Smart Cities Council Launched to Promote Smart, Sustainable Cities

Sustainable Cities Network

Cities around the world are under pressure. Budgets are tight. Growth is necessary. Demands and costs are escalating. Extreme weather is taking its toll. Efficiency and sustainability are priorities, but where should they start to balance the moving pieces? Civic leaders have a new resource in the fight to achieve prosperity and sustainability. More than a dozen top technology firms have formed the Smart Cities Council to provide cities with tools and best practices that can guide them in the right direction and save them time and money.

Greener Cities network

Operating under the theme “Livability, Workability, Sustainability,” the Council has gathered the world’s foremost firms in areas such as smart energy, water and transportation. These firms, which make up the Council’s Steering Committee, include Alstom, AT&T, Bechtel, Cisco, Electricite de France, General Electric, IBM, Itron, Microsoft, National Grid, Qualcomm, and S&C Electric.

In addition to lead partners, the Council’s associate partners include ABB, Alphinat, Grid2020, Invensys, MaxWest Environmental Systems, Opower, and Zipcar (a division of Avis).

According to Itron, the Smart Cities Council was formed to help address the unprecedented challenges facing the world’s cities, including accelerated population growth and constrained resources. The council aims to equip city leaders with fresh approaches to policy, governance, development and technology that enable long-term livability, workability and sustainability. Of course, resilience is an important part of the equation as well.

“People have built communities around energy and water for ages. Past generations have extracted more energy or more water to accommodate growing populations. This is simply not possible given the scale and urgency of today’s challenges. We must be more strategic, more resourceful and more innovative than ever before,” says Russ Vanos, Itron’s senior vice president of strategy and business development.

Mayors and city leaders can tap into this global hub to develop a comprehensive and collaborative road map for their city, to gain advice on the most effective ways to move forward, and to compare notes with like-minded leaders.

“All over the world, rapid urbanization is putting enormous stress on city resources and infrastructure,” explained founding Chairman Jesse Berst. “Cities are at a crossroads; many are nearing the point at which they could easily become overwhelmed by issues related to crime, congestion, and public health and safety. To prevent this, cities can use smart technologies to not just manage problems, but to usher in a new era of prosperity and sustainability.”

A “smart city” uses digital technology to deliver better, more efficient services to its citizens. It enables access to information via data collected from devices and sensors that are embedded in roadways, energy and water infrastructure, buildings and more. For example, smart power and water grids improve efficiency and reliability, as well as provide customers with detailed information to help them reduce their bills. For another example, a smart transportation network optimizes multi-modal travel throughout the city with real-time bus updates, taxi locations, and the ability to reserve parking spots.

Thousands of smart city projects are underway around the globe, but major hurdles remain. Cities have significant questions and challenges with regard to the four chief barriers of technology, financing, policy, and citizen engagement.

World’s first collaborative smart city guide

The Council was formed to lower these barriers to adoption through education, outreach, and tools for cities. One of the Smart Cities Council’s first initiatives is the development of the Readiness Guide, which will launch as a beta version at the 81st Annual United States Conference of Mayors next month.

The Readiness Guide will be the first collaborative and comprehensive vision of a smart city. It will provide city leaders with a conceptual technology roadmap to address growth strategies in an effective and systemic way, focusing on key issues such as energy, transportation, water, and public safety. The content of the Readiness Guide is greatly influenced by the expertise of the Council’s partners, as well as its Advisory Board, which is made up of independent experts from research, academia, and advocacy.

“Far too many cities are undertaking individual projects without an overall plan, and without considering the ways that different departments can share costs and data,” noted James Whittaker, Executive Director of the Smart Cities Council and a principal in Mercator XXI, a co-founder of the Council. “For the best results, it is essential to have a comprehensive, holistic vision — yet no such help exists today. The Readiness Guide is the first-ever collaborative, comprehensive resource.”

The Council also has initiatives underway to address financing, policy, and citizen engagement. To accomplish these important but challenging tasks, the Council has marshaled the world’s leading authorities. “It takes an ecosystem to build a smart city,” said Berst. “We salute our member organizations. They have demonstrated that they are not just leaders in innovation, but — equally important — in collaboration.”

About Smart Cities Council

The Smart Cities Council is comprised of the foremost experts and leading global companies in the smart technologies sector, who serve as advisors and resources. Its goal is to accelerate the growth of smart cities worldwide by providing city leaders with access to financial tools, policy frameworks, visibility campaigns, and advocacy. For more information, visit

Turning Concrete Jungles Into Centers of Sustainability

Sustainable Urbanization Is Wave Of Future–If We Have One

The tangled web of international organizations that constitutes global governance has become so remote and ineffective that few count on it to deliver results anymore. Now, after decades of turf wars and self-marginalization, international organizations must rally around an increasingly pressing global priority: Sustainable urbanization.

