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Smart City

What is a smart city? 

The term smart city first appeared at the end of the 20th century with the implementation of new technologies and communications for running cities. As an emerging concept, its definition is still constantly changing and being revised.

A smart city is a complex, interconnected system that applies new technologies to manage a wide variety of city services more efficiently, such as the public and private transit systems, energy and water resources, civil protection plans, the vitality of public and commercial spaces, communicating incidents, etc.

The smart city concept is based on four essential ideas:

  1. Environmental and energy issues.
  2. Fluid communication between the actors in the urban fabric: citizens, companies, institutions.
  3. Shared use of goods and services, with active participation from users in their conception and development.
  4. Integration of new information and communication technologies, robotics and smart transportation systems, and changes in the behavior and use of citizens.

What are the characteristics of a smart city?

Smart cities usually have:

  • Devices that measure traffic in real-time in order to inform drivers so that they can plan their routes better and to facilitate urban development decisions (urbanization policies, layout and widening of roads, etc.).
  • Devices that display which public parking lots and car and bicycle rental points are occupied in real-time to optimize traffic flow and the use of spaces and transportation vehicles.
  • Real-time geolocation of public transport vehicles for precise estimation and monitoring of schedules and itineraries.
  • Devices that measure how full garbage containers are to optimize collection.
  • Real-time measurement of pollution levels (CO2, ozone, water quality) to alert the population and improve public policies on the matter.
  • Alerts on dangers (floods, fires, storms, hurricanes) to enact the proper prevention and response mechanisms (such as preventive evacuations, relief services, etc.).
  • Urban video surveillance.

What are the top 7 smart cities in the world? 

New York

This city is undergoing a digital transformation through public and private sector projects to achieve more responsive governance, save on costs, and increase efficiency. They work with cutting-edge technology to get the most out of the Internet of Things and personal devices.


This capital has a development plan that includes transportation strategies (driverless vehicles), telecommunications (free WiFi hotspots), and ecology (eco-friendly and green buildings to reduce the impact of emissions). Its population, which is already very dense, is expected to grow even more in the next decade.


Its Smart Nation program started in 2014. This entailed the installation of many sensors around the city to collect information about what citizens usually do. They can measure everything from the area’s level of cleanliness to the number of people attending an event.


The local administration has developed a series of apps to keep citizens informed and involved in the city’s events, and they are working on offering a free WiFi network throughout the city.


This city stands out among smart cities for its interest in creating a sustainable, ecological environment. It has 650,000 LED bulbs connected to processing stations to adjust the power of the light according to the need at different times. Oslo is also using license plate readers to analyze traffic and develop a new transportation network.


Currently, it is a kind of testing ground for some of the smart city technologies being developed by Google through its parent company, Alphabet, which operates Sidewalk Labs. The plan is to achieve a community centered around technology, and it tackles issues such as urban sprawl, climate change, efficiency, and affordability.


It focuses much of its efforts on being smart in terms of energy. Some of their strategies are to store energy locally and use electric vehicles.

What benchmarks are there in terms of smart cities in Spain?

In Spain, Madrid, Barcelona, Vitoria, and Pamplona are all examples of sustainable cities that offer their citizens a good quality of life.

A territory considered to be smart has a multidimensional and multifaceted character, where many actors related to logistics, energy, telecommunications, and administration participate. With its multiple business units related to transportation and services, the Spanish company Ferrovial is a key player in many aspects that make up a smart city.

Fun facts about Smart Cities

  • The first smart city in history can be said to be ancient Rome. There, urban planning and instruments to serve citizens were developed.
  • In Spain, 80% of the population lives in cities.

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