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Smart Cities Technology, Characteristics and Its Future

by | Apr 25, 2022 | Community, Utopia

Last Updated on August 27, 2022

Today, more than 56.2% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. By mid-century, the world population will reach 9.8 billion, 68% of which will reside in cities. This means that 6.6 billion people live in urban areas by 2050.

Even if cities only cover 1% of the world’s surface, it is not surprising to learn that urban activities are responsible for 70% of the global carbon emission while also consuming around 75% of the world’s energy supply.

And that number is expected to get worse as the world population increases and moves into towns. More people means higher demand for infrastructure and resources. Because people will need and want the resource as everybody else.

Why do we need smart city?

A city is very important for a country. More than half of the world’s population called cities their home because they are a hub of innovation, finance, education, creativity, development, and employment.

Metropolis also offer better healthcare, education, a higher standard of living, and better quality of life. Moreover, cities are very important to stimulate a country’s economy as well as progress. They account for 80% of the world’s GDP.

However, even if cities offer a lot of facilities, they also have some inconveniences. They are faced with the challenge of increasing demand for housing, employment, resource (water, electricity, and more), and an aging population.

Cities are densely populated areas, resulting in a lot of waste, pollution, traffic, and increase energy and water consumption. The global solid waste generated in 2020 was estimated at 2.24 billion tonnes and this number is projected to reach 3.88 billion tonnes by 2050.

Waste management is an expensive endeavor and goes unregulated. In developing countries, over 90% of wastes are disposed of in unregulated landfills or openly burned resulting in serious environmental consequences and health issues.

Moreover, it is estimated that there are around 1.45 billion vehicles in the world in 2022. Traffic congestion is becoming more and more concerning in the city resulting in loss of productive time and even stress. And more traffic says more pollution.

A study reveals that noise in cities is the biggest health risk. And citizens are highly exposed to air pollution. It is estimated that almost 90% of the population breathes potentially harmful air.

Moreover, sewage management is a real issue in urban areas because it is costly and often taken for granted. More than 359 billion cubic meters of wastewater are generated each year. The lack of treatment plants and facilities results in huge amounts of sewage being spewed into cities’ waterways.

Improper sewage treatment can spread diseases. it also pollutes waterways which further worsens the water crisis the world is already facing. More than 1.1 billion people don’t have access to water.

Moreover, around 2.7 billion people face water scarcity at least one month a year. Lack of infrastructure maintenance, inefficient usage, and wastage is the major cause of the water crisis we are facing.

To make matter worse, urban areas are densely populated and highly vulnerable to climate change. Since 1880, human activity has risen the global temperature by 1.1 degrees leading to global warming. Experts argue that global warming should not exceed 1.5 degrees otherwise the consequences will be disastrous.

With rising temperatures, cities are under the threat of the heat island effect which is increased temperature due to heat traps as a result of urban development covering natural land. Heat island effects lead to health issues and even deaths.

Moreover, global warming is giving rise to seawater levels, threatening the lives of more than 2.4 billion living within 100km of an oceanic coast. And as the population increases, so does the demand for resources which puts even more pressure on the environment.

Hence, urban areas are faced with a lot of challenges. Not just from an environmental perspective but also for social well-being, economic vitality, sense of community, and connectedness. Most of the challenges are due to inefficient management. Hence new solutions for managing cities are needed.

Making cities smart, connected and digital seems to be the most logical idea for urban sustainability as well as a sustainable future. In the 21st century, metropolis around the world are reinventing themselves through smart city initiatives to face the increasing difficulty of meeting the needs of citizens.

We are living in the digital age where technology is making human life easier. Hence, cities are counting on technology to provide solutions to increase efficiency and improve the management of assets and resources. So what is a smart city?

What is a smart city?

Smart city is an approach that combines technology in urban design and planning to make them more livable, efficient, and sustainable. According to the European Commission, a smart city is one that makes use of digital technology in its networks, services, and infrastructure.

The use of digital technology can turn a traditional metropolis into an intelligent city. A smart metropolis is sometimes referred to as a sustainable city because it meets citizens’ present needs and ensures future generations will have the chance of benefiting from the same resources.

A smart city is an equitable place that uses technology to improve the quality of life for its citizens. The UNECE defines this concept as one that includes widespread connectivity in every infrastructure. Connecting every infrastructure to monitor activity and resource usage to avoid wastage. Hence creating a sustainable smart city.

