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Smart cities: A conjuncture of four forces
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Architecture, Department of Urban Planning and Regional Development, Urban and Regional Innovation Research Unit (URENIO), Greece
Received 15 December 2014
Received in revised form 30 April 2015
Accepted 11 May 2015
Available online 21 May 2015
Despite the ongoing discussion of the recent years, there is no agreed deﬁnition of a ‘smart city’, while
strategic planning in this ﬁeld is still largely unexplored. Inspired by this, the purpose of this paper
was to identify the forces shaping the smart city conception and, by doing so, to begin replacing the cur-
rently abstract image of what it means to be one. The paper commences by dividing the recent history of
smart cities into two large sections – urban futures and the knowledge and innovation economy. The urban
futures strand shows that technology has always played an important role in forward-looking visions
about the city of the future. The knowledge and innovation economy strand shows that recent technolog-
ical advancements have introduced a whole new level of knowledge management and innovation capa-
bilities in the urban context. The paper proceeds to explicate the current technology push and demand pull
for smart city solutions. On one hand, technology advances rapidly and creates a booming market of
smart city products and solutions around it. On the other hand, there is demand on the side of cities that
seek to address the problems of efﬁciency and sustainability, making the ground fertile for a smart city
product economy. The research route of this paper eventually allows the identiﬁcation of the underlying
– and often forgotten – principles of what it means to be ‘smart’ in an urban context and yields conclu-
sions about strategic planning for the development of smart cities today.
Ó2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Smart cities represent a conceptual urban development model
on the basis of the utilization of human, collective, and technolog-
ical capital for the development of urban agglomerations
(Angelidou, 2014). At present, tens of different descriptions of what
a smart or intelligent city is can be found in the literature. Despite
the ongoing discussion of the recent years, there is no agreed def-
inition about smart cities, whereas strategic planning in this ﬁeld is
still largely unexplored (Hollands, 2008; Komninos, 2011a; Nam &
Pardo, 2011; Wolfram, 2012). What is certain, though, is that smart
cities represent a multidisciplinary ﬁeld, constantly shaped by
advancements in technology and urban development. In this sense,
by tracing the history of smart cities up to the current smart city
idea, one may hope to achieve a better understanding of what it
means to be ‘smart’ in a city context.
The purpose of this paper was therefore to identify the shaping
forces of the ‘smart city’ conception and, by doing so, to begin
restoring the current abstract image of what it means to be one.
It will do this by exploring the recent history of smart cities, iden-
tifying the principal drivers of the current smart city discourse and
reaching conclusions about smart city planning today.
The paper is structured accordingly. Section 2identiﬁes the
shaping forces of the ‘smart city’ conception. It explores the urban
futures strand, highlighting the past 100 years’ visions about the
city of the future, as it was envisaged to become under the inﬂu-
ence of state-of-the-art technology. It proceeds to explore the
knowledge and innovation economy strand, highlighting how it
gradually became realized that urban agglomerations can be pur-
posefully designed to induce the development of ‘knowledgeable’
and innovative cities. Section 3analyzes the current technology
push and demand pull for smart city solutions. It also shows how
recent technological advancements have affected urban futures
and the knowledge and innovation economy and how thanks to
those developments, and the smart city narrative is becoming
transformed into a reality. Based on the previous observations,
Section 4illustrates examples of integrated smart city strategies
and highlights the underlying principles of what it means to be
‘smart’ in a city context. Section 5of the paper discusses the con-
clusions that emerged from the previous review.
2. Two long-lasting phenomena
2.1. Urban futures
The history of cities has shown that the social, economic and
spatial structure of cities reﬂects their underlying production
0264-2751/Ó2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
E-mail address: email@example.com
Cities 47 (2015) 95–106
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/cities
systems. Although the inertia of physical structures impedes quick
transitions within the physical space, it does not hinder utopian
visions about the ideal future city from running in a
‘fast-forward’ mode. These visions connect the future of cities with
a lavish utopia of a forthcoming mechanized age, inspired by the
latest developments in science and industry. The ﬁrst ones
appeared in the late 19th century, but they gained popularity from
the early 20th century and on.
The ﬁrst coherent ideas about the future of society, economy
and urban settlements under the effect of the advancing technol-
ogy appeared in the 1850s. The most well-known one is the vision
of a healthy and functional city, as an answer to the acute cities of
the early industrial revolution, which was illustrated by E. Howard
in 1898 in his book ‘The Garden Cities of Tomorrow’(Hall, 2002).
This work was the ﬁrst to put forth the conception of an ideal city
in the industrial era. Howard’s ideas sought to balance individual
and community needs in the context of a capitalistic economic sys-
tem and inﬂuenced planning practices for many years thereafter.
Functionalist T. Garnier’s drawings for an ideal industrial city,
called ‘Une cité industrielle’(Fig. 1) were ﬁrst exhibited in 1904
(Hall, 2002). Hydroelectric power, automobile production, air nav-
igation, photography and cinema, i.e. the latest technological
advancements of that era, were central elements of the vision.