BeFunky_TheBridge.jpgThe world is undergoing an unprecedented and irreversible wave of urbanization, with the share of the global population living in cities set to reach 60 percent by 2030. But rapid urbanization is driving up industrial fossil-fuel consumption and household water consumption, and is increasing demand for food in areas where arable land is scarce. In short, the current urbanization trajectory is not sustainable.

But existing efforts to alter the situation remain woefully inadequate. While the United Nations General Assembly has tasked its agency for human settlements, UN-Habitat, with promoting sustainable urbanization, the agency lacks the influence to ensure that this vital issue makes it onto the global agenda.

Moreover, international development players–including UN agencies, NGOs, corporate citizenship programs, and other charitable organizations–rarely coordinate their activities, even though their interventions are increasingly concentrated in densely populated cities.

Given that promoting sustainable urbanization and improving coordination would bolster progress in other priority areas (including women’s rights, climate change, youth unemployment, and literacy), sustainable urbanization must become a bureaucratic priority. And it must be complemented by a technological disruption, with investments channeled toward developing and distributing innovations that would make cities more livable, efficient, and sustainable.

In fact, many useful innovations, such as energy-generating building materials and zero-emissions transportation, already exist; they simply need to be made accessible to those who need them most. Devices like small-scale water-filtration systems, portable heart monitors, and low-cost tablet computers are already dramatically improving the lives of the world’s poorest citizens and helping to level the economic playing field.

The future impact of global governance rests on forging new alignments that facilitate the flow of vital knowledge and technologies from an increasingly diverse array of sources to urban populations worldwide. The tools needed to make urban life more sustainable are no longer flowing only from North to South and West to East. China has taken the lead in exporting solar photovoltaic cells, while clean-tech parks are arising even in the Arab world.

Governments, companies, supply-chain managers, corporate-citizenship strategists, NGOs, and others should commit to reducing their carbon footprints and to leveraging their resources to contribute to sustainable urbanization. Opportunities to make such contributions are appearing constantly across all sectors.

In construction, for example, contractors are forming partnerships with labs to test materials that better reflect heat while absorbing energy to power cooling systems, and utility companies are leveraging new software tools to deploy smart meters in homes and offices. Two US cities–New York and Seattle–have raised efficiency standards for new construction to record levels.


Similarly, automobile manufacturers, mobility-services companies, and local governments are working together to advance sustainable transportation by providing incentives for efficient non-ownership of vehicles. Now, carpooling is gaining prevalence in cities like Berlin.

Furthermore, MIT has developed the foldable electric CityCar, four of which can fit into a parking space. At last year’s Rio+20 conference, the eight largest multilateral development banks pledged $175 billion (5.2 trillion baht) to develop sustainable transportation.

Information technology can also reduce stress on the transportation system. For example, Singapore is harnessing its near-complete fiber-optic network to reduce urban congestion by introducing a spate of measures encouraging workers to telecommute. As these measures take effect, self-sufficient satellite towns will likely develop, reducing transportation-related energy consumption further, while fostering a more active civil society.

Singapore is one of the cleanest and most efficient cities/countries in the world.
Singapore is one of the cleanest and most efficient cities/countries in the world.

Singapore is leading the way in another area as well: Production and distribution of potable recycled water. Many cities worldwide are following its example, expanding their water catchment and treatment programs.

Meanwhile, vertical farm experiments–which aim to augment urban food supplies by cultivating crops in skyscraper greenhouses–are proliferating from the American Midwest to Osaka, Japan. And India has become a leader in converting biomass and food waste into energy.

Of course, the billions of farmers and villagers worldwide should not be forgotten. Interventions like rural electrification, the provision of drought-resistant seeds and agricultural technology, and the expansion of micro-insurance are vital not only to rural populations’ welfare, but also to catalyze a new ”Green Revolution,” without which city dwellers will face severe food shortages.

With new, innovative solutions appearing every day, the real challenge lies in bringing them to scale–and that requires international cooperation. But the ”smartest” cities are not necessarily the most technologically advanced. Rather, they are the places where technology and public policy support citizens’ welfare and aspirations. This crucial fact will guide discussion at the New Cities Foundation’s second annual summit next month–the theme of which is ”The Human City”–the heart of sustainable urbanization initiatives.

