smart-city

What Is a Smart City?

Many share the hope that today’s troubled urban centers can be transformed into tomorrow’s smart cities. In the past few years, this term has become popular in the world of economic development, which is all about improving the economic, political and social wellbeing of people. Pinpointing an exact definition of a smart city can be challenging. Smart cities seek to transform the outdated landscape of urban hubs into viable, sustainable, livable spaces that often use the latest technology infrastructure to improve the lives of residents and attract new businesses and inhabitants. With some help from our sister publication Knowledge@Wharton, here are some different dimensions of today’s smart-city revolution:

Transforming the chaos. To understand smart cities is to recognize the problems with the “dumb” ones. Existing cities come with baggage like limited budgets, traffic jams, pollution, old zoning regulations, neglected infrastructure (bridges and roads) and no end of political divisions. Often their technology is outdated and inconsistent — one city department is up to date, while another is still operating in outdated software. It’s the ability to address these kinds of issues that has made the concept of smart cities so attractive to so many people. The goal of smart cities is not to create showplaces for technology but, the Smart Cities Council says, to use information and communications technology — smart sensors, the Internet of Things (a structure connecting everyday objects like vehicles and home appliances through sensors, software and electronics) and machine learning — to enhance “livability, workability, and sustainability” for the residents of major cities like Miami, New York and Philadelphia.

Take, for example, Philadelphia, a Pennsylvania, U.S., city that was one of only five urban areas to receive a Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge grant in 2017. Philadelphia has been working hard on its smart city blueprint. Both technologists and neighborhood development groups are talking now, for instance, about how smart technology and Big Data can help meet the needs of neighborhoods where basic literacy and internet access are pressing problems. While Philadelphia has long been a leader in digital inclusion (the city has a network of more than 50 community-based public computer-access centers), bridging the digital divide is high on its list of smart city goals. This is just one example of how a city looks to become “smarter” for its residents.

It’s a global mission. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a consulting company, identifies rapid urbanization as one of five megatrends transforming our planet. PwC reports that cities are “hungry, global economic engines and the economic powerhouse of the global economy,” with more than 1 million people added to the global urban population every week. It makes sense that a lot of economists, technologists and engineers worldwide are figuring out how to make cities better and smarter. India is a high-profile example. In the past few years, the country has been working on a massive smart-city mission “to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘smart’ solutions,” according to India’s Ministry of Urban Development, which is spearheading the smart cities program. In 2016, India announced the first 20 cities targeted in its 100-city plan. Barcelona, Spain; London, England; and Singapore are among other global cities that are working toward smarter technologies, buildings, utilities, and transportation and road infrastructure.

Where there’s ‘smart,’ there’s innovation. Any combination of technology and better living inspires innovators in places like Silicon Valley in California, U.S. One example is Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet that focuses on urban innovation. Its goal is “reimaging cities to improve quality of life.” The company is reportedly creating a new type of city to accelerate urban innovation and serve as a beacon for cities around the world.

You also have all the pieces that help to rebuild that smart city, such as the smart bike market. Ofo and Mobike invented the dockless bike-sharing market in China (picture bright yellow bikes lined up for public use). One of the latest startups to join this space is California-based LimeBike, which received $50 million in investment late last year to expand its operations in the U.S. How does this fit into the smart-city model? More available bikes mean accessible transportation for residents, fewer cars on the road, and less impact on infrastructure and the environment.

Garbage trucks fuel a new way of thinking. The smart-city revolution requires creativity as well as connectivity. Experts gather at forums, seminars, symposiums and conferences to exchange ideas and address the challenges inherent in creating cities of the future. Building smart cities often means using existing services and resources in an entirely different and unexpected way.

Rubicon Global is a technology company focused on improving the efficiency and sustainability of commercial waste – as in, garbage. About a year ago, the company began to adapt its smart technology for use in cities. According to Michael Allegretti, Rubicon’s senior vice president for policy and strategy initiatives, one of the company’s goals was to use its technology to serve the needs of both sanitation and sustainability departments, “which are historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals.” In other words, the idea was to get city departments that tend to work in isolation to start communicating with each other.

Equipped with Rubicon technology, garbage trucks in certain cities now collect and share data with both sanitation and sustainability departments in the cities. Sensors in the trucks gather data that helps improve the efficiency of trash collection (when is trash being picked up, how well are different routes and trucks performing), while other data (what’s in the waste, how does that vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, what are recycling contamination rates) increases the amount of waste being diverted from landfills.

