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aerial view of a smart city

Transforming Urban Living

Welcome to the city of the future, where smart technology meets urban planning in a seamless dance of innovation. Imagine a world where cities think, learn, and adapt to residents’ needs! Smart cities are the future of urban development – where data drives decisions, and sustainability is the highest priority. Explore the emerging innovations that help America’s greatest cities become sustainable leaders. 

What is a Smart City?

A smart city is a metropolitan area in which the combination of smart technology and data collection improves quality of life while prioritizing sustainability and energy efficiency. Local governments can utilize information and communication technologies (ICT) and the Internet of Things (IoT) as tools to measure real-time city data and make informed decisions for urban planning initiatives. 

Understanding Smart Cities

Today, more than 80% of the U.S. population resides in a major metropolitan area, which accounts for 90% of the country’s GDP. As metropolitan areas become more condensed and more advanced, smart city technologies become essential for city management, urban planning, and providing equitable access to city services. Smart cities use information and communication technologies (ICT) to make city operations more efficient while providing more equity and prosperity to residents and businesses. 

As urban areas begin to adopt more ICT, IoT, and other technologies, they transform into smarter cities. These integrated pieces of software play an increasingly important role in transportation, energy, and city infrastructure. Their real-time data monitoring provides insights into how and when residents use essential city services, power, and transportation. This data can then be leveraged to improve the quality and delivery of services.  

Okay… But What Does That Actually Mean?

Smart cities are like futuristic, high-tech towns that use the latest gadgets to make life better for everyone. They use cutting-edge computer systems and smart technology to help things run smoothly and be kinder to the environment. This means that those who live in smart cities get to live in places where buildings, roads, and buses are designed to save energy and be more efficient. These cities also make sure that everyone, including those who might need extra help, can enjoy a good life. In a smart city, everything works together to be eco-friendly, help people travel easily, and keep growing in a way that’s good for everyone. 

What are the 3 hallmarks of smart communities?

  • Networks: Smart Cities use a network of sensors to gather and integrate data which can be used for a variety of applications and city services. 
  • Connectivity: Connectivity is vital to the exchange and sharing of data. Connectivity between municipal officials, residents, and usage data is essential to facilitate communication and interaction while managing city infrastructure.  
  • Open Data: Establishing an open data philosophy demonstrates a governmental commitment to sharing city planning information and operations with the community. 

The Evolution of Smart Cities

Data-driven initiatives to improve metropolitan areas began back in Los Angeles during the 1960s.  The City of Angels gathered data and utilized computer programs to identify underserved and impoverished neighborhoods. While this was the first instance of data-driven urban development, the term “Smart City” didn’t appear in academic literature until the 1990s. Over the past several decades, the definition and public perception of smart cities is ever evolving. 

Historically, smart city technologies have been considered behind-the-scenes city management. However, the modern, highly integrated world is pushing cities to include engagement from residents and businesses. The emergence of digital platforms and interactive mobile apps position residents to be proactive participants in data collection. The human element is becoming an increasingly important aspect of the smart city ecosystem. In the modern urban landscape, smart city solutions and technology enable officials to address challenges related to population growth. This technology-driven approach to urban development provides equitable access to necessary social services while improving overall city infrastructure.  

What are some examples of Smart Cities in the U.S.?

There are many cities making forward-thinking efforts to become Smart Cities. Three pioneers in smart city solutions and technology are Boulder, Seattle, and New York City. Each of these three metropolitan areas are leveraging data and smart technologies to improve quality of life while addressing the challenges of population growth.   

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder is an excellent example of a smart city that prioritizes sustainability and renewable energy integration. The city is proud to celebrate more than a century of sustainability initiatives. In 1976, Boulder became one of the first cities in the nation to offer curbside recycling. Boulder set their first greenhouse gas emissions reduction target in 2002. A brief 5 years later, they passed the Climate Action Plan tax, the nation’s first voter-approved tax dedicated to addressing climate change. By 2016, the city established their climate commitment, setting the goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030. 

Boulder’s Smart City Solutions:

  • Prioritizing Alternative Transportation: Their initial bicycling infrastructure was established in the 1970s with their Boulder Bikeways initiative. Boulder’s dedication to alternative transportation infrastructure creates a much more accessible cityscape for all residents.  
  • Universal Zero Waste Ordinance: This 2015 policy makes curbside recycling and composting available to all businesses and residents in Boulder.  
  • Aggressive Climate Commitment: Through energy efficiency initiatives and utility-scale renewable energy production, Boulder will achieve a 100% renewable electrical sector by 2030. 
  • Renewable Energy Integration: The 1.6 Megawatt (MW) solar array at the Boulder Reservoir Water Treatment Plant can provide two-thirds of the city’s annual electrical needs.   
  • State-of-the-Art Smart Electrical Grid:  Boulder was the first U.S. city to install a smart electrical grid. 
  • SmartRegs Building Program: Established in 2010, the SmartRegs program requires specific energy efficiency measures for rental properties. This program helped modernize housing and commercial properties.  

