R E S E A R C H Open Access
Smartness that matters: towards a
comprehensive and human-centred
characterisation of smart cities
Alexander Lara Prado
, Eduardo Moreira Da Costa
, Thiago Zilinscki Furlani
and Tan Yigitcanlar
* Correspondence: tan.yigitcanlar@
Civil Engineering and Built
Environment, Queensland University
of Technology (QUT), 2 George
Street, Brisbane QLD 4001, Australia
Full list of author information is
available at the end of the article
The term ‘smart cities’is a widely used, but at the same time a highly fuzzy concept.
The fuzziness hinders our understanding on the benefits of its adoption, and explains
the existence of many relevant activities with fragmented or distorted views of what a
truly smart city is. The aim of this paper is to undertake a comprehensive review of how
smart cities are perceived in the literature and in the light of the findings propose a
clearer definition. Overview of the key terms, concepts and definitions associated to
smart cities, reported in this paper, demonstrates that the definitions found in the
academic literature have limited scope, and are overly focused on strategic drivers and
specific actions, instead of making explicitly the connection between the concept of
smart cities and the creation of environments that promote happiness and wellbeing
of their residents—which should be the main function of a city. Following the
thorough review on the smart cities literature, the paper proposes a comprehensive,
human-centred, and context-free definition for smart cities. This definition brings an
endogenous view on smart cities in which the central element is the direct
participation of local actors and stakeholders in the process of thinking, defining,
planning, and executing social, technological and urban transformations in cities.
Keywords: Smart cities, Smart communities, Smart urban technologies, Innovation,
Human-centred cities, Urban planning and development
Over the past decade smart urban technologies have begun to blanket our cities,
forming the backbone of a large intelligent infrastructure. Along with this develop-
ment, dissemination of the sustainability ideology has had a significant imprint on the
planning and development of our cities (Yigitcanlar 2016). Consequently, the concept
of smart cities, evolved from intelligent cities (see Komninos 2008), has become a
popular topic particularly for scholars, urban planners, urban administrations, urban
development and real-estate companies, and corporate technology firms. There are
numerous perspectives on what a smart city is. These are ranging from purely
ecological (Lim and Liu 2010) to technological (Townsend 2013), and from economic
(Kourtit et al. 2012) to organisational (Hollands 2015) and societal (Deakin and Al
Waer 2011; 2012) views. Moreover, as for Kitchin (2015), smart city symbolises a new
kind of technology-led urban utopia. Utopia or not, in all these perspectives the vision
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Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity
of technology and innovation is a common ground to shape our cities into a form that
we want to leave to our descendants. In this paper, the smart cities concept is viewed
as a vision, manifesto or provocation—encompassing all techno-economic, techno-
societal, techno-spatial, and techno-organisational domains—aiming to constitute the
ideal 21st century city form. Presently, there is no fully-fledge smart cities exist. Stated
by Glasmeier and Christopherson (2015, p. 4), “[t]he global smart city market will be
valued at $1.6 trillion in 2020. Over 26 global cities are expected to be smart cities in
2025, with more than 50 % of these smart cities from Europe and North America”.At
the moment with the building of these cities underway in a number of places around
the world, smart city examples abound in both the popular media and in academic
discussions. This provides us the ability to systematically re-evaluate the definition of
Various smart cities approaches
Both academia and practitioners have introduced a myriad of terms and definitions
related to building the cities of the future and the future of the cities by using the
state-of-the-art information and communication technologies (ICTs): smart, intelligent,
ubiquitous, digital, knowledge, sustainable, green, creative, innovative, and so on
(Abdoullaev 2011; Nam and Pardo 2011; Wolfram 2012; Lara et al. 2013; Yigitcanlar
2015). Despite being possible to identify the particularities of the concepts and initia-
tives linked to either term, all of them are introduced as answers to the same set of
issues related to urban agglomerations. Among those urban mobility, security, bio-
sphere degradation, energy and food shortages, combating poverty, as well as creating
new options for urban planning, innovation incentives, economic and social develop-
ment stand out as the most popular ones (Carrillo 2006; Yigitcanlar 2011; Neirotti et
al. 2014). This basically is the main reason why they can be seen as construction layers
(Abdoullaev 2011) or application domains (Neirotti et al. 2014) of what some scholars
(Nam and Pardo 2011; Wolfram 2012; Neirotti et al. 2014) generically refer to as smart
cities. Although the concept of smart cities and many scholars share target problems,
there is not a common and context-free smart cities view that clearly explains to city
policymakers what a smart city is. Neirotti et al. (2014) highlights this very problem as
one of the main obstacles to the diffusion process of smart cities initiatives. The fuzzi-
ness of the concept is a major obstacle in convincing urban policymakers and adminis-
trators to invest further in smart city initiatives to transform their cities (Hollands
2008; Abdoullaev 2011; Wolfram 2012).
Does innovation make a city smart?