By Parag Khanna, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is Director of the Hybrid Reality Institute and the author of The Second World, How to Run the World, and Hybrid Reality. 2013 Project Syndicate


Is The Smart City Movement Sustainable?

Becoming a Smarter City One Step At A Time

By Rich Heap, Correspondent, Property Week

Like it or not, technology is becoming an ever-bigger part of our lives. Even self-professed technophobes are now embracing the benefits of smartphones, satnavs, and smart TVs. Cities are not immune from this, nor do they want to be. We are promised that “smart cities” will be more liveable, more economically prosperous, and more efficient. It will be digital technology that underpins the workings of these cities. This presents cities with many exciting opportunities, but also a daunting question: “Where do we start?”

This is the question we will be answering in this guide. After all, cities don’t want to end up wasting a lot of time and money on a new system that ends up being a novelty rather than a necessity. But first, we should look at the ideas that underpin this movement.

sustainable city

The smart cities concept emerged in academic literature during the 2000s. It grew out of increasing concern that the current model for planning cities, which developed during the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, is not fit for 21st century needs.

The world’s cities have been designed around centralized networks in areas such as water, energy, and transport. That was suitable in 1800, when there were fewer than a billion people in the world, of whom 3 percent lived in cities.

Today, it is a different story. There are more than 7 billion people in the world, of whom around 50 percent live in cities. By 2050, this is expected to grow to 9 billion, and cities are projected to account for nearly 90 percent of that growth. The world is experiencing both major population growth and significant urbanization. Cities are crowded, and centralized networks are under strain.

The creation of smart cities is seen as a way to address today’s problems using different urban planning models and more sophisticated technology. In Asia and the Middle East, the focus is on building completely new cities. In Europe and North America, the focus in on the smart redevelopment of existing cities, such as London and New York.


What makes a city “smart”?

There is no universally accepted definition of “smart cities,” although the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the European Union have both tried to formulate one. Broadly, smart cities are defined as ones that should perform well in the following areas.

1. Thriving economy: This includes looking at how innovative a city is, how flexible its labor market is, how productive it is, and how it performs on the world stage.

2. Well developed networks: This considers networks including technology, energy, and transport. A smart city will have well developed and secure ICT networks; intelligent energy networks, including local energy grids and smart metering; and sophisticated transport networks, including public and private transport. These are key to how smart cities operate on a day-to-day basis.

3. High living standards: These include provision of cultural, educational, housing, and healthcare facilities, as well how safe a city is for its residents.

4. Attractive environment: This looks at how attractive a city is, how it sustainably manages resources, and how it protects the environment and reduces pollution.

5. Good governance: Residents should be able to participate in political decision-making, be offered a range of political views, and receive reliable public services.

6. Well rounded inhabitants: This takes into account inhabitants’ education, skills, and their participation in public life, as well as social and ethnic diversity.

Those involved in urban planning and real estate are in a strong position to influence most of these factors. However, they will need two things to make schemes happen:

1) the support of senior public officials; and

2) funding.


Ways to get smarter:

The term “smart cities” takes in such a broad range of concepts that it would be impossible to sum up all possible options here. However, here are some starting points.

1. Use your existing data better: If you want to make your city smarter, one of the first steps is to use existing data to understand what is going on in it. Look at the two examples below and think about how you could use your city’s data in similar ways, whether to monitor traffic flows, pollution, and garbage collections, or to optimize irrigation in parks. Smart cities rely on data, so think of what your city’s problems are and how data could help solve them.

Rio de Janeiro: In 2010, there was a series of floods and mudslides in this city that killed more than 100 people. In response, Rio de Janeiro’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, asked IBM to develop a system to help the city predict public safety problems, including natural disasters. The hope is to use data to make the city safer ahead of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Rio’s Operations Center opened in 2010 ( It pulls in data from 30 agencies and applies mathematical algorithms to understand how weather patterns interact with Rio’s geography. By using historic data, it can predict where problems will occur, and deploy police, fire, and rescue teams to these areas. It also sets off sirens in at-risk regions, based on the predicted amount of rain in a given area, and informs different departments so they can prepare accordingly. With extreme weather as a result of climate change, such systems could be vital.

Boston: Boston serves as a great example of a city that has learned to gather important data through citizens’ smartphones. For example, to help solve a problem of potholes in the roads, the city’s office of New Urban Mechanics has created and deployed a smartphone app called Street Bump ( When volunteers who have downloaded the app drive over a pothole, their smartphones register the bump through the device’s accelerometer, and the device’s GPS logs the location of the pothole. That data gets sent to a server for analysis, and from there action can be taken to fix it.