Seattle, Washington

Seattle has a deep-rooted commitment to the well-being of its citizens and reducing its carbon footprint. Its small geographic footprint is surrounded by mountains on one side and water on the other – proving sustainable population growth a distinct challenge. Seattle developed an Innovation Advisory Council to address the challenges of population growth and smart technology integration. The transportation department has also made significant strides in technology integration and decarbonization. King County Metro is also breaking ground on having the first 100% electric public transit system. In the next 2 years, Seattle will be home to more than 120 electric buses. 

Seattle’s Smart City Solutions

  • Predictive Analytics for Parking: Seattle uses AI to analyze city-wide parking data to adjust prices, encourage residents to park in less occupied areas, and help with traffic congestion.  
  • Earthquake Preparedness: Seattle is in a geographic area prone to earthquake activity.  They leverage seismic data to become more prepared for earthquakes and inform infrastructure upgrades such as the Elliot Bay Seawall.  
  • Food Rescue Waste Reduction: Reducing food waste through data collection and machine learning. AI helps major facilities, like Lumen Field, repurpose unused food products by donating them to essential social services. 
  • The Affordability City Portal: Seattle created a unified Affordability Portal for low-income residents to have a singular interface to apply for city support programs. The interface saves residents and city agencies time and money in the application process. 

New York City, New York

New York City is consistently ranked in the top 5 smart cities in the world. The Big Apple even hosts the annual Smart City Expo – an international conference of global and industry leaders to address how to build smarter, more equitable, and sustainable cities. With more than 8 million residents, NYC deeply relies on automated meters to manage their water, waste, and traffic systems. Their highly integrated meter system not only monitors resource consumption, but it also provides each resident with a personal usage snapshot. These features empower residents to take a more mindful approach to energy, water, waste, and commuting.  

New York City’s Smart City Solutions

  • Water Management: NYC uses more than 1 billion gallons of water daily. Their state-of-the-art smart water quality sensors and consumption meters allow the city to track water consumption and quality. Their automated water system helped NYC residents save $73 million since installation.  
  • Waste management: 24 million pounds of waste is collected every day in NYC. The city’s latest initiatives are focused on creating a more circular economy. Smart waste compactors, thoughtful pick-up routes, and a data-driven approach to recycling are essential to the city’s waste management plan.  
  • Traffic Management: NYC has the largest smart traffic management system in the world. Traffic flow sensors improve transportation efficiency, reducing congestion during peak commuting hours.  
  • Tourism and Transportation: Touchscreen kiosks with interactive maps in multiple languages make the city easier to navigate for tourists and residents alike. The kiosks also include outlets for charging phones or other devices.  
  • Clean, Reliable Energy: NYC is adding renewable energy solutions to all government-owned buildings throughout the city. This includes solar panel arrays and storage solutions, providing a more resilient and affordable city electrical grid. 
  • The Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency (ACE) Program: In 2013, NYC implemented LED lighting retrofits to more than 650 buildings owned by 16 city agencies. This retrofitting project prevented 900 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, saving more than $800,000 each year. 

Types of Smart City Technology

Technology lays the foundation for every smart city. Each metropolitan area uses different types of smart software depending on their unique city and geographic needs. Below, we explore a variety of data-driven technologies that shape the way cities modernize and grow. 

Information and communication Technology (ICT) 

Information and communication technology (ICT) includes various data-related technologies. ICT software captures, stores, retrieves, processes, and manages data and other shared information. These programs manage the data from a city’s Internet of Things (IoT). 

Internet of Things (IoT) 

The Internet of Things (IoT) makes cities more efficient, safer, and sustainable. IoT is a network of internet-connected devices and sensors that collect and share real-time data. Devices include smart thermostats, traffic cameras, and smartwatches, among others. Wi-Fi supports IoT functionality and city-wide data access, enabling the smart city IoT. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) uses computer programming and data to solve problems. Smart cities use AI and machine learning to manage infrastructure and resources efficiently. For example, Seattle’s smart parking system adjusts prices based on real-time occupancy data, managing traffic and encouraging parking on less busy streets. 


Automation uses technology to perform tasks with minimal human input. Smart cities use automation to respond to real-time data. For example, streetlights with daylight sensors or programmed schedules turn on and off as needed, improving efficiency and conserving energy. 