The architect, through his work of a lifetime, demonstrated clearly
his belief that the cities of the future should embrace industry and
its technological achievements.
Only a few years later, the Futurist movement (around 1909–
1916) was vividly propagated through ideas about speed, violence,
machinery, industry, the car, the airplane and the industrial city –
namely all that which represented the technological triumph of
humanity over nature. In 1913, the Italian futurist A. Sant’Elia,
architect and prominent member of the Futurist group, started
work on his large project for the ‘Città Nuova’ (New City, Fig. 2).
Sant’Elia imagined the city as an efﬁcient, fast-paced machine. He
visualized it as highly industrialized and mechanized, comprising
vast skyscrapers, grandiose multi-level trafﬁc routes, bridges and
The Bauhaus movement (1919–1932) in Germany also drew
some of its ideas from the notion of mass industrial production.
The movement did not produce plans about whole cities, but
Walter Gropius, founder and prominent ﬁgure of the movement,
stated in 1923 that ‘We want an architecture adapted to our world
of machines,radios and fast motor cars’(Honour & Fleming, 2005).
For Bauhaus, the machine and modern technology were considered
positive elements, and therefore its proponents engaged exten-
sively in industrial and product design.
Le Corbusier, the famous modernist architect, designer, urbanist
and writer, also produced a very rich variety of works, through
which the importance of machines, industry and rational thinking
emerges very eloquently. It is not by accident that Le Corbusier
named some of the buildings and cities he designed after manufac-
turing brands: ‘Maison Citrohan’ (after the French Citroën auto-
maker) and ‘Plan Voisin’ (after the French aircraft manufacturing
company). He clearly implied that houses and cities ought to
encompass modern industrial methods and work as effortlessly
as machines. In 1922 Le Corbusier produced his plans for the
‘Ville Contemporaine’ (contemporary city) for a population of three
million. In the city’s heart lied a group of sixty-story skyscrapers
for residential and ofﬁce use, built with steel and glass – the latest
revolution in the construction industry at that time (Fig. 3).
The Second World War (WWII) was naturally a period, during
which construction and future visioning subsided. However,
Fig. 1. Image from Garnier’s ‘Une cité industrielle’. Grandiose structures frame the future industrial city (http://www.essential-architecture.com/STYLE/STY-069.htm).
Fig. 2. Image from Sant’Elia’s ‘Città Nuova’. Grandiose structures frame the future
city once again (http://www.essential-architecture.com/STYLE/STY-069.htm).
96 M. Angelidou / Cities 47 (2015) 95–106
expanding urban population after the ending of WWII, as well as
the increased need for shelter and proper living conditions, led to
the development of planned cities and suburbs. Broadly known
as the ‘New Towns’ movement, this phenomenon arose in the
United Kingdom but soon expanded in other parts of the world,
too (Atkinson, 1998; Hall, 2002). Dozens of cities were planned
as an alternative over existing crowded and polluted cities, and
were afterward built with modern materials and construction
methods. From that period forward, the idea that humanity was
about to witness massive changes under the inﬂuence of techno-
logical advancements became embedded in the minds of planners,
economists and sociologists.
Soon the new technologies of the 1960s inspired urban scholars
to start speculating what their effect would be on cities (Atkinson,
1998). Planners’ efforts to highlight the underlying information
systems of cities resulted in the study of the way that information
ﬂows would affect the built environment. In many cases they envi-
sioned radical ideas about fully mechanized cities. Some of the
most important embracers of these ideas were R. Meier, T.
Zenetos, M. McLuhan, Y. Friedman, C. Price and groups such as
Archigram, Superstudio and Archizoom Associati. The most
well-known works of Archigram are the ‘Plug-in-City’(Fig. 4),
designed by P. Cook and the ‘Walking City’(Fig. 5), designed by R.
Herron, both in 1964. Architect T. Zenetos conceived the idea of
‘Electronic Urbanism’(Fig. 6), a city model that embraces networked
technology in favor of social equity and creativity, in connection
with the natural habitat, economy of energy and time and sustain-
ability. His model calls for tele-working, tele-services and
tele-education spaces (Zenetos, 1969).
Around that time, the topics of inter-urban information ﬂows
and the urban hierarchy of communications also began to
attract interest. Urban planner R. Meier (1962) conceived the
Fig. 3. Le Corbusier’s grandiose vision of the ‘Ville Contemporaine’ (1922) (Fondation Le Corbusier, 2014).
Fig. 4. The ‘Plug-in-City’, designed by Peter Cook in 1964 (http://www.fabiofeminofantascience.org/RETROFUTURE/RETROFUTURE13.html).
Fig. 5. The ‘Walking City’, designed by Ron Herron in 1964 (http://www.fabiofemi-
M. Angelidou / Cities 47 (2015) 95–106 97
‘Communications theory of urban growth’, explicating how commu-
nications and their networks affected spatial development and
continuity in urban agglomerations. Geographer J. Gottman
(1961) popularized the notion of ‘Megalopolis’, pointing to uniﬁed
super-cities that would allegedly appear as a result of sprawling
transportation and telecommunication systems. He also later
introduced the idea of ‘Transactional Cities’, referring to newly
emerging metropolitan functions and their impact on the urban
form due to changes in information, data and knowledge ﬂows.
