• A POSTnote on smart cities will give an overview of the current landscape and the infrastructure smart cities require.
  • It will look at the benefits and challenges of smart cities and progress towards developing them in the UK and elsewhere.
  • Provisional start date: September 2020. To contribute expertise, literature or as an external reviewer please contact Dr Lorna Christie. View our guidance for expert contributors.

There is no universal definition of a smart city, however, the Greater London Authority has defined a smart city as one that integrates digital technologies and data to respond to citizens’ needs and manage services. Examples of smart city technologies include: smart traffic management systems that ease congestion by responding to traffic conditions, apps that allow citizens to report potholes, and sensors that can monitor areas of high flood risk. Smart cities also include transport initiatives such as connected vehicles and apps that allow bicycle sharing and electric scooter rental. Many recent smart city innovations are being enabled or enhanced by emerging technologies, including the internet of things and 5G networks (POSTbrief 32).

Most major UK cities have some form of smart city project ongoing or planned. One estimate predicted that London would have the fourth highest spend on smart city initiatives in 2020, compared with cities worldwide. In 2013, Glasgow was awarded £24 million of funding from Innovate UK to become a future city demonstrator site. Potential benefits of smart cities include more efficient infrastructure and access to services, improved energy efficiency, and environmental benefits such as improved air quality. However, there are also challenges associated with them. In some areas internet coverage or speed may be insufficient to support smart devices, or physical infrastructure may be outdated and incompatible with more modern technology. This may introduce or exacerbate existing inequalities across different regions. There are also concerns around data security and privacy, as smart city sensors could collect extensive data on citizens and their behaviour.

This POSTnote will give an overview of smart cities and the infrastructure they require. It will look at the benefits and challenges of smart cities and progress towards developing them in the UK and elsewhere.