A Simple Guide to Smart City Planning and Development

A Simple Guide To Smart City Planning And Development

A Simple Guide to Smart City Planning and Development


Cities currently generate around 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the World Economic Forum reveals. They’re also going to be hit hard by the climate change they cause (which means cities will experience extreme flooding, heatwaves, droughts, and water scarcity in the near future).

Smart cities — those that integrate Internet of Things and other technology into city infrastructure and services — promise to fight the impact of climate change, and make cities a more sustainable (and convenient) place to live. If you’re a city leader looking to make your city smart, it’s important to take a streamlined, methodical approach to project management. By developing a long-term plan, automating with technology, and prioritizing people over technology, you can successfully make the transition to smart city as seamless and easy as possible.

Develop a long-term plan

As full-scale smart cities don’t develop overnight, you need to come up with a long-term strategy to guide the project — one that covers at least the next ten years of development. Technology is a good starting point for this. So, think about the city’s current level of technology, and how you want it to develop over the years. A smart street lighting system, for example, can be rolled-out relatively fast and easy. This technology uses motion sensors to automatically turn street lights on whenever movement’s detected, and back off again; it’s a great way to save energy and prevent light pollution, while still keeping streets well-lit at night. 

This installation generates a fast return on investment and its value is easy to see, which is just the sort of thing you want to start off your project with. So, think of more installations along these lines (connected surveillance cameras, for example, can generate data used in traffic management, environmental monitoring, and law enforcement). With a few small successes under your belt, you can then work your way onto bigger projects. Always include milestones and key metrics in your development plans. These let you monitor progress and keep your project on track. 

Use technology to automate mundane tasks 

Technology can also streamline smart city project management, so you can get more done on a faster timeline. In fact, when it’s used correctly, automation technology, in particular, can take care of activities that otherwise eat up around 60-70% of employees’ time on average, McKinsey reveals.

For example, AI is one of the latest project management trends that can automate basic yet time-consuming jobs — things like calendar scheduling, document editing, organizing and responding to basic emails, and entering, editing, and managing data. By incorporating AI automation into your smart city project development, you (and your employees) will suddenly have more time to focus on high-value tasks and put your skills and creative thinking abilities to better use. 

Put people first 

Smart cities may run on technology, but people need to remain the real priority throughout project development. Whereas businesses create buyer personas to understand customer needs, preferences, motivations, and pain points, you can similarly consider how exactly your smart city can solve everyday problems to make peoples’ lives easier.

For example, think about the process someone goes through when they need to contact the city directly. Maybe you want to follow in Boston’s footsteps, and introduce an app that makes it quick and easy for residents to report maintenance issues. People use the app to snap photos of potholes, graffiti, or broken streetlights, and the city quickly rectifies the problem. They even take a picture of the repair job and send it back to the person who reported it.  

Alternatively, in Chicago, citizens can access via an app real-time data on environmental conditions on their street. 500 modular sensor nodes have been installed on interconnected, smart streetlights throughout the city. These nodes generate key data on air quality, temperature, traffic, and noise levels. Easy access to this data makes citizens feel a part of the city, and helps them make decisions that improve their lives (for example, they can check the app before heading out, and avoid congested, high-traffic routes). 

As smart cities can improve people’s quality of life and prevent climate change, they have the potential to shape a sustainable future for all. By taking careful steps to make your city smart, you can make this transition as smooth, seamless, and successful as possible.