Mumford (1961) argued for a complementary development of
technology and the natural environment, to avoid the development
of gloomy and chaotic industrial cities and commercial areas.
In essence, throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s there was a
signiﬁcant stream of published work that engaged with the emerg-
ing information society on the urban scale in a visionary way. In
the 1980s the idea of instrumenting the city with networks led
to the popularization of ‘wired cities’ and other related conceptions,
such as ‘cybercities’, ‘information cities’, ‘intelligent cities’, ‘digital
cities’and ‘virtual cities’.Most of these conceptions represented
visions of what cities might look like in the distant future, past
the reality of what was possible at that time (Batty, 2012). The
accelerating technological change of that era enabled for the ﬁrst
time the ample spread and popularization of Information and
Communication Technologies (ICTs), making them a part of every-
day life. The World Wide Web facilitated networking and informa-
tion transfer and the ﬁrst browsers popularized the use of the
Internet. By the mid-1990s, many studies featured visions about
future cities where ICTs would be the main enabler of democracy
and city management (Aurigi, 2006).
Amidst technological euphoria and increasing accessibility to
technological means, a series of other radical ideas emerged about
the effects of ICTs on the social and spatial dimensions of the urban
realm. Theorists of the decade 1990–2000 envisaged that the
Internet would allow people to access all goods and services from
any location in the world. Allegedly all their functions would be
transferred to the digital world; thus, physical cities were prone
to extinct, as the beneﬁts of spatial agglomeration would disappear
(Atkinson, 1998; Aurigi & Graham, 2000; Crang & Graham, 2007;
Marvin, 2000). Cairncross (1997) even wrote about the ‘Death of
Distance’, suggesting that distance was no longer a limiting factor
for communications and transactions.
In parallel emerged the ﬁrst studies about the blending of com-
puting and information processing into the objects of the everyday
environment, to the level that they are not obvious any more to the
human perception, known as ‘ubiquitous computing’.
head of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in California was the
frontrunner of this idea, having stated that ‘the most profound tech-
nologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric
of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it’(Weiser, 1991).
Nevertheless, at that point these technologies were still in at embry-
onic stage, and were not capable of being tested on a large scale or in
a really ubiquitous way. Technological ubiquity is rather a condition
that we are starting to experience only today, with the broad
employment of sensors and actuators throughout the built environ-
ment and the Internet of Things.
In essence, technology has ever since the industrial era been a
major driver of visions about urban futures. These visions involved
cities that would use technology to establish modern and healthy
living conditions, where perfect democracy would stem from col-
lective digital spaces and where people’s needs would be satisﬁed
instantly and intuitively. Some of today’s smart city researchers
actually acknowledge that the smart cities movement is predomi-
nantly a strategic vision for the future, rather than a reality
(Komninos, Pallot, & Schaffers, 2013; Navigant Research, 2011;
Schaffers, 2012; Wolfram, 2012).
2.2. The knowledge and innovation economy
A report from the World Bank (2007) starts out with the
ever-lasting importance of knowledge in the history of human civ-
ilization and the role that knowledge has always played in local
development, from the knowledge produced by the ancient
Greek civilization, revolving around sciences such as astronomy,
physics, and mathematics, to the Romans who created important
engineering techniques, and the Arabs who kept knowledge alive
during the Middle Ages, and the thriving knowledge explosion in
science, art, and other areas during the Renaissance and later the
Industrial Revolution. The report concludes that knowledge is an
ever-lasting foundation of development throughout the history of
In recent years, moreover, knowledge was recognized as a valu-
able and manageable asset, capable of accrediting a competitive
advantage to an enterprise, organization or city (Angelidou,
Gountaras, & Tarani, 2012). The terms ‘knowledge economy’ and
‘knowledge-based economy’ refer to an economy where more
knowledge-intensive than labor-intensive activities take place
and the share of intangible capital compared to physical capital
is expanding. The knowledge economy is the one that through
the course of the ﬁrst half of the 20th century gradually replaced
the post-industrial economy; the 21st century has been dubbed
both as the ‘century of knowledge’(Drucker, 1994; Sakaiya, 1991)
and as the ‘century of learning’(Longworth, 1999).
The WWII, according to researchers of the Institute of the
Future (Townsend, Pang, & Weddle, 2009), was the ﬁrst occasion
in history that resulted in the development of ‘cities’ focused on
using technology as a facilitator of knowledge and innovation.
These ‘cities’ housed scientiﬁc and technical research in an isolated
location, with the mission of performing war-related Research and
Development (R&D). Komninos (2011a) identiﬁed Bletchley Park in
1939 in the UK as the ﬁrst intelligent city to have been realized
with the purpose of beneﬁtting from knowledge and information
ﬂow in the context of spatial proximity. This early science city
Fig. 6. Model of Zenetos’s ‘Electronic Urbanism’(Zenetos, 1969).
