Smart city policies: A spatial approach
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Architecture, Department of Urban Planning and Regional Development, Urban and Regional Innovation Research Unit (URENIO), Greece
Available online 16 July 2014
This paper reviews the factors which differentiate policies for the development of smart cities, in an effort
to provide a clear view of the strategic choices that come forth when mapping out such a strategy. The
paper commences with a review and categorization of four strategic choices with a spatial reference,
on the basis of the recent smart city literature and experience. The advantages and disadvantages of each
strategic choice are presented. In the second part of the paper, the previous choices are illustrated
through smart city strategy cases from all over the world. The third part of the paper includes recommen-
dations for the development of smart cities based on the combined conclusions of the previous parts. The
paper closes with a discussion of the insights that were provided and recommendations for future
Ó2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Smart cities represent a conceptual urban development model
based on the utilization of human, collective, and technological
capital for the enhancement of development and prosperity in
urban agglomerations. However, strategic planning for smart city
development still remains a rather abstract idea for several rea-
sons, including the fact that it refers to—as yet—largely unexplored
and interdisciplinary ﬁelds. Stakeholders (local governments,
research institutions, grassroots movements, technology vendors,
property developers, etc.) are often driven by conﬂicting interests.
The tendency to believe that innovative technological instrumen-
tation automatically transforms a city into a ‘smart’ one, and a
biased use of the buzzword ‘smart’ in fragmented or superﬁcial
ways, actually hinder the clariﬁcation of the subject even further.
Regarding the above situation, this paper reviews the spatial fac-
tors which differentiate smart city policies, in an effort to provide
a ﬁrst and clear view on the strategic choices that should be
considered when mapping out a smart city strategy.
The addressed problem is rooted in the fact that there is cur-
rently a great misunderstanding about what smart cities actually
are, let alone how they can be realized. Despite the extensive dis-
cussion, no agreed deﬁnition on ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’ cities
exists. In the smart cities arena, we encounter a multitude of
deﬁnitions, and solutions without an existing prevalent or univer-
sally acknowledged deﬁnition (Allwinkle & Cruickshank, 2011;
Chourabi et al., 2012; Hollands, 2008; Komninos, 2011;
Lombardi, Giordano, Farouh, & Yousef, 2012; Nam & Pardo,
2011a; Papa, Garguilo, & Galderisi, 2013; Wolfram, 2012). Further-
more, strategic planning for the development of smart cities is still
a largely unknown ﬁeld (ABB, 2012; Abdoullaev, 2011; Chourabi
et al., 2012; Gsma & Cisco, 2011; Hollands, 2008; Huber &
Mayer, 2012; Komninos, 2011; Nam & Pardo, 2011a) and the terms
‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’ are used interchangeably throughout the
literature (Hollands, 2008; Pardo, Nam, & Burke, 2012; Wolfram,
2012). This paper makes no distinction between the two expres-
sions. For the purposes of this paper, the working deﬁnition of
‘smart cities’ is the following: smart cities are all urban settlements
that make a conscious effort to capitalize on the new Information
and Communications Technology (ICT) landscape in a strategic
way, seeking to achieve prosperity, effectiveness and competitive-
ness on multiple socio-economic levels.
This paper commences by reviewing the factors which differen-
tiate policies for the development of smart cities. Four strategic
choices with a spatial reference are identiﬁed: national versus local
strategies, strategies for new versus existing cities, hard versus soft
infrastructure-oriented strategies, and sector-based versus geo-
graphically-based strategies. The advantages and disadvantages
of each strategic choice are presented, again as they emerge from
the smart city literature. In the second part of the paper, the previ-
ous choices are illustrated though smart city strategy cases from all
over the world. The third part of the paper includes recommenda-
tions for the development of smart cities based on the combined
conclusions of the previous parts. The paper closes with a discus-
sion of the insights that were provided and recommendations for
future research areas.
0264-2751/Ó2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Cities 41 (2014) S3–S11
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/cities
This paper contributes to the smart city discourse by helping
dissolve the confusion about strategic choices regarding smart city
development and stating the advantages and disadvantages of
these strategic choices. An intensive effort has been made to draw
material together on the basis solely of the smart city literature.
Furthermore, the paper provides a starting point for the design of
smart city strategies, documents differentiating factors via exam-
ples of applied strategies in each category, and keeps the smart city
conversation ongoing by instigating further research.
A range strategies for smart city development
National versus local strategies
A major differentiating characteristic among smart city strate-
gies is whether they concern an entire country or nation, or they
are focused on a more local level, be it a neighborhood, municipal-
ity, city, metropolitan area or even a region.