Rubicon envisions ways its technology can bring together other siloed departments as well. “We want to turn the garbage truck into a roving data center,” said Allegretti. “Garbage trucks are going up and down every street in every city in the world at least once a week. That’s a huge untapped potential for governments.” As they collect garbage, the truck can also collect information on everything from downed power lines to abandoned cars, from air quality to noise levels. And this data can be updated on a weekly basis. “My definition of a smart city is an interconnected one,” said Allegretti. “If we get all the departments playing off the same sheet of music, it would be a big step. And garbage trucks, of all things, can be the thing that collects all that information, brings it back to one place and distributes it to all the different departments so they can act on it.”

Conversation Starters

What is a smart city and why is this transformation necessary?

Do you live in an urban area? If so, have you seen examples of smart city transformation? Share your story in the comments section of this article.

How is Rubicon using garbage trucks to pave the way toward smarter cities? What does it mean when the story says that sanitation and sustainability departments were "historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals?”

26 thoughts on “What Is a Smart City?

  1. I agree with this article because I believe it would be beneficial to have smart cities in the US and across the world. They would be better for the environment, have more efficient technology, and be aesthetically pleasing, of course.

  2. A smart city is a city created or developed in hopes of using information and communications technology to organize a city that enhances livability, workability, and sustainability. Smart cities are created to substitute poor or under-developed areas, in order to establish improved limited budgeting, traffic, pollution, old zoning regulations, neglected infrastructure, and no end of political divisions. Cities looking forward to designing ‘smart’ cities are also looking into the a positive future as these cities can provide a great deal of benefits.

  3. A smart city seeks to improve the economic, political, and social well being of people worldwide. It is determined by its effective use of technological advancement to the benefit of its citizens. Today’s cities have so much potential to not only enhance the technology, but utilize it to transform a simple urban, overpopulated city to an innovative center that works in conjunction with other centers to improve our world not only economically, but socially. However, allocation of resources has been poor and that’s why we have so many cities with both very spectacular landscapes and gruesome streets. There can never be a perfect city, but if the departments of different areas of the city work together, different areas can be improved to enhance our lifestyle and those that very much needed it. It is not only about using technology, but its effective use to enhance livelihoods.
    I live in Miami, FL, widely known as a big city, and it is indeed. The concept of smart city should definitely be applied to Miami as I have seen very beautiful spaces that can be explored in Miami but also many neighborhoods that are lacking of many basic necessities, experiencing poor sanitation conditions, in households with infants that are subject to diseases more easily than adults.
    In this article, Rubicon uses garbage trucks to pave the way towards smarter cities because it can collect data that can be useful to other departments in the search for enhanced “livability, workability, and sustainability.”

  4. 1. A smart city is a city where its departments, infrastructure, and technology work together to make a more efficient, safer, and sustainable city. A smart requires communication between its various departments, such as sustainability, and sanitation, and the use of sensors and big data to aspects of city life more efficient. The transformation of existing cities into smart cities is necessary since as more than 1 million people move into urban areas around the world each week, cities must adapt to their growing population in order to ensure that cities are sustainable, safe, and pleasant. Through the use organizations, such as the Smart Cities Council, cities around the world, such Barcelona and Philadelphia, are converting their cities into smart cities.

    2. I live in a suburban, called Weston, where, unfortunately, I have not seen examples smart city transformation. While the city is indeed planned and is considered rather affluent, it would appear the city’s planned nature compensates, for the seeming lack of use of technology, such as sensors communicating with departments. However, due to the circumstances of Weston’s rather high average income rates, one can speculate the city of Weston may currently be formulating a plan to transform the city into an even more efficient, sustainable place to live.

    3. The company Rubicon is using garbage trucks in order to pave the way toward smarter cities by implementing sensors into garbage trucks in order to collect data of its surroundings. By using these sensors, garbage trucks can now determine which route is most efficient and monitor the city’s condition, such as spotting abandoned cars. The collected information would then be sent to multiple departments of the city so that they can connect and communicate with each other in order to make the city more efficient. When the story says the sanitation and sustainability departments were, “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals,” the story meant that the departments of a city are often isolated from each other, never communicating, leading to each department working towards different goals.

  5. In relation to this story, a smart city aims to improve the economic, political, and social well being of people around the world. New ideas lead to innovation. Innovation leads to improving conditions for many around the world- that is why a transformation is necessary. I live in Weston,FL. This is a very safe and secluded neighborhood. We often define ourselves as living in a bubble because we do not have many problems like other communities might. However, different departments could communicate more effectively and more technological innovations could be incorporated into our lives. Rubicon is just one of the hundreds of companies that are aiming to change the world. Their garbage cars collect information from their surroundings. This could help clean up a city and increase communication among departments. More often departments fail to communicate- this refers to the difference between sanitation and sustainability departments.