However, since then it has been well established that this is not entirely possible,
both because electronic networking cannot substitute completely for physical
interaction (Aurigi & Graham, 2000), and because there is a physical structure and
geography even in informational worlds (Crang & Graham, 2007). This fact has also
been proved through quantitative surveys and analyses (Tranos & Nijkamp, 2013).
Also known as UbiComp, pervasive computing, PerC, Everyware, Things That
Think, Tangible Media, Smart Dust, Ambient Intelligence, etc.
The scenario in which objects, people and animals become equipped with
minuscule identifying devices that enable them to become connected and transfer
data over wireless networks. This process enables objects and environments to act
98 M. Angelidou / Cities 47 (2015) 95–106
accumulated cryptography researchers commissioned to decrypt
the ciphers contained in messages of German opponents – at peak,
12,000 people lived and worked in Bletchley Park. Here for the ﬁrst
time, individual, collective, and machine intelligence were con-
certed on a community-wide level, endowing a physical settlement
with higher problem-solving capability, quicker responses, better
quality procedures and lower operation costs (Komninos, 2011a).
Other examples include the concentration of German rocket devel-
opers in the Peenemünde Army Research Center and atomic bomb
researchers in Tennessee, Washington and New Mexico. After the
war, however, the raison d’être behind these urban agglomerations
(i.e. secrecy and geographic isolation) ceased to exist, whereas sus-
taining them was extremely costly (Townsend et al., 2009).
In the following years appeared settlements that accumulated
large manufacturing companies, oftentimes including research
and development activities among their operations. They were
physically closer to populated cities and were given names such
as ‘industrial park’, ‘research park’ and ‘science park’ (Townsend
et al., 2009). Silicon Valley in the 1950s (Saxenian, 1983), ﬂourish-
ing around Stanford University and its graduates start-up compa-
nies, is probably the best known example of the sort. Inspired by
the Silicon Valley phenomenon, researchers gradually began to
explore the connection of knowledge and innovation with the ter-
ritory, focusing their study on how innovation ﬂourishes in a spa-
tial context. They tried to explain why and how innovations
concentrate in speciﬁc areas, what ‘sticks’ skilled workers and
innovative companies together and what spatial forms of coopera-
tion can be introduced to induce the development of innovation
(for example, industrial districts, research parks and business incu-
bators). Much of the current research about smart and creative
cities is rooted back at the major research agenda of the 1960s
and 1970s that tried to explain the processes behind the spatial
concentration and diffusion of innovations (Boulton, Brunn, &
Devriendt, 2012; Hall, 1998).
During the most recent decade the focus became concentrated
around national innovation (Freeman, 1995; Lundvall, 1992). It
was realized that innovation relies on systemic environments that
help transform inputs (funds, ideas, technologies, skills) into mar-
ketable innovation outputs (patents, exports, new products, jobs,
new companies, proﬁts, etc.). Industrial parks and districts thus
gave their place to the development of national innovation sys-
tems, purposed to develop national policies that facilitate the pro-
cesses of technology transfer. After 1995, however, it was realized
that although the production of new knowledge takes place on a
global scale, innovation processes, i.e. the application of that
knowledge, take place on the local. Consequently, the discussion
became concentrated around new topics, such as those of ‘learn-
ing regions’, ‘regional innovation systems’ and ‘local innovation
systems’ (Florida, 1995; Morgan, 1997). This interest was also lar-
gely inspired and sustained by the policies of the European Union
of that time, which prioritized regional strategic innovation and
technology policies (Auci & Mundula, 2012; Komninos, 2006,
Today the focus of innovation and technology-led develop-
ment is centered around global innovation clusters and creative
hubs, intelligent technology districts and Living Labs
menting with new products and services (Komninos, 2009).
Knowledge management has broken out of the established norms
of the business world and expanded in other socioeconomic areas,
such as education, government and healthcare (Angelidou et al.,
2012). Major international organizations, such as the European
Union, the World Bank, the United Nations and the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development, have adopted knowl-
edge management frameworks in their strategic directions for glo-
bal and local development. It is becoming increasingly evident that
there is a strong link between knowledge management and urban
development, as the operations of cities can be purposefully
designed to encourage the nurturing of knowledge. A host of
researchers study ‘knowledge cities’(Carillo, 2006; Chatzkel, 2004;
Dvir, 2004; Edvinsson, 2006; Ergazakis, Metaxiotis, & Psarras,
2004; Martínez, 2008; Mihaud, 2003) and ‘knowledge-based
urban development’(Yigitcanlar, 2005; Yigitcanlar, O’Connor,
& Westerman, 2008).