Most applied strategies are built on the local level. The advanta-
ges of local-level smart city strategies, as they have been recently
cited in the smart city literature, include that:
Innovation has a geographical locus and knowledge has a geo-
graphical ‘stickiness’ – therefore their advancement on a local
level is more effective in making cities smart (Auci &
Mundula, 2012; Bria, 2012; Coe, Paquet, & Roy, 2001;
Hodgkinson, 2011; Nam & Pardo, 2011a; Townsend, Pang, &
Becoming smart includes fostering a competitive economy;
competition and competitiveness are clearly a matter of the
urban scale, as currently local characteristics are the ones that
differentiate cities among each other (Cosgrave & Tryfonas,
2012; Gifﬁnger & Gudrun, 2010; Gifﬁnger, Haindlmaier, &
Kramar, 2010; Hodgkinson, 2011).
Cities are capable of engaging various constituents in the inno-
vation process on a much broader range of activities, fostering
citizen-centric governance; the result is well established smart
city ecosystems (Bria, 2012; Hodgkinson, 2011; Paskaleva,
2011; Streitz, 2011).
Cities are more ﬂexible in exploring and adjusting a variety of
business and governance models to their own proﬁt. Their
experience, agility and proximity provide them the necessary
knowledge and ability to set up a favorable climate for the pur-
poses of becoming smart (Hodgkinson, 2011; Misuraca, Reid, &
Urban problems are of manageable size and known nature, and
respond to locally selected goals, which make them less effort-
intensive (Caragliu & Del Bo, 2012; Hodgkinson, 2011).
Cities have peers (i.e. other cities with similar characteristics),
from which they can pool insights on how to become smarter
(Hodgkinson, 2011; Tranos & Gertner, 2012).
On the other hand, the disadvantages of local-level smart city
strategies include the following:
Small and medium sized cities compete for resources against
larger and better-equipped cities; therefore they are less likely
to be able to receive or afford the necessary funds for smart city
projects (Gifﬁnger et al., 2010).
Cities will have to ﬁnd a way to align their smart city strategy
with the complex web of policy agendas already operating at
the government level (Hodgkinson, 2011; Nam & Pardo, 2011a).
Innovative pilot projects and small-scale developments do not
necessarily guarantee an effective uptake on city-wide level
(Pike Research, 2011).
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that even within the ‘local
strategy’ spectrum there is a variety of views about the most suit-
able implementation level. At one end of the local scale, it has been
advocated that strategic regional planning has a signiﬁcant impact
in smart city development, as its role is to harmonize and coordi-
nate top-level with low-level policies (Walters, 2011). At the other
end, however, small-scale smart city pilot programs allow the
accomplishment of short term achievable goals and provide a plat-
form to assess the viability of speciﬁc smart city solutions and ser-
vices in real-life contexts (Bria, 2012; Carter, Rojas, & Sahni, 2011;
González & Rossi, 2012).
Considerably far fewer researchers advocate the implementa-
tion of smart city strategies on a national level (i.e. to become a
‘smart country’). National-level strategies enjoy state backing; they
allow for a broader view and ﬁrmer control over related policies
and coordinated resource pooling, and by doing so they provide a
very strong point of reference for smart city strategies. The advan-
tages of national-level smart city strategies, as they have been
recently cited in the smart city literature, include the following:
Top-level coordination and resource allocation encourages the
assignment of clear roles and responsibilities to the institu-
tional authorities involved, enhancing the effectiveness of the
strategy (ABB & European House-Ambrosetti, 2012).
The operational continuity of basic choices at all levels is guar-
anteed and a common platform can be implemented (ABB &
European House-Ambrosetti, 2012).
Complementarity in weak and strong points and joint address-
ing of challenges can be foreseen (Hodgkinson, 2011; Tranos &
The disadvantages of national-level smart city strategies
Possibility to fail in capitalizing on the sum of local resources
effectively, and ignoring local needs and priorities (Paskaleva,
2011; Caragliu & del Bo, 2012; Gifﬁnger et al., 2010; Walters,
Horizontal measures may falsely assume that barriers and
opportunities are the same in all of a country’s cities
(Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster, 2012; Liugailaite
Urban development stage: new versus existing cities
Another signiﬁcant qualitative characteristic of a smart city
strategy is the urban development stage of the city they involve,
i.e. existing or new cities (greenﬁeld cities or ‘cities from scratch’
or ‘planned cities’).
On the one hand, and mostly in the Western world, urban plan-
ners endorse the belief that there is no need for new cities. Our
long-lived cities are already big and complex enough to accommo-
date the current population and its activities. Emphasis should be
placed on regenerating degraded urban areas, rather than develop-
ing new cities. Mostly in developing countries, on the other hand,
several initiatives have been taken to develop entirely new smart
cities, such as PlanIT Valley (Portugal), Skolkovo Innovation Center
(Russia), Cyberport Hong Kong (China), Songdo International Busi-
ness District (South Korea), Cyberjaya (Malaysia), Masdar City (Abu
Dhabi-UAE). These new cities are designed and built from scratch,
showcasing leading edge ‘smart’ technology and certiﬁcations of
green physical planning. They are highly ambitious projects,
encompassing tremendous investments for acquiring land, build-
ing infrastructure and erecting large scale settlements. It is impres-
sive that in China alone, as many as 154 proposals have been
S4 M. Angelidou / Cities 41 (2014) S3–S11
introduced to build a smart city (Yang, 2012), and population
growth and migration will give rise to 81 new cities by 2025
(Bélissent, 2010). However, the existence of several recently-built
but empty ghost cities in China—such as Kangbash, Zheng Zhou
New District, Zhengdong New District, Erenhot, Dantu, Bay-
annoao’er and Tunnan University Campus—raises concerns about
their exact purpose, affordability and building quality, and ulti-
mately their ability to attract inhabitants and become sustainable
in social terms.
