5 Things You Need to Know About Smart Cities

IT applications such as smartphone apps and cloud-based infrastructure management can be powerful tools for improving the quality of life in urban settings.

While smartphone apps and cloud-based infrastructure management can be powerful tools for improving the quality of life regardless of where you're located, if you're a city-dweller these five facts will help you reap the benefits of technology.

1. It's not all cool technology. Though the definition of the term "smart city" is still fuzzy, it suggests using advances in transportation, technology, infrastructure, sustainability and governance to improve the quality of urban life. But smart cities don't actually need the latest and greatest tech.

"Being smart is about redefining processes and engaging citizens," says Jennifer Belissent, an analyst at Forrester Research. For example, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority created an app that citizens can use to pay electricity, water and sewer bills. Vancouver set up a website called Recollect.net where recycling schedules are posted and alerts are sent via tweet, text or phone call.

2. You need more than just IT. Many steps to becoming a smart city fall on the shoulders of IT, but IT should share the workload and communicate with other departments.

"If our departments never talk to each other, we will dig the same street up five times," says Jesse Berst, chief analyst at Smart Grid News and chairman of the Smart Cities Council.

3. Constituents should have a say. Citizens expect to be able get government information on their PCs, smartphones and tablets whenever they want. Cities will need to be able to deliver that and communicate with the public using social media, Berst says. "You can't just send out paper reports once a year."

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