On the whole, the knowledge and innovation economy is an
essential driver of the smart city discourse. The technological
advancement of the recent decades would not have had such
strong impact on cities, if they had not rooted their development
in knowledge and innovation (Komninos, 2011a). The knowledge
economy played a signiﬁcant role in the emergence of the idea of
smart cities; it is one of the two strands of thinking that formed
the current ideas about what a smart city is, how it works, and
what it can do.
3. Recent developments
What is different today and how have recent changes led to the
emergence and diffusion of the smart city idea? The major devel-
opment is that today’s state-of-the-art technology is affordable,
wireless, of increased performance, safety and reliability and func-
tions on a real-time basis (Atkinson, 1998; Aurigi, 2006; Batty,
2012). Big Data
can be used to identify trends and reach conclu-
sions about the urban environment and the incidents that happen
(or are prone to happen) therein and ultimately allow city manage-
ment to be more efﬁcient, equitable and ‘smart’. The falling price and
increasing performance of technology secure that it will continue to
be adopted throughout the economy.
Elaborating on recent economics and innovation theories
inspired by the writings of Schumpeter (1947) and Schmookler
(1966), we can describe the current situation in the smart city area
as being shaped under two distinct forces: technology push and
demand pull. The technology push implies that a new solution/pro-
duct is ushered into the market as a result of quickly advancing
science and technology, i.e. it is driven by supply, regardless of
the expressed needs of society. The demand pull refers to solu-
tions/products being developed and commercialized as a result of
scientiﬁc research responding to the demand on the side of society.
This theory can be used to explain the most recent happenings in
the smart city area.
3.1. A technology push for smart city solutions
The technological advancements of recent years have made fea-
sible the development of a vast array of solutions and products that
seek to enable the smart city. These products use ICTs to improve
urban function management in areas such as transport, energy,
health care, water and waste. As a result, an increasing number
of technology vendors and consultancies are looking for a niche
in the smart city product market. Other stakeholders in the smart
city area occasionally enhance this push, too:
Living labs are platforms that engage stakeholders in real-life contexts to test
breakthrough concepts and assess their potential value for society as a whole
Methodology-wise, and a living lab engages in four main activities: co-creation,
exploration, experimentation and evaluation. Currently there are 319 living labs only
in Europe (European Network of Living Labs, 2013).
Big Data are the vast amount of data that can be collected from the urban
environment, mainly through sensors, RFIDs and government databases. This vast
amount of information can be organized and correlated through analytics for a better
management of urban functions and for spotting trends and upcoming emergency
situations within the urban environment.
M. Angelidou / Cities 47 (2015) 95–106 99
– Global forums and their events (ex. the Smart Cities Summit
the World Intelligent Cities Summit
– Academic research groups that have developed prototypes and
solutions for intelligent cities.
– Local and global policymaking institutions by means of their
policies and funding programs for smart city development (for
ex. the European Union through its FP7 and Horizon2020
A number of forecasts about the rapidly expanding market of
smart city products have been published in recent years.
Navigant Research (2011)
estimated that the following ten years
would see over $100 billion spent on technologies to support smart
city development worldwide. By 2020, the annual spending on those
core technologies was projected to be almost $16 billion (Fig. 7).
Several other reports have been undertaken by market research
and consulting companies, including IDC Government Insights
(2014), MarketsandMarkets (2014), Gigaom Research (2013), Frost
& Sullivan (2013), ABI Research (2011b), Steria (2011), and Nikkei
BP Cleantech Institute (2010). They encompass varying methodolo-
gies and taxonomies of smart city products. Nevertheless, they all
carry the same message: behind the smart cities topic lays a very
dynamic market of ‘smart’ products for monitoring the urban envi-
ronment and managing urban functions.
3.2. A demand pull on the side of cities
During the past twenty years a series of challenges in the cities’
economies and needs have arisen, enforcing the popularization of
the smart city idea. The ﬁrst one is urbanization. Already since
2008 the worldwide urban population is higher than the rural
one, and estimations predict that this trend will not only continue,
but be reinforced, too (United Nations, 2012). This fact yields
tremendous challenges for city economies in terms of resource efﬁ-
ciency and social sustainability. The second one is climate change
and natural resource scarcity which is increasingly becoming a
topic of concern for cities; city-wide measures for the mitigation
of climate change and emergency situations are now omnipresent
in strategies for urban development. Furthermore, the recent
ﬁnancial crisis diminished the – already few – ﬁnancial recourses
of city authorities, forcing them to narrow down their spending
on urban development. Finally, in the era of global goods, people
and information ﬂow, the ever existing competition among cities
is becoming more intense. Cities compete to attract highly mobile
citizens and skilled workers (Florida, 2002), investors, tourists, and
On the whole, governments will have to offer
improved and customizable services in order to attract and sustain
vital recourses. In this given situation, local governments represent
the decisive pull for the smart city discourse (Wolfram, 2012).
This phenomenon explains the wide diffusion of the interest on
smart cities during recent years, while it also reveals its penetra-
tion in the common culture, as well. The stakeholders who enhance
this pull even further include:
– Grassroot movements, forward-looking software developers
and technology enthusiasts who engage in developing and
using smart city services and applications (Ratti & Townsend,
2011; Roche, Nabian, Kloeckl, & Ratti, 2012; Townsend, 2002;
Townsend, Maguire, Liebhold, & Crawford, 2010).