While the definition of a smart city is often debatable, most agree that it includes the use of technology to collect data for real-time analysis to improve services for citizens. The value of a smart city lies in technology. The use of technology help to optimize the urban’s functionality as well as economic growth.

Features of a smart city

A smart city is a city of the future that uses information and communication technology to improve the quality of life for its citizens, manage its resources efficiently, and engage with its hinterland.

A smart city has the following features:

  • The use of sensors to collect data and monitor the environment, infrastructure, and activities of its citizens.
  • The use of data analytics and artificial intelligence to gain insight and make better decisions about how to allocate resources.
  • A focus on sustainability in all aspects including energy, waste management, and transportation.
  • Cyber resiliency through a robust network of devices, intelligent systems, and cybersecurity creates a balance between efficiency and data privacy.
  • And a focus on citizens well being, health and engagement through connectivity and better education, healthcare, and technological infrastructure.

Characteristics of s smart city

Smart city technology creates an intelligent environment by utilizing advanced technology and innovation to optimize and enhance the efficiency of urban operations and activity. Doing so leads to cost reduction and efficient use of resources.

A smart city’s main components:

  • Smart infrastructure –  is about connecting infrastructure to collect data to improve decision-making processes. Connected infrastructure collect, monitor, measures, and analyze data about daily activities to improve city efficiency.
  • Smart buildings – are infrastructures that use technology to increase efficiency and optimize resource usage within the building. Smart building is an economical use of resources as well as an intelligent way of increasing occupant comfort and security.
  • Smart mobility – is about creating an intelligent traffic and transportation system that is efficient, safe, convenient, and environment friendly. It is also about ride-sharing, walking, biking, and using electric transport.
  • Smart power grids – is an efficient electricity transmission systems that reduce industry emissions, restore power fast after disturbance, decrease operation and management costs, and more importantly lower the electricity bill of consumers.
  • Smart energy – is the efficient use and management of energy. It is creating a balance between production and distribution to avoid wastage. It is also about using energy-efficient devices.
  • Smart security – is about monitoring activity to provide real-time alerts, threat detection, video surveillance, and analytics. This can alert authorities in case of anomalies and danger. This can save and protect live and increases citizens’ safety.
  • Smart water management – uses technology to monitor usage, save, cut costs, and improve reliability, transparency, and distribution of water. It also helps diagnose the infrastructure to prevent leakage and anomalies. It is an important approach to addressing water issues in cities.
  • Smart waste management – is about developing a new waste handling and disposal system. It is about categorizing, reducing, and recycling waste. It is also using technology for collecting, monitoring, and processing waste or even turning them into energy. The smart waste management market is expected to reach USD 6.52 billion by 2026.
  • Smart community – is about using technology, connectivity, and data to improve efficiency, problem-solving, and decision-making to create new opportunities for organizations, businesses, public institutions, and citizens. It’s also about improving economic development and reducing the environmental footprint.
  • Smart health systems – is focusing on the well-being of citizens through the use of connected devices. Remote patient monitoring and the internet of medical things are used to collect data to provide quality healthcare and reduce costs. It also helps prevent pandemics and is very useful for the aging society.
  • Smart governance –is focused on transparency, accountability, and engagement to facilitate access to government information and interaction with authorities.
  • Smart economy – use digital technology to create a value-based economic system that is innovative, efficient, sustainable, and provides social welfare. It is a new entrepreneurial approach that increases the innovation and competitiveness of the economy.
  • Smart citizen – is about empowering and encouraging continuous learning. Reducing inequality and allowing everybody to have access to quality education to develop knowledge and skills. In return, citizens are more engaging and creative which is beneficial to the economy.
  • Smart living – develop infrastructure that promotes good quality of life and health for citizens. It uses different advances to give people new opportunities and ways of living.
  • Smart space – is an area outfitted with sensors to collect data to facilitate services. Smart spaces can decrease the stress of everyday life. Citizens can get real-time information about the current condition of the city through spatial anchoring.
  • Smart home – is a dwelling packed with the latest technologies. A smart home is a home setup that contains internet enable appliances that can be controlled remotely with a device.  These appliances exchange data to improve the ease of living of homeowners as well as perform specific tasks automatically.
  • Smart office – The growing use of smart home automation technology is driving the growth of IoT and hybrid working. Today’s office space needs to be digital, flexible, responsive, and safe while balancing the needs of workers, tenants, and the environment. These demands are made possible by smart offices.