The most important advantages of applying a smart city strat-
egy for a new city include:
Opportunity to address the smart city vision from inception,
and clarity of purpose (Bélissent, 2010; Ratti & Townsend,
2011; Washburn & Sindhu, 2010).
Integrated physical design and development of infrastructure
and buildings, incorporating all aspects of edge technology,
modern amenities and best practices of city planning
(Bélissent, 2010; Washburn & Sindhu, 2010; Pentikousis et al.,
Capability to explore innovative business models and funding
options (Bélissent, 2010; Townsend et al., 2009).
Selection of a strategically placed location (Bélissent, 2010;
Washburn & Sindhu, 2010).
Replication of standard approaches, resulting to faster deploy-
ment, economies of scale and higher chance for success
(Garner & Dornan, 2011; International new town institute,
2012; Pike Research, 2011; Shwayri, 2013).
The most important disadvantages of developing new smart cit-
There is an imminent risk of slow progression due to a variety of
problems ranging from budgetary issues to insufﬁcient plan-
ning and failure to attract residents and/or capital. Sondgo IBD
in South Korea (Shwayri, 2013) and Cyberjaya in Malaysia
(Brooker, 2008; Nordin, 2012; Yusof & van Loon, 2012) did
encounter some of those problems.
On average, greenﬁeld projects have a budget up to ten times
higher than the budget of brownﬁeld projects (Alcatel-Lucent,
2011). Therefore they require generous investments and a con-
ducive governance model (Alawadhi et al., 2012; Copenhagen
Cleantech Cluster, 2012).
Singular focus on efﬁciency could cause a restricted view of
societal values, such as social cohesion and quality of life, ques-
tioning the ‘sustainability’ dimension of new cities (Bria, 2012;
Lind, 2012; Ratti & Townsend, 2011).
The replication of technological solutions entails risks. The
same solution may not be suitable for all cities (Pike
Research, 2011; Sassen, 2011; Townsend, Maguire, Liebhold,
& Crawford, 2010).
On the other hand, comments on the new versus existing smart
city discourse stress the importance of collaboration among public
and private actors, and most importantly the engagement of the
city’s people, in order to design socially sustainable and livable
smart cities (Bria, 2012; Paskaleva, 2011; Sassen, 2011;
Townsend et al., 2010). In this sense, the most important advanta-
ges of applying a smart city strategy on an existing city are:
Opportunity of employing open innovation techniques and a
bottom-up approach (crowdsourcing, user engagement, living
labs, open data, etc.) to accelerate the innovation process
(Bakici, 2012; Bria, 2012; Paskaleva, 2011; Schaffers,
Komninos, & Pallot, 2012; Schuurman, Baccarne, de Marez, &
Mechant, 2012; Vicini, Bellini, & Sanna, 2012a).
An ecosystem of stakeholders is already present, allowing for
innovatory ways to collaborate and secure funding (Robinson,
Smart city revenue sources now tend to extend from products
to services (namely platforms and applications), eliminating
the need for large investments on smart city infrastructure
(Garner and Dornan, 2011; Walravens, 2011).
The most important disadvantages of applying a smart city
strategy to an existing city are:
Complex ecosystems of people, institutions and stakeholders
require extreme effort to organize and discipline (Bélissent,
2010; Ratti & Townsend, 2011).
An existing city’s infrastructure could be old and outmoded,
hindering the realization of the smart city vision (Bélissent,
2010; Pentikousis, Zhu, & Wang, 2011).
Besides becoming ‘smart’, existing cities have many problems
that must be addressed and which compete for a share of the
city’s recourses. Therefore, it is not possible to address all
aspects of a smart city; the strategy has to be highly selective
and based on a laborious prioritization process (Bélissent,
Hard versus soft infrastructure oriented strategies
This category refers to whether the smart city strategy will tar-
get the efﬁciency and technological advancement of the city’s hard
infrastructure systems (i.e. transport, water, waste, energy) or the
soft infrastructure and the people of the city (i.e. social and human
capital; knowledge, inclusion, participation, social innovation,
social equity, etc.).