– Public and non-proﬁt organizations participating in the smart
city discourse, such as the Intelligent Community Forum
the World Bank.
– Informative websites such as online newspapers (ex. The New
York Times) and business magazines (ex. Forbes), or sites about
urban development (ex. GlobalUrbanist
engage with the smart city topic on a regular basis.
3.3. New developments in urban futures and the knowledge and
innovation economy and the emergence of the smart city
The observed technology push and demand pull drive the
advancement of urban futures and the knowledge and innovation
economy to unprecedented levels. Overall, recent technological
Fig. 7. Smart city infrastructure investment by industry, world markets: 2010–2020 (Navigant Research, 2011).
Market research and consulting company based in the U.S.A., now a part of
Rio de Janeiro is an excellent example; the City, in the prospect of hosting the
2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, collaborated with IBM to become a ‘smart
city’ with the purpose of providing advanced trafﬁc and emergency services to
citizens and visitors.
100 M. Angelidou / Cities 47 (2015) 95–106
developments have rendered urban futures feasible to a large
extent, while they enabled the advancement and organization of
the knowledge and innovation economy to unprecedented levels. It
is in this given situation that the concept of the smart city ﬂour-
ished. Although it had appeared in the early 1990s in the work of
Batty (1990), Laterasse (1992) and Gibson, Kozmetsky, and
Smilor (1992), it started to proliferate around 2009, becoming a
central point in the development agendas of forward-looking
Since then, smart city solutions have been steadily more
supply-driven rather than demand-driven, with supply being the
main determining factor of the quantity and the price of smart city
products pooled into cities (Bélissent, 2010; Pallot, Trousse,
Senach, Schaffers, & Komninos, 2011). Nevertheless, several con-
ceptual models of smart cities have appeared under their inﬂuence
of supply and demand. Some ideas for the smart city focus on real-
izing urban futures and visions of advanced technological instru-
mentation, assuming that ICTs can make cities and their
underlying systems (for example transport and public services)
act ‘smart’. Other smart city paradigms relate technology more
directly with innovation and human capital development, based
on the concept that technology can give a city’s constituents the
power to innovate, create, participate in society and solve prob-
lems collectively for the common good. Nevertheless, smart city
programs are being implemented in hundreds of cities on a global
basis. It is only enough to mention that there are currently 102
smart city projects worldwide, with Europe leading the way at
38, North America at 35, Asia Paciﬁc at 21, the Middle East and
Africa at six, and Latin America with two (ABI Research, 2011a).
In a different estimation, Nikkei BP Cleantech Institute (2010)
reported that there are 300–400 smart city projects worldwide.
With respect to urban futures, in speciﬁc, recent technological
advancements and the pressing technology push have advanced
the ability to realize those technological visions. We now have
the capability to realize ideas that previously were mostly visions,
rather than admire them in the form of small-scale pilots.
Advanced technology and its large-scale deployment are no more
an idea of fantasy; they are rather a reality and something achiev-
able, and ‘the key question is no longer technological; as ever it is
organizational’(Batty, 2012). On the demand pull side, city admin-
istrations from all over the world now pile up in their agendas
measures and strategies to become ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’, aspiring
to address the challenges of service provision, resource efﬁciency
and urban competitiveness. Cities want to capitalize on the
promising efﬁciency and excellence that technology brings in all
urban systems: living, working, transport, entrepreneurship, green
development and environmental protection, administration and
safety. They aspire to achieve economic development and invest-
ment attraction, quality of life, social Inclusion, notoriety and
Several of today’s smart cities aspire to reproduce the old times
through the new technological lens. In the 1990s the Multimedia
Super Corridor in Malaysia was advertised by its then prime min-
ister as ‘Asia’s answer to Silicon Valley’ and ‘Silicon Valley East’
(Brooker, 2008; Nordin, 2012). Skolkovo Innovation City in Russia
has been repeatedly dubbed as the ‘Russian Silicon Valley’(Cohen,
2012; Cutler, 2013; Lunden, 2012; The Economist, 2012;
Thornock & Whitaker, 2011). Even Konza Technology City in
Kenya has been dubbed ‘the Silicon Savannah’(Konza City ofﬁcial
website, 2014). Many programs, such as PlanIT Valley and
Songdo IBD (Figs. 8 and 9), envision smart cities of the future
framed with the technological portray (BBC News, 2013; Forbes,
2014; The Atlantic, 2014; The Atlantic CITYLAB, 2013).