Smart Electrical Grids and Energy Management 

AI and machine learning help energy suppliers manage smart grids and power transmission. Smart grids consist of energy generation, storage, and distribution technologies. Energy providers use software and data analytics to monitor power. Algorithms automate energy storage and distribution based on demand, improving energy efficiency, promoting conservation, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Smart Transportation

Smart transportation uses IoT, AI, and automation to improve public transit and traffic flow, reducing emissions and improving air quality. These systems track parking occupancy, traffic conditions, and vehicle maintenance needs. AI enhances public transit efficiency and informs infrastructure upgrades, such as curbside EV charging stations

Smart Infrastructure

Smart infrastructure integrates transportation and energy systems to ensure equitable access to resources and services. It provides efficient access to city services and reliable utilities. As cities grow, balancing smart management technologies with infrastructure upgrades is crucial. Data-driven insights from ICT identify opportunities to improve efficiency and fix faults. 

How Does Smart City Technology Improve Quality of Life?

Smart city technology provides accurate, real-time data about how residents and businesses operate on a daily basis. They provide the framework for improvements in infrastructure, building performance, and how to better provide for underserved communities. The technologies employed by smart cities aim to improve efficiency, sustainability, and the quality of life for all city residents. Essentially, smart city technologies inform municipalities how to support city growth in a more sustainable and equitable fashion. 

What is the Future of Smart City Planning?

The future of every modern city involves smart technologies, data analytics, and thoughtful planning. By 2050, it’s anticipated that 89% of the U.S. population will live in urban areas, making smart city planning essential for sustainable growth. As more Americans flock to metropolitan areas, modernizing infrastructure and implementing efficiency technologies are paramount for equitable urban growth. Smart technologies are becoming more sophisticated and ever-present in our lives, expanding the Internet of Things and providing better data about how people live and how societies can run more efficiently.  

Are Smart Cities Sustainable?

Smart city technologies actively improve the efficiency of city operations and essential utilities. At its core, smart technologies improve sustainability, foster energy conservation, and mitigate the effects of climate change. One of the main focal points in the smart cities movement is reducing greenhouse gas emissions in pursuit of a net-zero emissions future. Cities consume 78% of the world’s energy, producing more than 60% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If cities don’t prioritize their efforts towards the clean energy transition, urban greenhouse gas emissions could quickly get out of control. It’s up to metropolitan areas to forge the path to a more sustainable future.  

The Pros and Cons Smart City Solutions

In the era of smart city development, urban infrastructure developers are prioritizing advanced information technology and state-of-the-art amenities. While most smart city solutions improve quality of life, clean up the environment, and provide better access to services, it does come with a cost. 

The Advantages of Smart Cities

  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Smart cities use data analytics to guide infrastructure upgrades and efficiency improvements. Tech-driven decision-making reduces miscalculations and emotional bias. 
  • Reducing emissions and carbon footprint: Smart cities focus on efficiency and environmental impact, promoting green building, renewable energy, and recycling services. 
  • Improving transportation: Smart transportation systems enhance mobility, integrate EV infrastructure, and improve public transit. 
  • Providing a Framework for Sustainable Growth: Smart cities support sustainable population growth and equitable access to city services. Smart utility meters and smart transportation systems provide equitable access to life essentials.  
  • Fostering Public Safety: Smart cameras and detection systems enhance security, provide evidence to the justice system, and ensure quick responses to emergencies. 

The Challenges of Smart Cities

  • Cost of Implementation: Implementing city-wide smart technologies puts significant strain on city budgets. City officials must prioritize smart city projects with the biggest impact on their communities.  
  • Greater Energy Demand: Integrating more smart technologies increases a city’s power needs. Balancing energy demand with sustainable power generation is crucial. 
  • Privacy Concerns: Expanding IoT devices and data-monitoring software raises personal privacy and city security concerns. Remember that anything put on the internet is susceptible to being shared or hacked. 
  • Impact on Real Estate: Smart cities and increased amenities raise living costs. Increased property value might benefit current property owners but poses challenges for young professionals and families. 

Smart Cities Provide a Glimpse into the Sustainable Future

As we envision the future of urban development, one thing is clear: the future is smart, sustainable, and within reach.  Start your journey towards a brighter tomorrow by taking small steps towards a smarter, greener future. Consider the technologies that can simplify your life and business operations through automation. If you want to take a more definitive step towards the sustainable future, consider making the switch to a renewable energy plan. Integrity Energy’s network of 30 trusted suppliers can help secure a green energy plan to reduce bills and carbon footprint. Request a free quote today to leap into the future! 

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