Editorial Commentary

Over the past few years, definitions of the term “smart cities” have proliferated. There are now hundreds of interpretations for what constitutes a smart city and, as a result, the concept has never been more widely applied… or more contested. While a unified theory of the smart city might not be forthcoming anytime soon, this has not impacted on-the-ground implementation in those cities that already recognize the value. There is a need to be conscious of not just focussing on the quality of the technology, rather the quality of life improved by these innovations.

The global smart city market continues to experience significant and rapid growth, and this growth is prompting questions about smart cities that go beyond definitions and interpretations. Questions such as: what actually constitutes smart city technology, as opposed to technology being applied within a city? How does smart city technology respond to the needs of citizens and enhance quality of life? And how do we know if smart city projects are helping us do more with less, creating economic value?

Together with our Global Strategic Member, Cisco, we have asked six experts to share their perspectives on the present and future of smart cities.

Thanks for your interest in this publication and we invite your feedback.

Cisco was one of the earliest companies to recognize, more than a decade ago, how the economic, social and environmental trends were pointing to a quantum shift in the ways cities would be structured and managed. That coupled with rapid technological innovation and exponential reduction in technology costs signaled a perfect storm for what the World Economic Forum is calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what we recognize as today’s burgeoning smart cities movement.

Cisco is pleased and proud to partner with NewCities and sponsor the Big Picture publication on Recalibrating the Smart City. We’ve worked together to assemble a panel of thoughtful experts on this new frontier. Each has lent his/her perspective to the vision, application, measurement, assessment and understanding of how smart city technologies, philosophies, priorities and policies are being developed, deployed and evaluated in various parts of the developed and emerging world today.

This assembly includes technology leaders (from Engie and Cisco) whose products and services both drive and reflect the ways in which urbanization, resource issues and environmental concerns have created the imperative for cities to get smarter in the how they manage and offer urban services to citizens. It includes the voices of city and project leaders (from a variety of medium-sized cities in the UK and Turkey) who are currently involved in evaluating options, gathering opinions, making key decisions, taking risks and seeking the right balance to help their cities become more efficient, livable, sustainable, transparent and secure. We also hear from a researcher in the UK committed to documenting, measuring, and evaluating what success can and should look like in smart cities in the UK and determine the extent to which lessons learned from this set of multicity initiatives could yield a standardization framework that could be applied more broadly.

All of these voices share several common themes:

  • First, all agree that a smart city definition varies widely, but, in a practical sense, all smart cities should focus less on technology and more on improving city livability and citizen satisfaction.
  • Second, they recognize that smart city projects are complex and require an agile, flexible approach and a collaboration between global and local providers, public and private revenue sources, and government and citizen participants.
  • Lastly, they all recognize that achieving the right balance of data transparency with data security is critical and will likely require constant vigilance.

For Cisco’s part, all of these elements have been central to the development of its Smart+Connected Communities practice. Built on three decades of expertise in networking and data security, Cisco works closely with its partner ecosystem and its customers to develop solutions, services and standards that will help cities define and manage their own unique journeys to becoming smart. Cisco also recently launched the City Infrastructure Financing Acceleration Program (CIFAP) to help qualified cities and urban services operators secure creative, flexible financing for their smart city initiatives—often a significant roadblock to making smart city aspirations a reality.