With respect to the knowledge and innovation economy, recent
technological advancements have radically changed the way
knowledge is produced and managed in cities. The technology
push has surged the market with Web 2.0 platforms for
large-scale collaboration, the establishment of knowledge
exchange networks, the codiﬁcation of vast databases and their
use in ‘intelligent’ and innovative ways. On the demand pull side,
knowledge now circulates and is produced collectively. A city’s
people now have a stronger ability to produce new ideas, products,
strategies and theories, either individually, or in collaboration
within social networks (Komninos, 2009). The broad input of
knowledge, creativity and collective intelligence of the populace
underpin further knowledge creation and enhance innovativeness,
Fig. 8. The futuristic smart city ‘PlanIT Valley’ (Living PlanIT SA ofﬁcial website, 2013).
Fig. 9. The futuristic smart city ‘Sondgo IBD’ (Songdo IBD ofﬁcial website, 2013).
M. Angelidou / Cities 47 (2015) 95–106 101
the multi-perspective confrontation of the city’s problems and the
delivery of new and improved services (Angelidou, 2014; ARUP,
2011; Aurigi, 2006; Bakici, 2012; Bélissent, 2011, 2012; Haque,
2012; Hodgkinson, 2011; Neves, 2009; Ratti & Townsend, 2011).
On the whole, governance becomes more efﬁcient, advances pro-
gressive urban change and yields broader acceptance and proper
uptake of smart city solutions (Aurigi, 2006; González & Rossi,
2012; Hollands, 2008; Nam & Pardo, 2011; Wolfram, 2012).
Ultimately, cities become ‘smarter’.
An array of smart cities are being branded as favorable to the
knowledge and innovation economy. Some of them have incorpo-
rated the terms ‘knowledge’ and ‘innovation’ in their brand, for
example ‘Skolkovo Innovation City’(Skolkovo Innovation City
ofﬁcial website, 2014), ‘Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City’
(Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City ofﬁcial website,
2014), and the ‘Knowledge Economic City’ in Medina, Saudi Arabia
(Economic Cities Authority, 2014). Other smart city programs have
attempted to incorporate human and social capital more substan-
tially, for example New York’s Digital Roadmap of 2011 (Fig. 10).
Nevertheless, many of the above efforts are fragmented, stress-
ing only some aspects of the smart city, rather than approaching
them in an integrated way and capturing the full potential of the
smart city. The complex relationships among the described forces
enhance the misunderstanding of the smart city idea further,
rather than resolving it and enabling actionable smart city plan-
ning. At this point, it would be helpful to study some applied exam-
ples in order to realize how the smart city can be approached more
cohesively and effectively.
4. Toward an integrated approach of the smart city
An example of an integrated strategy for the smart city is the
one that is being implemented in Barcelona, Spain. The city’s vision
for the smart city includes both technology and efﬁciency-oriented
targets, and human capital advancement through the development
of the knowledge economy (Fig. 11). The city’s high-tech 22@ area
(Fig. 12), featuring among others a ‘smart city campus’, not only
puts forward futuristic images of a ‘smart’ in terms of technology
and design Barcelona, but it also promotes the area as a place
where large scale collaboration and knowledge exchange among
the city’s people and businesses advance the knowledge and inno-
vation economy (Barcelona Smart City ofﬁcial website, 2014).
Another worthy of mention example is London’s plan for the
smart city (Greater London Authority ofﬁcial website, 2013). The
vision of London’s strategy is to use the creative power of new
technologies to serve London and improve Londoners’ lives. In this
sense, it targets technological advancements toward the realiza-
tion of urban futures in a climate of knowledge dissemination,
cooperation among stakeholders and urban innovation (Fig. 13).
Although the smart city plan includes fewer physical develop-
ments compared to Barcelona’s strategy, the ‘Here East’ project
(Fig. 14) is one of them that illustrates very vividly the convergence
of urban futures and the knowledge and innovation economy in a
spatial setting. The project regards a digital quarter to be devel-
oped at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, using the buildings of the
former Press and Broadcast Centers of the 2012 Olympics. It will
be a campus commissioned to support the growth of London’s
technology sector by combining business, technology, media, edu-
cation and data to create a local system of innovation. As such, it
will provide space for start-ups, education and postgraduate
The most integrated of the current approaches for smart and
intelligent cities are based on advancing and realizing both urban
futures and the knowledge and innovation economy. In these strate-
gies, ‘smart’ technologies provide the capability for instrumenting
physical spaces with the necessary means, not only for making the
physical space itself, but also people and activities within it, more
functional. Integrated smart city strategies help urban citizens
become more informed, participatory and networked than ever.
They help businesses become innovative, productive and agile.
They forge an entire sphere of intelligence and sustainability. In
essence, integrated smart city strategies aim to connect the phys-
ical space of cities with the economic and social sphere – a connec-
tion that although clearly existing, has always been troublesome
for scientists and policy makers.
It is becoming clear that urban futures and the knowledge and
innovation economy are steadily merging toward a more integrated
smart city vision, imposing a fundamental transformation of the
smart city idea. Under the prism of the advancing technology,
which is generating both a push and a pull for its adoption
throughout cities, these two formerly independent strands are
becoming uniﬁed (Fig. 15):
The integrated model of the smart city shown on the above ﬁg-
ure works toward the following assets:
– Advancement of human capital: citizen empowerment
(informed, educated, and participatory citizens), intellectual
capital and knowledge creation (Aurigi, 2006; Chourabi et al.,
2012; Komninos, 2009; Liugailaite
2012; Neves, 2009; Ratti & Townsend, 2011).