In the ﬁrst case, technological endowment can be seen as
recourse for the development of a smart city based on the belief
that by instrumenting a city technically and investing in hard infra-
structure, an output of enhanced service provision in different
areas of the urban life and consequently development will be
achieved. Infrastructure-oriented smart city products provide rep-
licable solutions that address a range of common problems; these
solutions can later be applied to many cities with minor modiﬁca-
tions. However, a large fraction of smart city advocates tends to
regard infrastructure-oriented strategies as fragmented, stressing
the idea that ‘Technology is not enough’, meaning that it does not
guarantee the real smartness of cities, and it actually does not nec-
essarily make people themselves think or act smart (Anthopoulos
& Tougountzoglou, 2012; Aurigi, 2006; Hollands, 2008;
Komninos, 2009; Lind, 2012; Nam & Pardo, 2011a; Net!Works
Expert Working Group, 2011; Neves, 2009; Schuurman et al.,
In the second instance, a more complete view on smart city
development is adopted, by taking advantage of all available
recourses, including the knowledge, creativity and intellectual cap-
ital of the populace. A signiﬁcant portion of the smart city litera-
ture has argued extensively about the importance of human and
social capital for the development of smart cities (for instance:
Hollands (2008), Paskaleva (2011), Glaeser and Berry (2006),
Chourabi et al. (2012), Neves (2009), Liugailaite
ˇius (2012), Aurigi (2006), Komninos (2008)). Besides, the
creativity and resourcefulness of the city’s people, underpinned
through web spaces of collective intelligence, is more powerful
than any machine or individual intelligence (Ratti & Townsend,
2011). Human-centered approaches to the problems of the urban
environment are an indispensable characteristic of the smart city
(Bria, 2012), and therefore smart cities should put technology truly
at the service of their inhabitants and not vice versa (Sassen, 2011).
M. Angelidou / Cities 41 (2014) S3–S11 S5
No speciﬁc advantages of hard infrastructure-oriented strate-
gies are mentioned in the smart city literature. On the other hand,
their disadvantages include:
Risk for social disparities among population groups, unequal
access and knowledge on ICT usage—the digital divide
(Chourabi et al., 2012; Coe et al., 2001; Marciano, 2012;
Walters, 2011). Technological advancements and the complexi-
ties of cyberspace will continue to forge inequalities within the
fragments of society (Neves, 2009; Townsend et al., 2010).
Spatial polarization and gentriﬁcation, as technology take-up is
not evenly spread throughout urban areas, with splintering
effects on housing, consumption, lifestyle, leisure, etc.
(Hollands, 2008; Walters, 2011).
Citizen lock-in, control and surveillance. Issues of transparency,
privacy and collection of personal data, pervasive targeting of
consumers, institutional control (Bria, 2012; Haque, 2012;
Net!Works Expert Working Group, 2011).
Difﬁculties that arise due to proprietary smart city software and
infrastructure: high costs (Alawadhi et al., 2012; Aldama-Nalda
et al., 2012; Chourabi et al., 2012), difﬁculties in integration
across different systems (Alawadhi et al., 2012; Aldama-Nalda
et al., 2012; Chourabi et al., 2012), lack of trained staff
(Alawadhi et al., 2012; Chourabi et al., 2012; Huber & Mayer,
2012), necessity for frequent updates (Aldama-Nalda et al.,
The mentioned advantages of soft infrastructure and people-
oriented strategies include:
Advancement of human capital; citizen empowerment
(informed, educated, and participatory citizens), intellectual
capital and knowledge creation (Ratti & Townsend, 2011;
Komninos, 2009; Liugailaite
Chourabi et al., 2012; Aurigi, 2006; Neves, 2009).
Advancement of social capital; social sustainability and digital
inclusion (Batty et al., 2012; Caragliu, Del bo, & Nijkamp,
2009; Hodgkinson, 2011; Liugailaite
Behavioral change – sense of agency and meaning (i.e. the feel-
ing of community and that we are co-owners and equally
responsible for our city) (Frenchman, Joroff, & Albericci, 2011;
Townsend et al., 2010).
Humane approach; technology responsive to needs, skills and
interests of users, respect for diversity and individuality (Bria,
2012; Lind, 2012; Roche, Nabian, Kloeckl, & Ratti, 2012;
The disadvantages of soft infrastructure-oriented strategies, on
the other hand, include:
Cyberspace is not a purely public space, as not all people have
equal access to it –besides, capitalistic market forces often dic-
tate its use for private interests (Neves, 2009).
The availability of vast amounts of data and information does
not automatically guarantee the enhancement of knowledge,
and it does not ensure its integrity, either (Neves, 2009).
Access is not equal to participation; community engagement is
not automatically incurred by accessibility to digital recourses
Reference area: economic sector-based versus geographically based
A ﬁnal signiﬁcant differentiating characteristic among smart
city strategies is their reference area: economic sector-based
versus geographically based strategies. This issue, although
fundamental and clearly articulated, has not been studied exten-
sively in the context of the smart cities topic, and thus the available
literature is very restricted. However, it still remains as a differen-
tiating factor among smart cities.
