In a Smart City, technology is used as an enabler for better connecting government and the services provided to its citizens, with the end result of having a more efficient and friendlier, more connected place for the people who live there. These large scale projects are about enhancing the livability, workability and sustainability of the place to improve overall quality of life. How information is used shapes the city, with the obvious goal of improving the citizens’ experience of living there.

In a city that’s truly smart, a key element is engaging its citizens in the process, as they are the ultimate customer of its systems and services. In my experience with city projects, every city is different, so every Smart City project is different. There is no cookie-cutter process or standard formula for success, although there are often many similarities between projects. This goes full well for the citizen engagement process – cities need to work within their own cultural and socio-economic demographics to determine the differing needs of the various populations that make up a city’s citizenry.

The big idea behind the Smart City concept is to manage the assets and infrastructure of the city to make it a better place for its citizens to live and work. Other important components are to make the city more efficient, engaging, and pleasant – not only for citizens but also for the people who work there. Examples of how this is done are numerous and quite varied – and span a wide variety of use cases. Every city is unique and different, but often share similar examples, outcomes and benefits.

Infrastructure projects like building and energy systems management enable sizable cost savings and use renewable energy systems for environmental protection, public trash receptacles signal when they need to be emptied for efficiency. Streetlights that automatically dim to save energy when nobody is on the street. Parking apps that tell you where spaces are available in real-time and make payments simple, and sophisticated traffic control systems optimize traffic flow at different times of the day. Public-facing systems such as online tools or apps streamline common activities like permitting and licensing, and apps allow citizens to report problems and receive info on public spaces and what’s happening around them. Search for the phrase “smart cities benefits” and many examples can be found.

There are almost endless possibilities for integrating, connecting, organizing and streamlining. So, how can I tell whether my city is smart? There are many metrics that can be used to measure efficiency, happiness, or whatever is important. In the end, it comes down to people – serving the citizens who live there, visitors and tourists, students, workers, city employees. When we find efficiency, ease of use, and convenience in dealing with our local government. When bureaucracy is reduced and we find that things just work. And when we find something broken – we have a way of providing input and assurance that the problem will be solved. When we feel safe and connected to our place – that’s when we know we live in a smart city.