  6. A smart city is a city that is much more high-tech and harms the environment less then other cities and is made to be more livable, workable, and sustainable. This transformation is necessary because of rapid urbanization and it will help cities infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens.

    I do live in an urban area and I have not seen examples of smart city transformations, but have seen that my city is trying its hardest to make sure it’s the best quality it can be.

    Rubicon is using garbage trucks to pave the way toward smarter cities by having some garbage trucks collect and share data about sanitation and sustainability.
    When the story says “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals” it means that they want city departments that usually just focus on themselves to start talking with each other and collaborate.

    1. A smart city transforms the outdated communities into a place with cutting edge technology infrastructure. This not only improves the lives of residents, but it attracts new businesses and inhabitants.

      Yes, I live in an urban area, but I have not seen many transformations. Weston, FL is a relatively new community that is up to date with the technology that has come out.

      Rubicon is using garbage trucks to pave the way toward smarter cities by using sensors to gather data that will help make things more sufficient when collecting and sorting garbage. The gathered data will be sent to several departments where the city can make use of the data. When the story says that sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals?” it means that there is not communication between all of the departments. Due to the lack of the communication it makes things harder to run smoothly.

  7. A smart city is an area that uses new technologies to appeal to residents and new businesses, replacing urban landscapes from the past. This transformation is necessary because it will replace a lot of operations ran on outdated programs such as traffic lights which are inconsistent. Smart cities will use information and communication technologies to enhance major cities.
    I live in Fort Lauderdale which is a moderately urban area that is an hour away from the major city of Miami. I have seen some smart city transformations in these areas such as bike stations and car charging stations. I have not seen many improvements on sanitation other than automatic doors which have existed for a long time, but I am sure more improvements will come up in the future.
    The technology company, Rubicon Global, aims on improving efficiency of commercial waste through advancements similar to “smart cities”. Rubicon garbage trucks now collect and share data on sanitation and sustainability departments. Where prior to this both departments worked in isolation. Now, for example, they use sensors and other data to not overfill the waste in landfills.

  8. A smart city is a place where technology is being used in creative and innovative ways. It has been transformed from an outdated and inconsistent place to an area that contains sustainable and livable places. It uses different types of technology and data collection methods in order to manage their information more efficiently and coherently. The transformation of the more rundown cities into smart cities is necessary because they give people a better way of living. As the urban population increases, the quality of the cities that the people live in needs to improve as well.

  9. A smart city is a newly improved city. Its when an older urban city is transformed to improve the city and make it better for the residents and attract others. The transformation of a city into a smart city is necessary because the city is constantly changing, and the population is also changing. Cities need to adapt to these changes; therefore, this transformation is necessary to make the city the best it can be for its residents.
    I live in Weston, Fl, which is an urban city. I recently moved here so I haven’t really seen any transformation. Although, it is a safe city, with a lot of security, but we can also have improvements.
    Rubicon is using garbage trucks to collect and share information with the sanitation and sustainability departments. Their goal was to improve communications. There are sensors on the trucks collecting data about the garbage usage and more about the garbage for the city. When the story says that sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals”, they mean that both the sanitation department and sustainability department were not communicating, and they were working separately towards different goals.

  10. 1. A smart city is a city which utilizes new technology and innovative procedures as to improve the economic, political, and social well being of its people. Smart cities improve the infrastructure of the city allowing for an elevated quality of life. This transformation is necessary to support the influx of people moving to major cities from rural areas.

    2. I do not live in an urban area but I have still seen the adaptation of smart city approaches to problems and to improve quality of life in my city. My city is able to afford newer technology and support the infrastructure required to create a smart city and have started to implement these ideas in our day to day lives.

    3. Rubicon is using garbage trucks to pave the way towards smarter cities by utilizing the routes traveled by garbage trucks to collect data about sustainability and sanitation allowing for improved efficiency. When the story says that sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals” it means that the departments were often divided and did not work together.

  11. A smart city is everything that builds it up works together to make a more efficient, safer city, requires communication the use of sensors data to aspects of city life more efficient. I live in a urban city, called Weston, i have seen a smart city transformation. You can see the work around the city, the gardens, securities, there are innovations for a safer, better city, and is also a city searched for a good living.

    3. The Rubicon company is using garbage trucks by implementing sensors into garbage trucks in order to collect data of its surroundings, garbage trucks can now determine which route is most efficient, spotting abandoned cars,information would then be sent to multiple departments of the city so that they can connect and communicate for a city more efficient. “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals,” this meant that the departments of a city are often isolated from each other, by not communicating which leads to departments not working together.