Innovation is an integral part of the concept of smart cities. A large number of studies
investigated the role of innovation in establishing a competitive edge in companies, commu-
nities and cities (Fernández-Jardón et al. 2014; Gadille and Siarheyeva 2014; Lepik and
Krigul 2014; Romano et al. 2014; Yigitcanlar 2014; Mellor 2015; Park and Lee 2015; Yun
2015; Kim et al. 2016; Yun et al. 2016). Furthermore, the important role of open innovation
for smart city formation is discussed in the literature. For example, according to Yun et al.
(2015), strengthening open innovation, through companies setting it as a corporate strategy,
will help in the development of knowledge-based urbanisation, and provide continued
Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity (2016) 2:8 Page 2 of 13
economic and innovative opportunities for smart cities. Innovation and technology
solutions generated locally used for meeting the needs of the city and its communities will
surely make a smart city independent and economically sustainable (Yigitcanlar et al. 2016).
However, innovation alone is not the sole ingredient of success in establishing smart cities
(Gaffney and Robertson 2016; Yigitcanlar 2016).
Is smart better and if so for whom?
The concept of smart cities brings large number of critical questions in mind. For
instance, will a city that is guided solely by the concepts and definitions and also evalu-
ates its actions by some set of indicators (see Giffinger et al. 2007 and Sarimin and
Yigitcanlar 2012) seen in the smart cities literature automatically become a better place
to live, work, study and have fun? Although improving mobility of people in the city,
for instance, or any other of domains proposed by Giffinger et al. (2007) would meet
the basic needs of residents, would it be enough to address all the subjective conditions
(Ryan and Deci 2001; Diener 2009; Ballas 2013) that lead to the wellbeing of residents
which is ultimately what really matters? Moreover, whatever the answers to these
questions, would they be valid in any culture or locality? Völker et al. (2007), Mohnen
et al. (2011) and Ballas (2013) in their studies highlight the difficulty in measuring or
predicting people’s satisfaction with the place they live, and the need to incorporate an
anthropocentric view to the planning of actions related to the promotion of wellbeing
and quality of life in the urban context. In this sense, Professor Richard Sennett’s paper
in The Guardian (2012) is symptomatic when it states that if some of the projects that
are underway in the cities are synonym for intelligence, and then maybe it is preferable
that cities maintain a degree of stupidity (also see World Press 2014).
People at the centre of debate
One can imagine that at least part of the resistance and criticism towards the term and
the smart cities approach itself could be minimised if the concept did not leave any
doubt that the construction or transformation of any urban agglomeration into a smar-
ter city has to start from the premise of being integrated to the wishes, interests and
needs—both current and potential—(Rizzo et al. 2013) of its residents and also of
producing positive practical impact on their daily lives. From this premise, we single
out from all the available definitions of smart cities what are their central elements,
before proposing a wider definition, which can meet the goal of guiding academicians
and practitioners—both in the conceptualisation of smart cities and in building the
future cities that residents will be proud of.
Approaches and definitions of smart cities
Smart cities foundations
Literature review in general and the analysis of the particular works of Nam and Pardo
(2011) and Neirotti et al. (2014) suggest the existence of four key foundations or macro
application domains for the approaches of smart cities (including variations of terms),
listed below and also illustrated in Fig. 1:
Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity (2016) 2:8 Page 3 of 13
(i) Infrastructure and ICTs: Adoption of strategies for economic and social
development founded on the provision of modern infrastructure, especially in
the pervasive use of ICTs (Steventon and Wright 2006; Lee 2009; Piro et al. 2014);
(ii) Creative economy and knowledge-based society: Improving competitiveness and
alignment to the so-called knowledge economy (Komninos 2006,2009) with focus
on creating favourable environments to entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation
(Florida 2005; Lu et al. 2011; Yigitcanlar 2014; Yigitcanlar et al. 2015);
(iii)Sustainability: Promoting green economy and high social awareness in an
environmentally sustainable lifestyle including a quality of life and place
(Munier 2007; Yigitcanlar and Lee 2014), and;
(iv) Human infrastructure: Investment in social and human capital; engaging citizens
in governance processes and the building of partnerships between public and
private sectors to facilitate activities and projects (Streitz 2011; Rizzo et al. 2013).
Adjusting the focus
The choice of the term and the text that defines smart cities reflect the emphasis that each
author gives to a certain domain, or to the set of strategies they suggest as the best way to
build this kind of cities. Table 1 shows a compilation of key domains, terms and the defini-
tions of city brands relate to smart cities. On the one hand, one could say that these terms
represent fragmented proposals of the smart cities approach (e.g., Abdoullaev 2011). On
the other hand, they ensure cohesion among academicians and practitioners, since they
are based on a minimally shared vision between academic work and practical initiatives
Fig. 1 Domains, terms and key issues in smart cities (adapted from Nam and Pardo 2011)
Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity (2016) 2:8 Page 4 of 13
Table 1 Domains, terms and definitions of city brands relate to smart cities
Domains Terms Definitions
Infrastructure & ICTs Ubiquitous
An urban space where ubiquitous technologies are embedded
into the physical objects and structures in order to make urban
functions more efficient and consequently improve the quality
of people’s life (Lee 2009, p. 11).
