What is a Smart City?

The world is evolving - society has become increasingly digital, mobile, connected, and urban.  Now everything can be connected in a virtual 'internet of things', which will have dramatic impacts on the way people live, work and play.  Cities need to adapt to this complex context while also facing numerous economic, environmental, and social challenges.  More than ever, cities need to ensure they manage critical infrastructure effectively, deliver services efficiently, collaborate freely, and analyze important data for the benefit of their communities.      

"Smart Cities" are places that recognize the trends and the need to embrace innovative alternatives.  These are places that are working to achieve exciting lifestyle benefits for residents, robust economic opportunities, and more efficient governance within a safe and healthy environment.  They often rely on networks of sensors, cameras, and wireless devices to do so - collecting real-time data, measuring and optimizing performance, sharing results, and reporting issues even before they happen. 

There is no universal way to design a community of the future, and there is currently no one definition of a Smart City.  A Smart City strategy or initiative must also be relevant to each individual community.  Therefore, the definition of a Smart City adopted by the City of St. Albert is: 

An urban area that solves its core issues through innovation and collaboration, and that applies new technologies and data for the benefit of all.

What Might I See in a Smart City?

For example, a Smart City could:

  • produce large amounts of important data that would inform local decisions and support entrepreneurs in creating new business opportunities;
  • attract new business investment through high-speed internet networks, new data sets, specialized services, and efficient civic operations;
  • increase the efficiency of infrastructure management, through automation and real-time tracking;
  • promote the testing of new technologies, as a community ‘living lab’, that would benefit local residents and businesses;
  • generate digital alerts to city officials when public garbage containers are full, ensuring that no time or resources are wasted collecting at the wrong time or in the wrong way;
  • respond to, and even anticipate, traffic congestion to ensure people and goods move through a community efficiently;
  • show drivers available parking spaces in real-time, before arriving at their destination;
  • enable residents and businesses to check their water consumption at any time, and receive real-time alerts of potential leakages; and/or
  • ensure streetlights dim automatically when no pedestrians or vehicles are in proximity.

The potential for real-time applications, data commercialization, cost savings, local environmental benefits, and lifestyle enhancements are amazing.

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Last edited: December 6, 2019