  12. A smart city is a place that uses advanced and new technology and different improvements to better the lives of the people living there. I do live in an urban area and i have seen the developments in technology over the years that i have lived here. Rubicon is using garbage trucks as a way to see what is happening around the city such as seeing abandoned cars, scanning the area for more efficient routes to go and that information would be reviewed by many departments to improve the city in making it more efficient to work. “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals”. This means that departments would not usually work together and be divided.

  13. A smart city is an urban city in which cutting-edge new adaptable technology can do new things in order to create a more efficient city system. This system involves more communication within the city between many departments. Many countries are looking to build smart cities. I do not live in an urban area but I have seen many examples of smart city transformation in some urban cities. Rubicon is using garbage trucks to efficiently collect many types of data from every area of a city at a constant rate. This data can lead to smarter cities with more communications between historically isolated departments.

  14. 1. Smart cities seek to transform the outdated landscape of urban hubs into spaces that often use the latest technological infrastructure to improve the lives of those living there and to attract new residents and businesses. The goal of smart cities is to enhance “livability, workability, and sustainability” for residents of major cities like Miami, New York and Philadelphia.
    2. I live in a suburban area where sadly we haven’t seen examples of smart city transformations, but hopefully and surely improvements will come along
    3. Rubicon is a company that focuses on improving the efficiency and sustainability of commercial waste (garbage). Their garbage trucks in certain cities now collect and share data with both sanitation and sustainability departments in the city. When the story says that sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals” it meant that their idea was to get city departments that tend to work in isolation to start communication with each other. Rubicon envisions ways its technology can bring together other siloed departments as well.

  15. 1. Smart cities seek to transform the outdated landscape of urban hubs into viable, sustainable, livable spaces that often use the latest technology infrastructure to improve the lives of residents and attract new businesses and inhabitants.
    2. I live in a suburb which is Weston, FL.
    3. Rubicon is collecting data at the same time that it is collecting trash in the cities to better understand the city. When the story talks about how sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals” it refers to that the department never had the right data to make the right decisions.

  16. A smart city is a city that is trying to change old-fashioned landscape of urban areas to build more viable, sustainable and livable spaces that usually use technology to attract new residents and businesses.
    I live in a suburban area with hasn’t been changed by the idea of smart cities.
    Rubicon takes information from the city while cleaning the trash of the streets. when the story talks about how sanitation and sustainability departments were historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals it meant that the two departments were going in different ways and are not able to work together.

  17. A smart cities seek to transform the outdated landscape of urban hubs into viable, sustainable, livable spaces that often use the latest technology infrastructure to improve the lives of residents and attract new businesses and inhabitants. The transformation from urban cities to smart cities is necessary because so many people live in these urban areas where the lives of people there are not taken care of. These people need to live in places that are more sustainable, livable, and workable.

    I do not live in an urban area. I live in a suburban city that has not seen changes by the ideas of smart cities because it is currently unnecessary.

    Rubicon is using their garbage trucks to now collect data while they also collect trash. This is magnificently efficient. The data they collect has to do with sanitation and sustainability. These trucks collect the data using sensors. What it means when the story says that sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals” is that these departments did not work together and now they work as one.

  18. A smart city is all components needed to run a city, and when they have the best of this components running together it is called a smart city. This transformation is needed to improve technologies, make economy better, and also make the population live in a better and more sustainable city.

    Yes I do live in a urban area called Weston which is located in Florida. I have not yet seeing a smart city, because this is the first time I heard about this term so I never thought of this before. Nevertheless the city that I live in is a very well planned city, but it is a city that cares a lot about the environment, and here we also don’t have big buildings such as apartments, we only have houses in here.

    Rubicon is implementing sensors in its garbage trucks so they can contribute to the evolution of smart cities by gathering informations of its surrounds with the sensors on the trucks. So Rubicon can determine which is the best route to do while collecting garbage and collecting information of its surroundings and sending it to multiple departments also helps run the city more efficiently.

  19. 1. A city that relies on the interconnection of different sectors in a city to improve the efficiency of the city. Its aim is to enhance the livability, sustainability, and work ability.
    2. I live in Weston, Florida. My city is seemingly very dumb. the only smart part I notice is that some traffic lights are smart so they change depending on the the traffic.
    3. Rubicon is connecting garbage trucks to make sure air quality is better and make sure that their garbage routs are ass efficient as possible. Sanitation departments historical only cared about picking up the trash.Not necessarily being sustainable and green.