Economic sector-based strategies refer to smart city strategies
aiming at the transformation of speciﬁc economic sectors of the
city (Komninos, 2009, 2011; Bélissent, 2010). This seems to be
the mainstream approach within the broader smart cities land-
scape, as most cities appear to be concerned with deploying new
technologies for a range of sectoral and/or actor-speciﬁc objectives
(Wolfram, 2012). In this framework, cities aiming to become smart
focus on enhancing the intelligence of speciﬁc socio-economic
aspects of everyday living, such as business, housing, commerce,
governance, heath, education, and community, without placing
speciﬁc emphasis on the geography of each sector, but on its effec-
tiveness and performance instead. For example, IBM, through their
‘smarter cities’ program, offers solutions for ‘government and
agency administration’, ‘smarter buildings and urban planning’,
‘environment’, ‘energy and water’, ‘transportation’, ‘education’,
‘healthcare’, ‘social programs’, and ‘public safety’ (IBM, 2013). In
a similar manner, Cisco’s ‘Smart + Connected Communities’ plat-
form offers solutions in ﬁelds such as transportation, learning,
safety and security, sports and entertainment, utilities, real estate,
health and government (CISCO, 2013).
On the other hand, other smart city strategies focus on geo-
graphically-determined districts and clusters (Komninos, 2009,
2011), such as business districts, research and development clus-
ters, university and education areas, logistical clusters, tourism
and leisure clusters, or even smaller areas, such as neighborhoods.
This is a spatially-determined perspective that acknowledges the
prevailing character and main functions of the city’s districts and
develops applications to organize and support their effectiveness.
It addresses speciﬁc user groups, who are meant to enjoy the
beneﬁts of the district/neighborhood they live in/work in/visit.
The existing literature on smart cities does not point out advan-
tages and disadvantages of sector-based and geographically based
strategies. The only related reference mentions the fact that geo-
graphically-based strategies enable economies of scope, as each
district’s functions are upgraded due to spatial proximity and
resources savings (Komninos & Sefertzi, 2009).
Cases of applied smart city strategies
National versus local strategies
National strategy: Malta
‘Smart Island Strategy (2008–2010)’ (Malta) is a national ICT
strategy commissioned by the Government of Malta for the coun-
try to become ‘one of the top 10 information societies in the world’.
Malta seeks to forge a knowledge-based economy and to create
new jobs in the high tech/creative industry. The country will
become a ﬁrst class ICT cluster and media capital by attracting
and hosting international ICT and media companies and providing
them an operational environment of cutting-edge infrastructure
and technological means. The strategy was based on ﬁve strategic
points: a. alignment with the EU Commission’s i2010 Action Plan,
Malta’s Research, Technological Development and Innovation
strategy, Malta’s Industrial Policy, b. creation of the entirely new
township of SmartCity Malta (a technology park on an area of
36 ha), c. adoption of a 360-degree approach, accounting for the
interests and objectives of the wider society, d. learning from best
international practices and adapting them locally and e. experience
and results would be the drivers of the strategy (Ministry for
infrastructure transport, 2008).
S6 M. Angelidou / Cities 41 (2014) S3–S11
Other countries that have contemplated or applied smart coun-
try strategies include Cyprus, Italy and Singapore. One cannot also
overlook, however, that with the exception of Italy, most of the
previous countries are fairly small in geographic terms, which
means that under certain criteria, these countries could be consid-
ered as comparable to large cities or metropolises, rather than
Local strategy: New York City
The city of New York followed a well-articulated digital strat-
egy, which was shaped with respect to local recourses, priorities
and needs. The study commenced with a thorough assessment
of the initial state of the city’s digital status and the number of
public servants that are occupied in these ﬁelds. Details were
gathered about which topics present increased interest to the
public (e.g. education, buildings, parking, taxes, etc.), the way
the public accesses the digital tools (e.g. which browser they
use) and demographic data (age, income, etc.). This intensive pro-
cedure on the city’s initiating status revealed that the city’s
administration has already been leveraging digital assets that
were not broadly known to the public. Then the strategy pro-
ceeded to a research study, which was conducted with the
engagement of residents, city employees and technologists
through 4.000 points of engagement. Through this process, stake-
holders of the public and private sectors provided insights and
ideas for the development of New York’s digital city. Finally, city
employees proposed ideas for a next-generation strategy, new
coordination tools, and shared resources to enhance digital com-
munications efforts. The study culminated in the formation of
New York City’s Digital Road Map, which highlights New York
City government’s commitment to technology in the public ser-
vice, and presents a comprehensive plan to achieve New York
City’s digital potential. An overview of the Road Map’s four core
areas of Access, Open Government, Engagement, and Industry
was provided (The City of New York, 2011).
Urban development stage: new versus existing cities
New City: Songdo IBD
Songdo International Business District (IBD) is a $35 billon dol-
lar venture of a new smart city, located in South Korea. It was built
from scratch on 1.500 acres (610 ha) of reclaimed land along
Incheon’s waterfront in South Korea, 65 kms from the capital,
Seoul. Songdo IBD aspires to become a business hub and encom-
passes principles of sustainable design and technology. The main
developers are Gale International, Posco and Morgan Stanley Real
Estate. It was masterplanned according to LEED-ND (Neighborhood
Development) principles and calls for a synergistic mix of uses. In
this newly-built city, CISCO showcases their Smart + Connected
Communities program fully. The technology vendor employed
state-of-the-art technology in buildings, deploying a network that
connects all the components of the city, including residences, ofﬁ-
ces and schools. Residents are able to control some functions of
their homes remotely and everyone is able to interact through
video from anywhere through CISCO’s telepresence system
(CISCO, 2010a, 2010b).