Fig. 10. The strategic approach of New York’s Digital Roadmap of 2011 (City of New
Fig. 11. Outline of Barcelona’s vision for becoming ‘smart’ (Ajuntament de
102 M. Angelidou / Cities 47 (2015) 95–106
– 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 that we are all 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, respecting their diversity and individuality
(Bria, 2012; Lind, 2012; Roche et al., 2012; Streitz, 2011).
Nevertheless, complex ecosystems of people, institutions and
stakeholders are signiﬁcantly harder to organize and discipline
(Bélissent, 2010; Ratti & Townsend, 2011) and special attention
should be paid to issues of accessibility for all, avoiding digital dis-
parities and spatial polarization.
This paper divided the recent history of smart cities into two
large sections – urban futures and the knowledge and innovation
economy. The urban futures strand showed that technology has
Fig. 12. Futuristic image of Barcelona smart city (Barcelona Smart City ofﬁcial website, 2014).
Fig. 13. The strategic approach of the Smart London Plan of 2013 (Greater London
Authority ofﬁcial website, 2013).
Fig. 14. Futuristic image of the ‘Here East’ digital hub, part of London’s smart city strategy (Here East ofﬁcial website, 2014).
M. Angelidou / Cities 47 (2015) 95–106 103
always played an important role in forward-looking visions about
the city of the future. The knowledge and innovation economy strand
showed that recent technological advancements have introduced a
whole new level of knowledge management and innovation capa-
bilities in the city context. The paper then outlined the current
technology push and demand pull for smart city solutions. On one
hand, technology advances rapidly and creates a booming market
of smart city products and solutions around it. On the other hand,
there is demand on the side of cities that seek to address the prob-
lems of efﬁciency and sustainability, making the ground fertile for
a smart city product economy. The current smart city stakeholder
system is very complex and driven by diverging interests; this fact
perplexes the smart city idea, oftentimes causing it to drift away
from its originating principles. The research route of this paper
allows the identiﬁcation of these underlying principles of what it
means to be ‘smart’ in an urban context. It also helps to reach
important conclusions about strategic planning for the develop-
ment of smart cities today. By doing so, the paper continues the
discussion about how smart cities can be planned in a more cohe-
sive way. These principles are explained below.
In a ﬁrst account, it is now obvious that smart cities, although
speciﬁcally developed as an idea during the past 20 years, have a
long history dating back to previous century’s visions about urban
futures. Those visions were shaped under the inﬂuence of the state
of the art technology and the production system of each era. Most
of these conceptions tried to illustrate what wired cities and their
related conceptions might look like in the distant future, way past
the reality of what was possible at that time. Although elusive,
these visions were and continue to be an essential part of the urban
planning and development discipline and they have always been
urging it to move forward. In this sense, the majority of strategies
for becoming ‘smart’ are not something that can be achieved here
and now, but they imply a strategic approach to fulﬁlling a
long-term aspiration. Therefore, the vision about the city of the
future is an essential driver of the smart city discourse, be it within,
or out of immediate grasp.
Smart cities are also based on an entire stream of visioning and
thinking about technology-led urban development which contin-
ues to inﬂuence current urban development policies and priorities
on a global scale. Contrary to what many believe, a cohesive smart
city strategy must capitalize both on technology (i.e. digital intelli-
gence) and on knowledge (i.e. human intelligence) to achieve
spatial development. Broadly speaking, technology underpins the
development of knowledge and vice-versa; the two of them
together fuel urban development and help realize smart cities.
Unfortunately, many of today’s strategies fail to consider this
effect. This is why strategic planning for the development of smart
cities needs to capitalize both on technological advancement and
on the development of knowledge and innovation networks.
Regarding the situation on the market level, the current domi-
nance of supply-driven smart city solutions often results in smart
city strategies that are disconnected from their social context
and fail to tackle a city’s problems in a cohesive way. On the other
hand, the most successful smart cities have opted for a
demand-driven rather than a supply-driven approach, or at least
have sought to balance the two approaches. The consideration of
the current demand pull and technology/market push is thus
essential in the design of any smart city strategy and strategic
planning for the development of smart cities should make an
intensive effort to meet the expressed needs of society.
Smart city strategies play a decisive role in how cities will
choose to take advantage of technology to favor the development
of innovation networks, healthy societies and dynamic economies.
They also seek to provide solutions to many problems of urbaniza-
tion and sustainability. Although visionary, in essence they stand
for very real and important urban development policies that
include large investments and yield serious consequences for the
years to come. This is why it is essential to study them methodi-
cally and cohesively, both on a policy design and on a policy imple-
mentation level. To achieve tangible economic/social/urban
development results, smart cities can and should be planned in a
strategic way. Further research is then needed in this direction.
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