With the growing adoption of digital technologies, urban officials are looking for ways to reimagine their physical infrastructure. The goal of these efforts is to create a more collaborative culture, increase productivity, manage resources efficiently, decrease inequality and reduce environmental footprint.

Smart approaches are not only more efficient than traditional ones but also better suited to meet the needs of people. A smart city of the future offers unique solutions to problems that plague the current world.

The use of technology and connectivity are providing many options. The most ambitious country in terms of smart city initiatives is china with its 800 smart cities pilot programs. It is estimated that China smart city solution market will reach USD 3.4 trillion by the end of 2022.

Smart city technology

For a city to become smart, a variety of software, hardware, innovation, and more importantly connectivity is needed. And to deliver better experiences and ease of use, good user interfaces are needed. Hence these are the main technology of smart cities:

Internet of Things (IoT)

Communication networks and IoT are used to deliver connected solutions to the public. The internet of things (IoT) is an important part of smart city technology. IoT can be a wide range of devices from vehicles and street sensors to home appliances and even mobile phones.

The IoT refers to a network of physical devices and objects that are connected to the internet and can be controlled through software. They are used for monitoring, communicating, and exchanging data to deliver better services.

In a smart city, the internet of things is used to manage city resources more efficiently. For example, it can help monitor energy usage, water consumption, and pollution levels, and even provide respond to emergencies faster.

The internet of things in future cities can help manage public safety networks, parking systems, and traffic systems. Moreover, it can help cities track down criminals and terrorists.

The market size for the internet of things in smart cities was estimated at USD 112 billion in 2021. A CAGR increase of 23.04% is expected from 2022 to 2030, thus the market is projected to reach USD 735 billion by 2030.

Big data

Big data is very important for smart city initiatives. Not only does big data provide important insights into how people behave and interact with urban infrastructure, but it also helps authorities manage resources more efficiently and improve public safety.

For example, big data can help future cities better understand traffic patterns and identify areas where traffic congestion is causing significant problems. This information can then be used to create better traffic management plans or implement new solutions such as e-bikes or metro.

Similarly, it can help track the movement of illegal immigrants and criminals. By understanding where these individuals are congregating and what type of activities they are engaged in, city officials can take appropriate steps to protect residents and enforce laws accordingly. It is estimated that big data in smart cities will reach USD 800 billion by 2026.

Edge and cloud computing

Cloud and edge computing is an important part of the smart city of the future because it allows cities to access information and applications from anywhere.

Cloud computing allows cities to manage their data and deliver services more efficiently. Data sent to the cloud are used for analysis and improvement to increase the efficiency of the public and private sectors to deliver economic efficiency.

Edge computing is also a key technology for the future city. It allows for the intelligent, responsive deployment of IoT and big data applications at the edge of the network.

Edge computing can help metropolises optimize their energy use, manage traffic, improve public safety, and more. It also enables future cities to rapidly deploy new applications and services

The data collected or input in IoT devices are processed by edge computing to deliver immediate services. Or the data can also be sent to cloud servers for analysis and later use.

Cloud computing provides storage spaces and allows for data analytics while edge computing delivers in-house processing power to reduce latency and trigger immediate action. Latency is the time data takes to travel from one place to another.


Cybersecurity is one of the most important aspects of a connected city. Cyberattacks can cause a wide variety of problems for an urban area, from causing significant disruptions to critical systems to the theft of valuable data.

Cybersecurity is very important in a future city to maintain digital trust because the IoT infrastructure is a network of connected devices and cybercriminals can hack into the weakest device in the network to gain access to the entire system.

Moreover, if cybercriminals gain access to important infrastructures of a smart city this can lead to disastrous situations or even cyberwarfare. In order to protect the city from cyberattacks, it is important to have a comprehensive cybersecurity plan in place.

Cybersecurity systems are implemented to prevent unauthorized access as well as control, monitor, and protect the transmission of data as well as citizens’ privacy. Smart city cybersecurity annual revenue is expected to grow from USD 7.6 billion in 2021 to USD 26.0 billion in 2030.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Another major technology that contributes to the functioning of a digital metropolis is artificial intelligence. This technology is used to process and analysed data to provide insight into urban operations and activities.