The ﬁrst phase of Songdo opened in August 2009. However, the
construction of the city has been progressing slowly ever since,
compared to the original plans, due to a range of complications,
including budgetary issues, insufﬁcient state backing, bureaucracy,
stakeholder resistance and failure to attract foreign capital invest-
ment (Lee & Oh, 2008; Shwayri, 2013; Williamson, 2013). As a
result, Songdo is today more of a wealthy suburb of Incheon city,
mostly populated by locals (Shwayri, 2013).
Existing city: Amsterdam
Amsterdam Smart City is a partnership among businesses,
authorities, research institutions, and the people of Amsterdam,
today comprising over 70 partners, including CISCO and IBM. The
initiative’s main themes of focus are living, working, mobility,
public facilities and open data (Amsterdam Smart City, 2013).
The program involves 32 area-based projects across Amsterdam’s
neighborhoods, focusing on energy transition and open connectiv-
ity. These projects are initially tested on a small scale and the ones
that prove to be efﬁcient are later scaled to broader areas. The pro-
jects help citizens monitor their private consumption, thus encour-
aging them to manage it better. One of the most well-known
projects of Amsterdam Smart City is the Climate Street, which
ran from 2009 to 2011 on the popular shopping street Utrechtses-
traat. During this period, a number of smart and energy-saving
technologies were introduced in the street, both in its public
spaces and in the private businesses along it: smart meters, energy
displays, smart plugs and smart lighting. At the closing of the pro-
gram, the ﬁnal results of the Climate Street CO
estimated to have been reduced by 8% (energy saving) and 10%
(savings achieved by switching to green energy) (Sauer, 2012).
Another typical project is the West Orange project. In the context
of this project, 400 households in Amsterdam were equipped with
a new energy management system that makes residents more
aware of their energy consumption and helps them save energy.
The energy management system includes wireless energy displays,
connected to digital gas and energy meters. The objective is to
reduce energy consumption by at least 14% and at the same time
achieve the equivalent amount of CO
Smart City, 2013).
Amsterdam Smart City has received international recognition as
one of the world’s most successful smart city initiatives; it was
nominated the second smartest city in Europe for 2014 (Chief
Digital Ofﬁcer Club ofﬁcial website, 2014), while it won the World
Smart Cities Awards 2012 and the European City Star Award 2011.
Hard versus soft infrastructure oriented strategies
Hard infrastructure-oriented strategy: Rio de Janeiro
One of the most characteristic infrastructure-oriented smart
city models is the IBM solution for the ‘Smarter City’. According
to IBM (Kehoe et al., 2011), city infrastructures and services are tra-
ditionally created and managed by independent departments or
organizations. City domains are focused on their own operations,
and only on a limited basis is information shared with other inter-
ested parties and the overall city. In a smarter city, however, infor-
mation—in the form of metrics, events and processes—must be
shared across organizations in a near real-time manner. With the
support of analytics programs, city-wide operational processes
using data from any number of domains can continuously predict
and react to events and trends that are affecting the city. In
2010, IBM employed their ﬁrst integrated operations center in
Rio de Janeiro, pooling generous investments in sensor networks
after signing a contract with the city of Rio de Janeiro. Rio had
recently experienced devastating landslides that killed over 250
people, and it faced the forthcoming challenges of hosting the
Olympics in 2016 and the World Cup in 2014. It was thus agreed
that there was a need for the development of an Emergency
Response System, with real-time automated command-and-con-
trol of emergency responses. The citywide system integrates data
from about 30 agencies, serving primarily safety and transport
functions and uses integrated business analytics and intelligence
with predictive trend analysis. Administrative authorities can
now make more informed and prompt decisions as they can view
information from city services such as the police, trafﬁc manage-
ment and energy grid, all at the same time.
M. Angelidou / Cities 41 (2014) S3–S11 S7
The smart city project for the city of Rio has suffered negative
criticism in popular media. The reality of the sprawling mega-city,
which suffers from high crime rates, social inequality problems
and acute environmental issues cannot be left uncommented
under the ‘smartness’ brand. The project was referred to as ‘‘Smar-
ter Favela’’ by Lindsay (2010), an expression which was reproduced
abundantly across the Web. Furthermore, concerns have been
raised as to what degree city management should be delegated
to private companies (Anthony, 2012; Honan, 2012).
