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7 Technologies needed to build smart cities

7 Technologies needed to build smart cities


Two decades on, we are beginning to see what the arc of the twenty-first century will look like. With climate change, continued migration, and aging infrastructure all primary concerns for municipalities worldwide, it is clear that accelerating the shift to smart city planning is a priority for civic leaders.

The concept of a smart city has long felt like a utopia. An ideal dreamed up by tech futurists that pragmatic city planners could be fine with. But in the last decade, advancements in smart city technologies and cloud-based services have made a smart city future very achievable.

What specific technologies are needed in smart city infrastructure? And how should leaders look to adopt them? This article explores how different technologies can be structured in a smart city and highlights seven technologies that civic leaders should focus their investments on as they plan how their city will prosper in the decades ahead.

What Are Smart Cities?

The concept of smart cities first emerged among urban planners in the mid-to-late twentieth century, around the time desktop computers miniaturized and IT infrastructure became more widely available. Probably not coincidentally, the world saw a steady migration from rural to urban communities during that same time. Urban planners of the time were desperate for innovative ideas to manage their growing population centers.

The modern concept of smart cities emerged in the early twenty-first century as the capabilities of contemporary Internet technologies became clear. A smart city uses information technology to manage itself and deliver its services externally to the public and internally to its agencies—for example, through public works, transportation, policing, and emergency services.

It also uses data from those services to share information with the public and inform future developments and investments. The strategic goals of smart cities are often to improve the quality of their service and make them more efficient and cost-effective. They also look to improve the quality of city leaders’ decision-making, thanks to the improved quality of information collected.

The Structure of Smart Cities and Their Technology

Cities use networks of smart city technologies, sensing Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and AI software agents to monitor and control urban activities, including those of the city’s agencies, personnel, and citizens. Smart city technologies can be divided into three distinct layers: sensors, communication technology, and applications—or management technology.

Sensor layer

This layer includes smart city technologies such as IoT devices, RFID trackers, smart energy grid systems, CCTV, and mobile devices. It gathers data from all of a smart city’s institutions and personnel.

Communication layer

Communication technology is well known. It includes 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile data and wired and wireless networks. This layer of smart city technology is responsible for shuttling data collected by sensors to on-premises and cloud service applications.

Application layer

Smart management comes in at the application layer. Automated AI systems and human managers use the data collected through a smart city to inform day-to-day operational and strategic decisions.


7 Technologies You Need to Build a Smart City

To manage smart cities through these three layers individually and together, city managers need various technologies. Here are seven technologies we think every city planner looking to transform their civil operations will want to consider.

1.   Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an infrastructure embedded with sensing and communication technology. For example, in smart cities, IoT devices could include temperature sensors in subway stations, traffic sensors on roadways, and emissions monitors on city cars and buses. IoT devices collect information and can adjust their environments based on that data or according to directions from human operators.

2.   Artificial Intelligence (AI)

City operations contain many moving parts, which would be an understatement. That is where AI management systems come in. Artificial intelligence can help with the analysis and decision-making needed to manage the hectic day-to-day operations of the world’s busiest cities.

AI smart software agents are excellent for many preventative maintenance use cases. They can monitor different metrics for anomalies and act faster than a human operator ever could. For example, an AI agent could monitor water pressure levels through various systems and identify a leak in city pipes before it causes damage.

3.   Geospatial Technology

Geospatial technologies cover a broad range of remote monitoring and sensing equipment. Geospatial systems generally map and monitor the weather and the local ecosystem and measure changes that might impact a city and its citizens. Specific technologies can include global positioning satellites (GPS), cameras and remote sensing equipment, and geographic information systems (GIS)—a suite of software tools used to map and analyze your local environment.

Geospatial technologies help you detect problems in your local ecosystem and can provide early warnings for natural disasters like floods, tornados, or wildfires. Data collected from geospatial systems can also inform how you manage your city’s power plants, water utilities, and public transit networks.

4.   Cloud Computing

You need someplace to store all the data your smart city collects. Unfortunately, on-premises data storage is no longer cost-effective for many organizations, including cities that might be contending with tight IT budgets. Instead, smart city planners should leverage the low-cost storage options available through cloud computing services.

5.   Analytics

Smart cities have data coming in at high velocity. If your analytics take too long to process, you will not generate meaningful insights. Along with cloud storage, city planners need to use the latest big data analytics tools to keep up with the volume and velocity of their smart city data acquisition.

6.   Mobile Devices

They may sound unimportant in the grand scheme of all these other technologies, but smartphones and other mobile devices play a huge role in smart cities. Smartphones act as mobile sensing and communications devices that citizens and city workers can carry into hard-to-reach locations not otherwise accessible to IoT or other sensing equipment. They can generate steady streams of information about traffic flow through a city and deliver context-sensitive information back to users.

7.   ITSM/ESM Services

Smart cities run on data. That data needs to be collected and analyzed on a central platform. One emerging type of central coordination is enterprise service management (ESM). ESM software like C2 takes the principles of service management that originated in information technology and applies them to other business and civic service-focused operations—notably a city’s public service agencies.

For example, you can use ESM software to manage service requests of your parks department, non-emergency police and fire services, and even special project requests. The service management process is compelling because it works for internal and external requests. You can just as easily use ESM software to manage a citizen's request as you could a coworker from another city agency.


What are the benefits of implementing smart city technologies?

Smart city technologies integrate information and communication technology (ICT) with urban infrastructure to enhance citizens' overall efficiency, sustainability, and quality of life. Here are some specific benefits:

Improved Infrastructure Efficiency

Smart city technologies enable better management and optimization of infrastructure systems such as traffic lights, public transportation, energy distribution, and waste management. This leads to reduced energy consumption, optimized traffic flow, and more efficient resource use.

Enhanced public safety

Implementation of smart surveillance systems, emergency response networks, and predictive analytics helps improve public safety. Cities can respond to incidents more effectively, identify potential risks, and deploy resources efficiently.

Resilience and disaster management

Smart city technologies enhance a city's resilience by improving disaster preparedness and response capabilities. Real-time monitoring and data analysis enable quicker responses to emergencies and natural disasters.

Sustainable environmental practices

Smart city solutions contribute to environmental sustainability by monitoring and managing energy consumption, waste production, and emissions. This reduces environmental impact and helps combat climate change.

Increased quality of life for citizens

Smart city technologies can improve residents' overall quality of life by providing better access to public services, healthcare, and education. Smart applications can also facilitate civic engagement and participation.

Support for economic growth and innovation

Though the initial investment in smart city infrastructure may be significant, the long-term benefits include cost savings through optimized resource utilization, reduced maintenance expenses, and streamlined city operations. This attracts more businesses and investment by fostering an environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. Advanced technology infrastructure and services can create new economic opportunities and job markets.


It's important to note that successful implementation requires careful planning, collaboration among stakeholders, data privacy and security measures, and a strong focus on addressing potential challenges and concerns to ensure that smart city technologies truly benefit all citizens.

Setup Your City for Success in the 21st Century with ESM by C2

C2 is an all-in-one service management platform that helps city agencies collaborate and deliver better service. C2 can improve your operations for your projects, citizen-facing service requests, or data transparency. It is a codeless, cloud-native solution, so it is easy for agencies with limited resources to spin up independently.