What is a smart city and what is its definition?

A smart city is an intelligent city that integrates digital technologies into its networks, services and infrastructure. It means smart urban transportation networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities and more efficient ways to light and heat buildings. It also means a more interactive and responsive city administration and safer public spaces, according to the European Commission. A smart and sustainable city uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve quality of life, efficiency and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the smart city definition includes elements such as widespread home connectivity and Wi-Fi in public areas, intelligent infrastructure, smart electricity meters, open data, and e-government.


Smart city: characteristics and features

The characteristics of a smart city include digitalized buildings, infrastructure, mobility, homes, and energy.

  • Smart buildings

Smart buildings are designed for optimal performance: they are energy efficient, fully electrified, powered by renewable sources, and integrated with advanced digitalized energy management systems.


  • Smart infrastructure

Another characteristic is that their smart infrastructure — such as park benches, bus shelters and street lights — is embedded with digital technologies, interconnected, modular and multifunctional.


  • Smart mobility

Residents of smart cities get around thanks to smart mobility: electric cars, buses and other vehicles both public and private, powered by renewable energy distributed through digitalized charging stations that are networked together and accessible via an app.


  • Smart energy

Enabling smart energy systems to power our cities is key to switching from fossil fuels to renewables. This means using smart power grids to bring renewable energy into our urban areas, coupled with battery energy storage systems run by software platforms to maximize efficiency.


  • Smart technology

Because they are digitalized, smart cities can be managed for efficiency and energy savings. For example, city managers and administrators can use platforms such as Enel X’s City Analytics in order to plan infrastructure and services based on real demand.

This has great benefits for the quality of urban life.


  • Smart homes

Residents of smart cities live in smart homes that maximize their power resources and minimize their energy spending. Smart homes integrate intelligent domestic devices and appliances as well as heating, cooling and security systems that can all be controlled remotely by a single app.


How a smart city works

Smart cities use Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as connected sensors, lights, and meters to collect and analyze data. The cities use this data to improve infrastructure, public utilities and services, and to make everyday tasks easier and more efficient while enhancing public safety, traffic, and environmental issues. Smart cities employ strategies such as green urbanism to reduce the city's ecological footprint and help it to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


The importance of smart cities: benefits and advantages

The benefits of a smart city include enhanced quality of life for its inhabitants, cleaner air, less pollution, savings on energy bills, and a reduced carbon footprint for the city as a whole, making it more sustainable and resilient. All of these advantages also mean that a smart city is more equipped to follow the five pillars of the circular economy model: recycle/reuse, sustainable inputs such as renewable energy, product-as-a-service, sharing platforms, and product life extension.


Why are circular cities so important?

Circular cities follow the circular economy model, which replaces the current linear take-make-waste paradigm with a circular one that closes the loop between extraction of resources, manufacturing, consumption, and waste. A circular city uses smart city technology and recycled materials to build and manage its infrastructure, and it uses renewable energy to electrify its services. It doesn't waste precious finite resources and reuses them as much as possible. In short, smart cities that go circular are essential to meeting the Paris Agreement targets for climate neutrality and biodiversity protection to the benefit of present and future generations.

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