An Inside Look at Smart Cities

Countless people and technologies help keep our cities safe, clean, and efficient; some we interact with in plain sight, and others operate beneath the surface, improving our lives in ways we don’t fully realize. Here are a few examples of how our cities are getting smarter—and will need to continue to do so as the trend toward urbanization grows.

Solar Panels + Wind Turbines

Making urban energy systems smart isn’t just about using cleaner fuels, it’s also about producing energy closer to the places it’s consumed. Connected solar panels and wind turbines can generate energy in cities and contribute in peak conditions.

Smart Transportation System

Smart transportation systems can find bottlenecks in traffic patterns and help communicate alternate routes to drivers. Gathering and sharing real-time information makes getting around smart cities safer, more efficient, and less frustrating.

Connected Cars

Smart parking meters can inform drivers of parking availability. Soon, self-driving cars will shuttle people in and out of the city while they’re occupied with work or other activities.

Urban Farms

Urban farms are already producing up to 15% of the world’s food1. From fresh fish to produce and herbs, smart cities are building vertical farms in multi-story buildings and using soil alternatives to bring urban populations sustainable and locally-grown produce.

Smart Offices

Building automation systems can monitor and control operations to improve lighting, AC, air quality, as well as employee security. Investing in these upgrades pays off for employers— studies show that comfortable, well-ventilated, and well-lit workplaces can increase productivity by as much as 15%2.

Water Monitoring

Utilities can remotely and continuously monitor and diagnose problems such as leaks and stoppages, take preemptive measures to manage maintenance, and optimize water distribution. Sensors also help to keep drinking water clean and verify that wastewater is being properly processed.


Drones are already being used in cities to document accidents and support first responders. Their ability to cover hard to reach areas also makes them particularly useful for monitoring critical infrastructure like antennae and bridges.

Smart Lighting

Smart tech goes beyond connecting and automating everyday objects; it’s also about empowering them beyond their original purposes. Connected street lights not only provide energy-efficient lighting but can also provide environmental data collection and alerts, serve as wifi hotspots, and send gunfire detection alerts.

Small Cells

Connecting a smart city requires a strong wireless network. Small cells as compact as shoe boxes can provide faster data and support the host of smartphone users joining the network.

Waste Management

Cities create tons of waste, and smart technology can improve how it’s collected and separated. Smart garbage bins use compactors to accommodate more waste than the average bin, and can alert collection staff when full. Garbage trucks use GPS to make collection routes more efficient.

Big Data Analysis

Cities have access to more data than ever, but real-time reporting requires quick and intelligent analysis. New data centers help cities optimize approaches to lighting, energy, traffic controls, and public safety.


  1. University of Florida 2017
  2. Forbes, 2017