AI is already being used in a variety of industries, including the healthcare, manufacturing, education, and transportation sectors. It can help a metropolis run more efficiently, by optimizing operation and city planning, as well as providing more personalized services.

One of the most promising applications of AI in future smart cities is its ability to identify and predict events. By using data from different sources, AI can create models and to some extent predict the occurrence of an event.

Artificial intelligence is very good at analyzing data but it can also compare data with past information to provide a better understanding and course of action. It can show extreme values and anomalies to alert the concerned authorities.

The information processed by artificial intelligence can be used for predictive analysis, increase efficiency, prevent disaster, manage operations and improve the quality of life of citizens.

Machine Learning (ML)

And with the use of machine learning, future city operations can get even better. Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that allows computers to learn from data to execute tasks without being explicitly programmed to do so.

This technology can be used in future cities to improve various aspects of urban life, such as traffic management, energy usage, and public safety. It can learn and improve itself from the data it processes.

Machine learning algorithms in smart cities of the future are used to identify patterns in large data sets. It is also used to create predictive models. These models are used to predict future events and trends.

Predictive models can be used to improve city planning, traffic management, and the efficient use of resources. To some extent, artificial intelligence and ML are used to mimic human decision-making.

Digital twins

And with technological advancement and the increasing amount of data that is being generated, a digital twin of a complete city can be created. Digital twins are a type of virtual model of a physical system.

Digital twins are used in a number of contexts, including the development of digital cities. Its main purpose is to provide a simulation of a physical system that can be used for understanding, testing, and debugging purposes.

The digital twin of a physical asset can be used to understand how the asset works, predict how it will behave in the future, and make changes to it without having to physically test it.

One important use of digital twins in future smart cities is to understand how people use the system. By understanding how people use the system, developers can make the system more user-friendly and make changes wherever needed, thus improving citizens’ quality of life.

Geospatial technology

Geospatial technology is the process of mapping and understanding the Earth’s physical features and spatial relations. It is used by businesses, governments, and other organizations to collect, process, and use spatial data for a variety of purposes.

Geospatial technology is becoming increasingly important in intelligent urban initiatives, as it can help urban planners and officials better understand urban and rural areas as well as identify potential issues and develop solutions.

Geo-technologies are at the heart of the smart cities of the future. It optimizes the understanding of urban space. It allows citizens and stakeholders to interact with real-time geographic information.

The real-time nature of these technologies also means that citizens can contribute to information exchanges. This means that the public can monitor changes in the city and make informed decisions.

Geospatial technology can be used to map out traffic patterns, identify potential environmental hazards, and track population growth. It can also be used to generate 3D maps of city streets and buildings and create models of urban infrastructures, such as roads and utilities.

A connected metropolis is designed to make urban areas more efficient and livable by improving the way they are managed. Geospatial technology can help city officials to identify and address issues that need to be managed.

5G network

The advent of 5G will change the way we live and work. 5G network is entering the mainstream and will enable us to connect to the internet and other devices more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

It will provide a higher internet connection and reduce latency which is very important for data processing. Hence 5G will create smarter cities that are more responsive to the needs of residents and more efficient.

5G will also enable the creation of new applications and services that can improve the quality of life for everyone. For example, it could help us to improve the accuracy of health care and emergency services and responses.

According to BusinessWire, overall smart city value will exceed USD 2.7 trillion by 2027. Moreover, the market for artificial intelligence and 5G technology in connected cities will be worth USD 298 billion and USD 121.5 billion by 2027 respectively.

Technology spending on smart city initiatives was estimated at USD 124 billion in 2020 and this number is expected to reach USD 189.5 billion in 2023. Revenue from smart city technology, products, and services was valued at USD 129 billion in 2021.

Future of smart city

Smart city is the natural evolution of urban areas. Just like electricity started to light up buildings in cities, the internet is set to connect infrastructure. And all this comes with a lot of benefits.

There is no doubt that the development of digital urban areas is one of the most important fields of research today. There are many reasons for this, but the most important one is that it can improve the quality of life of its citizen without affecting the environment.

With the current population boom and climate crisis, future cities need to expand to accommodate more people without affecting the environment.

A city of the future is more than just a place to live. It is the heart of a community, and it offers opportunities for people to work and live. Smart urban areas are designed with the people in mind, to deliver efficient and accessible services.

The world is becoming increasingly digitalized and connected. With the advent of IoT, people are more connected to their surroundings than ever before. Future smart cities are the next step in this evolution of connectivity.

