and makes for a less satisfied populous.

Smart cities have started the national and regional development towards compact city designs, as it will make cities and human transportation much easier to manage.

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Examples of Smart Cities and Human Settlements

Now that you clearly understand the direct participation structure that defines a smart city, we can look at some smart cities that have set the world’s cultural standard on the subject.

These cities are a great example of how the global urban population living in these cities can impact the world’s cultural and natural standards. They are mostly located in developed countries, which means they can be used as a framework to support least developed countries.

1. Sendai

Sendai, Japan Aerial Scenery
Kentaro Toma / Unsplash

I can’t write a list of national and regional development of smart cities without talking about Sendai. Sendai, located in Miyagi, Japan, is a gold standard for smart cities with strong global gross domestic product.

This city reaches sustainable development goals by lowering its capita environmental impact and providing a lot of green and public spaces.

Cities that provide green and public spaces are not only helpful in combating climate change, but they help to enhance inclusive public spaces through appealing visuals. Inclusive and sustainable urbanization is one of the main goals of smart cities, and Sendai does a great job of strengthening national green initiatives.

Sendai is also a world leader in disaster risk reduction. The Sendai framework for disaster is a more expansive model than the general 4 phases. This framework puts a lot of emphasis on protecting cultural and natural heritage through safe, resilient, and sustainable structures that can withstand climate change.

The Sendai framework for disaster is one one the many ways the city stays ahead of the world’s cultural and natural pitfalls.

2. London

London, England Aerial View
Benjamin Davies / Unsplash

One compelling aspect of London as a smart city is its sustainable development of commutes. The city has developed apps that help residents plan their daily commutes for maximum efficiency. The city has also made advancements in public transport by providing e-scooters all around the city.

These developments have helped increase air quality and speed up the urban population living there, and these initiatives have also impacted public transport to substantially decrease commute times.

On top of public transport, London has excelled as a smart city through their use of waste management. As far as cities in developed countries go, London has taken many steps toward the sustainable development of waste management.

The city claims they are on track to move 65% of its municipal solid waste collected to recycling centers by 2030. Alongside their participatory integrated and sustainable initiatives to lower waste generally, this should be viewed as a gold standard for both developed and developing countries.

See Related: What are the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment?

3. Singapore City

Singapore City Sunset Scenery
Kirill Petropavlov / Unsplash

As a leader in sustainable development, it is no surprise that Singapore makes settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and easy to access. The city helps to make cities and human living more accessible through affordable housing without sacrificing national heritage in architecture.

Singapore strides to decrease informal settlements and provide access to safe and affordable housing. The city is strengthening national sustainable development goals by offering affordable housing to rent or own. Rental properties are governed by price ceilings that prevent the owners from charging too much for rent.

No matter how many people want to move to the city, the area will continue to provide access to safe and affordable housing.

Another participatory integrated and sustainable policy found in Singapore is the regional development planning of environmental protection. Sustainable and resilient buildings are significant, but they don’t do much for anyone if there is no habitat to put them on.

Singapore attempts to progress the world’s cultural and natural sustainability by doing its part to create a greener city. Effectively combating climate change will take a widespread international effort, and it is essential if the world is to maintain any cultural and natural heritage.

So, what is Singapore doing to protect this environment? Singapore has stood as one of the world’s front-running smart cities regarding the Paris agreement. The 2015 agreement outlines the benefits and guidelines for maintaining a green future. Singapore has maintained these values of clean air and waste management effectively.

The environmental links to pollution can be found in many cities across the globe. Still, national and regional development that follows Singapore’s example will make for positive change worldwide.

4. New York City

New York Aerial View
Joe Montanari / Unsplash

When thinking of smart cities, New York City may not be your first guess. The area has a reputation for poor waste control and high rent prices, and these attributes don’t coincide with the traits of a smart city.

Despite this, New York has cleaned up its act in the last decade and has become a world leader in regional development planning.

One thing that makes New York City special is its unique blend of cultural and natural heritage. The city has been attracting foreign immigrants for decades, creating a unique blend of cultures.

The diversity found in New York creates a need for inclusivity that the city has been making strides for. The city has worked to enhance inclusive green and public spaces by building new parks and passing legislation to ensure people feel safe.

New York also boasts a huge job market that works to hire those from all sorts of backgrounds. This diversity in employment is good for culture and helps lower unemployment rates and raise the global gross domestic product.

On top of inclusivity, the city has also been moving toward a greener future. While not quite as clean as Singapore, New York has made significant strides in lowering emissions by streamlining traffic. The city has also replaced many structures with indoor LED farming lights and has worked to advance air quality monitoring systems.

Because of these efforts, the per capita environmental impact of New York has gone down substantially over the last decade.

New York may not have as many green and public spaces as other smart cities. Still, their commitment to lowering pollution and increasing inclusivity puts it on track for the future.

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