Soft infrastructure oriented strategy: Barcelona
The mission of Barcelona in the context of the smart city strat-
egy is centered on the notion that Barcelona is a ‘city of people’.Itis
a city that seeks to improve citizens’ welfare and quality of life, as
well as to foster economic progress. Smartness, in Barcelona’s
approach, is not an end in itself, but a means to achieve develop-
ment (Ajuntament de Barcelona, 2014). The city utilizes knowledge
as an engine of economic growth, aiming to support the production
and the generation of talent on a local level (Bakici, Almirall, &
Wareham, 2012). The engagement of the private sector and citi-
zens and the development of an innovation ecosystem has been
the primary concern of the city’s strategy. In this context, the city
created a friendly climate for Private–Public Partnerships (PPPs) to
ﬂourish, namely by providing the necessary legal framework and
the space for these partnerships to settle. Collaboration is therefore
key to Barcelona’s smart city initiative, and the city takes a lead to
facilitate it among stakeholders (businesses, academic institutions,
government authorities and the residents), while allowing partners
to operate as independently as possible and ensuring that their
activities meet the aims of the smart city venture (Lee, Bakici,
Almirall, & Wareham, 2012). In total, there are over 100 horizontal
projects considered to be part of the smart city strategy in Barce-
lona and many of them have both a physical and a digital dimen-
sion, as Barcelona is one of the cities that paid speciﬁc attention
to the territorial dimension of urban innovation. The latter is real-
ized through high-quality urban planning and urban renewal pro-
jects, along with preservation of the city’s historical patrimony.
The 22@Barcelona District is the most representative case of
large-scale urban renewal projects: an innovation district built
on 200 ha of formerly brownﬁeld land, equipped with high-tech-
nology infrastructure, with the goal of attracting businesses, insti-
tutions and other organizations in a climate of openness and
cooperation. Furthermore, by providing ubiquitous connectivity
(corporate ﬁber optical network, Wi-Fi mesh network, sensor net-
work and public Wi-Fi network), new services for the citizens (to
amplify the efﬁciency of the public sector, to offer up-to-date infor-
mation to citizens and foster their participation in the manage-
ment of the city and to innovate by encouraging citizen-to-
citizen services) and open public data (Bakici et al., 2012;
Komninos, Pallot, & Schaffers, 2013), the city’s people are expected
to contribute to local governance and beneﬁt from gaining access
to the city’s services and becoming more participative.
Overall, Barcelona’s strategy places outstanding emphasis on
human and social capital. Nevertheless, the city faced challenges
in providing exact and appropriate infrastructure and in
the deployment and management of wireless networks and
cross-departmental cooperation has been challenging due to the
difﬁculty in deﬁning clearly the roles and responsibilities of each
person and authority (Bakici et al., 2012).
Reference area: economic sector-based versus geographically based
Economic sector-based strategy: ‘Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015)’
A characteristic and clearly articulated sector-based approach is
the ‘Intelligent Nation 2015’ (iN2015), which is Singapore’s 10-year
masterplan towards becoming an intelligent island. The iN2015
masterplan, now close to its end, foresaw the transformation of
seven key economic sectors, including the government sector,
which were then enabled through related initiatives (Infocomm
Development Authority of Singapore, 2012):
The Digital Media & Entertainment Sector, to establish a digital
marketplace for the creation and commercialization of new
interactive and digital media technologies, content and services
Education and Learning, to use ICT in the education process and
link students with other students in and out of Singapore
Financial Services, to help Singapore become an innovative hub
for ﬁnancial services in Asia
Government, to offer personalized government services to citi-
zens, promote interaction and feedback and realize a standard
ICT operating environment across the public sector
Healthcare and Biomedical Sciences, to use ICT to link healthcare
providers, enable instant access to patient information and pro-
mote biomedical research
Manufacturing and Logistics, to use ICT in research and product
development, develop new manufacturing services business
models, reduce time to market and support one platform for
national trade information and transactions
Tourism, Hospitality & Retail, to use ICT to enhance growth and
competitiveness and to deliver seamless, efﬁcient and personal-
ized services to visitors
The government of Singapore did indeed realize the majority of
its expectations, as they are manifested in the iN2015 masterplan.
Singapore is today one of the most powerful ICT hubs globally,
with a broadly prospering service economy. What remain to be
seen are published results and the evaluation of the plan’s progress
through the years it ran.
Geographically based strategy: Thessaloniki
The city of Thessaloniki, Greece, is another ﬁtting example of a
geographically-based smart city strategy. The areas of focus for the
‘Intelligent Thessaloniki’ proposal are the most important districts
of innovation and entrepreneurship within Thessaloniki, namely:
(1) the port of Thessaloniki, (2) the Central Business District
(CBD) and commercial center of the city, (3) the campus of the
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, (4) the technology district of
eastern Thessaloniki, and (5) the airport area. Applications and e-
services vary from one city district to another. In the port cluster,
smart environments were proposed to enhance the competitive-
ness of the cluster and facilitate freight transactions and other port
operations. In the CBD, smart environments were recommended to
facilitate access and mobility and enable environmental monitor-
ing. At the University campus, smart environments were proposed
to facilitate research and the dissemination of knowledge and
enforce the triple-helix model by encouraging collaboration with
the private sector. Finally, in the Eastern technology district, smart
environments were proposed to facilitate the promotion of the
area’s commercial properties and attract tenants, provide online
technology services, and to support new business incubation
(Komninos & Tsarchopoulos, 2012).