Smart buildings can optimize resource usage such as water and electricity as well as minimize wastage. It is estimated that by 2050, 30% of urban emissions can be reduced just by making buildings more efficient, which can be important in the quest for carbon neutrality. Moreover, the potential economic benefits generated from connected urban areas can reach USD 20 trillion by 2026.

Smart cities of the future use artificial intelligence, big data, and other technologies to analyze how people live and provide them with innovative solutions for their problems. These solutions can range from optimizing traffic flow to providing a comfortable environment for the citizens.

Moreover, new electric transportation systems, metro, and magnetic levitation trains can optimize traffic flow in smart cities of the future and intelligent traffic signals can further decrease congestion problems and even carbon emissions.

Managing traffic is especially important in large metropolis where there are a lot of vehicles on the road. And reducing traffic flow increases the productivity and stress of citizens since they don’t have to spend time waiting in traffic. Smart mobility can cut average commuting time by 15–20%

According to McKinsey and Company, a smart city can reduce fatalities such as homicide, road traffic, and fire by 8 to 10%. In high-crime towns that have a population of 5 million, smart city solutions can save up to 300 lives each year. And assault, robbery, auto theft, and burglary can be lowered by 30-40%.

Smart city solutions can cut emergency response time by 20–35 %. Moreover, it can cut emissions by 10 – 20%. It will also promote collaboration to increase the quality of life of citizens and generate economic growth. Another important aspect of a digital metropolis is the ability to better manage resources such as water, energy, sewage, and waste. 

Smart cities can urge citizens to consume 15% less water as well as cut water wastage by 25% with the use of smart technology.  The smart meter market size is facing huge growth and it is forecasted to reach USD 54.34 billion by 2030.

Moreover, a reduction of 30 to 130 kg of unrecycled solid waste per person. By 2035, utility companies can save up to USD 157 billion by adopting smart solutions.

Globally, the smart city market size was estimated at USD 410.8 billion in 2020. A CAGR of 14.8% is expected from the period 2020 to 2025. Hence the market size is expected to reach USD 820.7 billion by 2025.

Final words

Smart cities are designed to address a wide range of issues. It is a community that makes use of technology to improve the quality of life of its citizens. It is not only beneficial to citizens but to the economy as well.

Smart city technology combines people and organizations with information and communication technologies to make informed and intelligent decisions.

Cities of the future use a range of technologies to deliver connected solutions to residents. These benefits include shorter commutes, easy access to transportation systems, cleaner air, improved resident services, and plentiful economic opportunities.

The adoption of technologies is important for a metropolis, as these new systems will enable the next wave in planning for the future. Urban areas generate vast amounts of data which proves to be vital for managing resources wisely.

By leveraging technological innovation, cities will be able to use their resources wisely and attract highly skilled individuals. Unlike traditional concrete jungles, the smart city of the future is designed to meet the needs of a growing population.

Smart cities can provide more services to residents while minimizing human suffering. It also improves access to humanitarian efforts and boosts productivity.

Smart cities will be able to identify and address health concerns better than ever before. Furthermore, it provides better traffic management, green infrastructure, and a higher level of public safety.

Smart cities can improve the overall safety of urban areas, as they can use technology like body cameras and connected crime centers to better monitor people and public transport.

Moreover, the combined use of different technologies can improve water and waste management systems. With innovations, towns can use big data to improve decision-making and save money.

Another advantage of smart city technology is that it can act as a comprehensive fitness tracker in urban spaces. It can help city operators identify ways to reduce energy consumption and waste production.

Smart traffic lights make it easier to move around, improve traffic flow, and even alert people to use public transportation during off-hours. Public transport riders can monitor their routes and adjust them according to their own preferences.

In addition to creating a more efficient metropol, future smart cities can increase the amount of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and increase education and R&D. The increase in FDI can be traced to a shift from resource-seeking to efficiency-seeking and system-seeking.

This is especially important for developing countries that face high costs of natural resources, hence optimizing resource use can reduce dependence on imported resources.

Hence, smart cities are lauded as a way to improve the quality of life for citizens, businesses, institutions, and organizations that make up its economy. These metropolises are seamless environments, with less traffic congestion, lower crime rates, and cleaner air. Smart cities are the future of urban development and they will help countries get ahead in the competitive markets.