Framework defines a smart city, how to build one

City officials often do not know where to begin with their smart city planning because there are varying definitions of what a smart city is and the technology involved is complex. 

A new report, "Business Strategy: Smart City Strategies, IDC Government Insights' Smart City Framework," provides a framework for conceptualizing what a smart city is in concrete terms. The report also examines the drivers of smart city growth, the key technologies and processes involved, and detailed guidance for both city officials and vendors, IDC officials said.

Over the past few years, technological advancements have created the right environment for smart city solutions such as pervasive wireless and broadband connections, advanced analytics software, intelligent sensors, the proliferation of mobile devices and the use of social media. Vendors can integrate all of these types of technologies to provide solutions for city governments, IDC officials said.

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A smart city is defined as a finite unit or entity with its own governing authority that is more local than the federal or national level and uses a specific set of technologies to achieve the explicit goal of improving the lives of its citizens through sustainable development, according to IDC Government Insights.

The report defines a city as a financial, commercial, social and cultural hub and an ecosystem of infrastructure and citizen services defined as “domains” by IDC Government Insights. Those domains include public safety, transportation, citizen services, education, energy, water, buildings and health care.

Currently, most cities are deploying, or have deployed, a smart solution in one or two domains. But the solutions are still separated from each other, mimicking the way most government departments operate.

"City leaders are looking to invest in smart city solutions to leverage their existing IT, data and human resources more effectively, and provide better services to citizens,” said Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, research director with IDC Government Insights.

Vendors are rapidly reorganizing around smart city services offerings, and in this context, IDC Government Insights has provided a framework document for understanding smart city solutions, Yesner Clarke said.

IBM is a major vendor actively involved in deploying smart city solutions in city governments worldwide. In March, the company selected 33 cities worldwide — eight in the United States — to receive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants during 2012. The Smarter Cities Challenge, launched in 2011, is a competitive grant program awarding $50 million worth of IBM expertise over three years to 100 cities around the globe. Designed to deal with the wide range of challenges facing cities today, these grants have addressed topics including urban agriculture and public safety.

Based on the IDC report, to become a smart city, a city must have an explicit smart city mission statement around sustainable urban development and specific citizen quality-of-life issues.

Departments initiating smart city solutions should also have mission statements with specific goals regarding a more sustainable and livable urban environment and improved services. Examples of goals could include using smart technologies to reduce crime, carbon emissions, benefits fraud or traffic congestion. The most successful implementations will engage citizens and private entities to define strategic direction and city priorities and create a technology road map, the report states.

“IDC Government Insights believes Smart Cities are the city of the future," Yesner Clarke said. "Those cities that fail to start the smart city journey now will be left behind in terms of attractiveness to investors and residents."

For information on purchasing reports, contact [email protected].


About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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