Conclusions and recommendations for the development
of smart cities
Before mapping out a strategy for the development of a smart
city, it is important to see what is already in place and how it
can be improved. This may sound axiomatic and self-explanatory,
but experience has shown that it is surprisingly easy to be allured
by grandiose visions about the smart city of the future and to focus
S8 M. Angelidou / Cities 41 (2014) S3–S11
on what is missing rather than capitalizing on existing smart city
resources ﬁrst. New York City’s experience is characteristic: the
city already had in place many digital assets that were either not
known to the public, or had not been recently updated or were
running on different platforms across various city agencies.
Municipal governments, and authorities operating at the lowest
tiers of government, have traditionally had limited autonomy and
resources for themselves, and this has only been exacerbated by an
era of limited public funds and austerity, such as the one that is
still ongoing in Europe. Cities should thus begin the journey
towards becoming a smart city by selecting a few domains or areas
that need to be improved urgently. Amsterdam, for example, chose
open data and energy. Rio de Janeiro chose transport and security.
Selectivity, synergies and prioritization are thus three standard
core values in planning a smart city.
Smart city ventures are also called to address issues of political
coordination among different levels of administration. They also
have to address moral and ethical issues, such as the digital divide,
transparency, privacy and security. Rio de Janeiro is one case of city
that has been criticized for failing to achieve moral balance, by fail-
ing to provide accessibility for all to the city’s smart assets. Another
typical example is the case of the Cyberjaya city in Malaysia; the
construction of the new smart city began in the framework of
national policy with the endorsement of the local administration,
and at that time both came from the same political party. When
this changed, however, the city suffered major delays and long
periods of stagnation. Political and moral balance is thus another
important success factor for the development of smart cities.
In this sense, it is noteworthy that to produce morally balanced
and socially aware smart city strategies, stakeholder engagement is
crucial. Stakeholder engagement can provide valuable insights
about the assets and the needs of the city (New York City), increase
public acceptance of the smart city venture (New York City,
Amsterdam) and elevate the ‘smartness’ of the city to a whole
new level, leveraging human capital and collective intelligence
(Amsterdam, Barcelona). Digital spaces and Web 2.0 tools facilitate
this valuable interaction with stakeholders enormously, as they
provide a collective and encoded space where large scale interac-
tion and collaboration can take place.
What is more, it is highly desirable to combine digital changes
with targeted physical and institutional ones, achieving economies
of scope through integrated projects, like Barcelona did. Physical
planning and social policy can and should underpin the digital or
‘smart’ dimension of the city. The digitization of citizen services
can have splintering effects on the social cohesion of society, as
social groups with limited access to digital resources may ﬁnd
themselves completely isolated by losing their access to their
physical counterpart (think banks versus internet banking, city hall
services versus online birth certiﬁcates, libraries versus e-books,
voting centers versus e-voting, etc.). Rio de Janeiro is a smart city
that was severely criticized exactly for failing to make this consid-
eration; the ‘Smarter Favela’ motto is characteristic of the venture’s
inability to address the acute social inequalities of the city,
widening the already existing social gap and enhancing spatial
Finally, having mentioned Barcelona, there is an emerging trend
to approach smart cities and urban development through small-
scale integrated projects. These projects create urban-scale innova-
tion ecosystems that are embossed in the physical space of the city
and impact positively their surrounding area. These small scale
projects act as pilot projects that are more user-friendly, encourage
citizen participation and raise awareness and acceptance in the
transition towards becoming a smart city (see Amsterdam and Bar-
celona). However, these projects need to be part of a broader stra-
tegic plan and foresee synergies among different projects, as
The smart cities’ topic is still largely under exploration. The
smart city landscape is shaped under local characteristics, priori-
ties and the needs of cities, in addition to global market forces
and available technology. This paper has made a comprehensive
effort to provide a clearer view of the strategic choices with spatial
reference that may play a fundamental role in the design of a smart
city strategy. The advantages and disadvantages of each strategic
choice were presented, distilled after a comprehensive review of
recent smart city literature. These different paths emerge as dual
or multi-faceted, leading to a range of decisions that radically dif-
ferentiate the outcome of the smart city. Which available option is
best is open to discussion. Different strategies have been imple-
mented in variations through smart city projects globally. Indeed,
several proposed or applied smart city strategies lie somewhere
in-between the extremes of the available strategic choices.
Furthermore, this paper has only addressed strategic choices
with a spatial reference. In fact, there is a range of other strategic
choices without spatial reference that need to be tackled in the
smart city design process. One could be, for example, whether
the strategy will be based on an open innovation or closed innova-
tion model. Another one could address the business model and its
social implications behind the smart city venture. These strategic
choices have been referenced randomly throughout the smart city
literature but have never actually been categorized comprehen-
sively and documented as of yet.
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