2. Work with businesses: Businesses are often keen to help trial initiatives, as they may end up gaining the benefits of cutting-edge of technology. It is much easier to work with businesses than to enforce new technology on them. Amsterdam is one smart city successfully trialing initiatives with business. On its Utrechtsestraat shopping street, for example, it is partnering with 40 shop and restaurant owners to make the street more environmentally friendly. In doing so, it has found initiatives that businesses and public authorities can adopt. Things that business owners can do include:

• Energy audits: Assessing how much energy their buildings and business operations use. This encourages them to reduce use of lights and heating or cooling systems, which saves money and helps the city cut emissions.

• Installing smart meters and energy displays: Smart meters help them to monitor energy use, and energy displays make the data publicly visible. These displays can also offer personalized energy-saving tips.

• Using Smart Plugs: These can dim or shut down unused appliances.


Things That Public Authorities Can Do

Low-energy public lighting: Using energy-saving bulbs can cut energy use, as can systems that dim lights during quiet times at night.

Install high-tech bins: Amsterdam has trialed BigBelly bins (, which have built-in solar-powered waste compactors. These bins are emptied five times less frequently, saving carbon emissions from the waste trucks. The city has also switched to electric vehicles for waste collection. All sections of the society – public authorities, businesses, and individuals – need to have input if a city is going to become truly smart. Gaining support of all of these groups will make it much easier to enact smart city concepts.


Enable flexible working: People are working more flexibly than ever before, thanks to smartphones, tablet computers, and laptops. Linda Chandler, Microsoft UK enterprise architect, and Philip Ross, CEO at work consultancy, look at how this can change cities in a paper called “The Anywhere Working City” (

In this paper, they advocate the development of more “third-space” locations. These are places where people can go to work instead of staying at home or commuting to the office. City centers already have cafes with free WiFi, but this could be further rolled out to public buildings, or cities could include specific third-space buildings.

They also argue that cities should rethink the way they plan suburbs. They point to a study by service office provider Regus in May 2011 that said only 12.3 percent of people prefer working at home, while 63.5 percent would favor working in a place with a commute of less than 20 minutes a day. Therefore, they say planners should plan for third-space buildings in suburbs, so people can work away from home without the long daily commute. This will make your area smarter and more attractive to potential residents. It will also help local businesses, as these people will be in your area longer, spending their money.

Make energy grid changes: Smart cities aim to increasingly move away from central networks, which come under greater threat from growing populations and dwindling natural energy resources. Many cities are looking at energy networks, including Yokohama in Japan, which is trialing a scheme to include widespread take-up of solar panels by residents; and Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, a new city built around green energy.

A particularly good example of a city overhauling its current energy network is Malaga, Spain. This city participates in the EU’s 20-20-20 Plan, which aims to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent, while making renewable energy sources 20 percent of the total energy mix.

The plan proposes a series of measures to help achieve this, including:

• More energy from renewable sources: Encouraging installation of renewable energy generation technology by homeowners and business owners. This helps to decrease the grid’s reliance on traditional sources and makes it greener.

• Encourage consumer-led changes: This involves energy audits and smart meters so consumers know their energy use; energy education programs; and demand-side management programs, which involve using financial incentives and education to encourage consumers to use less energy at peak times.

• Make the network’s own operations more efficient: This includes using online energy management technology to automate more of the grid’s processes, and employing more efficient energy storage systems so the grid runs more smoothly.


Cities cannot become smart energy users without buy-in from consumers, so engaging with people while making network upgrades is vital.

Upgrade security systems: One area where many cities have been gathering data for many years is security, with CCTV cameras used to aid police. However, these systems are still reliant on having a human being watching monitors. In smart cities, computers will monitor these security systems. For example, the San Francisco Municipal Transport Authority has commissioned a high-tech surveillance system that uses so-called “behavioral recognition” technology. This technology can analyze video images from an array of cameras, to monitor and store passenger behavior patterns, and send alerts if it spots anything out of the ordinary.

This is undoubtedly a sensitive area, as citizens will be concerned about a state where they are monitored all the time. However, with restrictions on how the data is used, people may come to accept it. The onus is on cities to show how it cuts crime or increases conviction rates.

In conclusion, you could end up spending an awful lot of time and money on “smart” initiatives that don’t make your city smarter at all. For beginners, the focus should be on keeping it simple: Think of the problems that are specific to your city, and find ways to use existing data and technology to solve those problems. Local businesses and residents should be more than happy to help you solve a problem with how their city works: After all, a more useable city benefits everyone.