  20. A smart city is one that has the desire to change the old landscape of urban cities into “viable, sustainable, livable spaces.” The goal of smart cities is to improve the lives of its inhabitants. Moreover, smart cities have the ability to increase business relations.
    I do live in a suburban area; however, there are still efforts made to be a smart city. Some changes that I have noticed are stop lights meant for bicyclists. Moreover, recycling is strongly encouraged as well as other ways to use energy efficiently. Around town, there are always clean-ups held for the community. Even though there are not large buildings where I live, my town does make efforts to be a smart city.
    Rubican garbage trucks are collecting information and sharing it with sanitation and sustainability departments. The trucks make collecting garbage more efficient. When the story talks about the departments being siloed and working towards different policy goals, it meant to say that the sanitation and sustainability departments were focused on their own goals; however, now they are working together to help with the transformation of smart cities.

  21. What is a smart city and why is this transformation necessary?
    Smart cities are those that replace or update various structures in a city to allow for more efficient, effective, green functioning of different important aspects of a city such as transportation or advertising.

    Do you live in an urban area? If so, have you seen examples of smart city transformation? Share your story in the comments section of this article.
    I live in a suburban neighborhood, but nonetheless, I too have seen different examples of smart city transformation through upgrades such as solar street lights and light up stop signs.

    How is Rubicon using garbage trucks to pave the way toward smarter cities? What does it mean when the story says that sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals?”

    Rubicon plans on facilitating the routine trash collective services of dump trucks to collect data revealing sanitation, info about downed lines or obstacles in the city or neighborhoods, as well as which routes most efficiently hit the most homes conserving the resources used to run the trucks. Sanitation and sustainability departments had different priorities that tended to favor businesses rather than the public, but now with the public’s interests in mind, we will soon see these policy goals begin to change.

  22. a smart cities seek to transform the outdated landscape of urban hubs into viable, sustainable, livable spaces that often use the latest technology infrastructure to improve the lives of residents and attract new businesses and inhabitants. The transformation from urban cities to smart cities is necessary because so many people live in these urban areas where the lives of people there are not taken care of. These people need to live in places that are more sustainable, livable, and workable.

    I do not live in an urban area. I live in a suburban city that has not seen changes by the ideas of smart cities because it is currently unnecessary.

    Rubicon is using their garbage trucks to now collect data while they also collect trash. This is magnificently efficient. The data they collect has to do with sanitation and sustainability. These trucks collect the data using sensors. What it means when the story says that sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals” is that these departments did not work together and now they work as one.

  23. A smart city is an urban area includes high technology to reduce pollution, traffic jams, and limited budgets. Transforming the “dumb” cities can help improve the quality of life of countless people of urban communities. Not only will the transformation benefit the people of today, but it also helps the future generations into living in a better and cleaner world.
    I live in an urban area, but my community stays clean and comfy. Nature is respected since the city is next to the Everglades. I personally have not stepped in a smart city, nor have I seen them in person; however I have watched online videos about them.
    Rubicon is collecting trash and data at the same time to help improve the quality of the air, and the lives of many people. Different departments of this goal is partnering together to help change the Earth little by little for the better.

  24. A smart city is the city that works efficiently with the use of technology. The transformation is necessary because it will save the city money and the city will work better.

    Yes, I live in an urban area (if you define suburbia as urban), but there was no such transformation in my city nor in the downtown area. Instead of making the city more efficient, our Weston city administration is more concerned about banning any kind of businesses in most areas/ making harsh zoning.

    Rubicon suggested using garbage trucks to collect date around the city, therefore constantly updating the condition of the city. By saying that sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically siloed and working towards totally different policy goals, the author meant that both departments didn’t work together before creating smart cities.

  25. What is a smart city and why is this transformation necessary?
    A smart city is a city that is much more high-tech and harms the environment less then other cities and is made to be more livable, workable, and sustainable. This transformation is necessary because of rapid urbanization and it will help cities infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens.

    Do you live in an urban area? If so, have you seen examples of smart city transformation? Share your story in the comments section of this article.

    I live in an urban area, and I have not seen examples of smart city transformations, but have seen that my city is trying its hardest to make sure it’s the best quality it can be.

    How is Rubicon using garbage trucks to pave the way toward smarter cities? What does it mean when the story says that sanitation and sustainability departments were “historically soiled and working towards totally different policy goals?”

    Rubicon uses garbage trucks to pave the way toward “smart cities” by having some garbage trucks collect and share data about sanitation and sustainability. When the story says “historically soiled and working towards totally different policy goals” it means that they want city departments that usually just focus on themselves to start talking with each other and collaborate.

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