Digital city A digital city is a community digital space, which is used
to facilitate and augment the activities and functions
taking place within the physical space of the city
(Komninos 2006, p. 15).
A community in which government, business, and residents
understand the potential of information technology, and
make a conscious decision to use that technology to
transform life and work in their region in significant and
positive ways (Lindskog 2004, p. 13).
The informational city consists of creative clusters and
spaces for personal contacts to stimulate sharing of
implicit information (Stock 2011, p. 963).
Creative economy &
Intelligent city Intelligent cities and regions are territories with high capacity
for learning and innovation, which is built-in the creativity of
their population, their institutions of knowledge creation, and
their digital infrastructure for communication and knowledge
management (Komninos 2006, p. 13).
Creative city Broadly, creative cities is about how local urban spaces can be
re-imagined, rejuvenated, and re-purposed within a competitive
global framework (Tay 2004, p. 220).
A knowledge city is a place where new knowledge is constantly
being created. An entire social system is devoted to produce,
share and apply knowledge, which in turn, can be leveraged
and exploited by companies and organisations
(Ergazakis, Metaxiotis, and Psarras 2004, p. 79).
Innovative city is an urban development pattern, in which
we solve the city problem with creative solutions to achieve
urban renaissance, and employ innovation as a driver of
sustainable urban development. (Lu et al. 2011,p.2)
A sustainable city is one in which the community has agreed
on a set of sustainability principles and has further agreed
to pursue their attainment. These principles should provide
the citizenry with a good quality of life, in a liveable city,
with affordable education, healthcare, housing, and
transportation (Munier 2007, p. 43).
Eco-city An eco-city is an ecologically healthy city. It is a healthy human
ecological process leading to sustainable development within
the carrying capacity of local ecosystems through changes in
the production mode, consumption behaviour and decision
instruments based on ecological economics and systems
engineering (Wang and Ye 2004, p. 341).
A‘zero-carbon city’is a city that entirely runs on
renewable energy and hence produces no carbon
footprint (Yigitcanlar and Lee 2014, p. 101).
Application of citizen-centric and participatory approaches to
the co-design, development, and production of smart cities
services that balance the technical ‘smartness’of sensors,
meters, and infrastructures with softer features such as clarity
of vision, citizen empowerment, social interaction in physical
urban settings, and public-citizens partnership
(Rizzo et al. 2013, p. 677).
Humane city Places and environments where people enjoy everyday
life and work have multiple opportunities to exploit their
human potential and lead a creative life (Streitz 2011, p. 429).
Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity (2016) 2:8 Page 5 of 13
that adopt them, unlike the ‘mishmash’of smart cities definitions (Fernandez-Maldonado
and Romein 2010; Nam and Pardo 2011; Neirotti et al. 2014).
Smart cities definitions
The focus group on smart and sustainable cities connected to the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations specialised agency for ICTs, has
gathered 100 separate definitions of smart cities gathered from scientific undertaken in
private companies, governments, research institutions, industry associations and NGOs
activities or articles, newspapers and magazines (ITU 2014). Some of those definitions are
listed in Table 2. The most striking feature of this set of definitions is the operational
Table 2 Common definitions of smart cities
Bowerman et al.
A city that monitors and integrates conditions of all of its critical infrastructures including
roads, bridges, tunnels, rails, subways, airports, sea-ports, communications, water, power,
even major buildings, can better optimize its resources, plan its preventive maintenance
activities, and monitor security aspects while maximising services to its citizens.
Giffinger et al.
A city well performing in a forward-looking way in [economy, people, governance,
mobility, environment, and living] built on the smart combination of endowments
and activities of self-decisive, independent and aware citizens.
Rios (2008) A city that gives inspiration, shares culture, knowledge, and life, a city that motivates its
inhabitants to create and flourish in their own lives. An admired city, a vessel to
intelligence, but ultimately an incubator of empowered spaces.
Caragliu et al. (2009) A city to be smart when investments in human and social capital and traditional
(transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic
growth and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through
Eger (2009) A particular idea of local community, one where city governments, enterprises and
residents use ICTs to reinvent and reinforce the community’s role in the new service
economy, create jobs locally and improve the quality of community life.
González and Rossi
A public administration or authorities that delivers (or aims to) a set of new generation
services and infrastructure, based on information and communication technologies
Nam and Pardo
A humane city that has multiple opportunities to exploit its human potential and lead a
Zhao (2011) Improving the quality of life in a city, including ecological, cultural, political, institutional,
social, and economic components without leaving a burden on future generations.
Lazaroiu (2012) The smart city represents the future challenge, a city model where the technology is in
service to the person and to his economic and social life quality improvement.
Schaffers et al.
Smart city is referred as the safe, secure environmentally green, and efficient urban
centre of the future with advanced infrastructures such as sensors, electronics, and
networks to stimulate sustainable economic growth and a high quality of life.
Piro et al. (2014) A smart city is intended as an urban environment which, supported by pervasive ICT
systems, is able to offer advanced and innovative services to citizens in order to improve
the overall quality of their life.
Yigitcanlar (2016) A smart city could be an ideal form to build the sustainable cities of the 21
the case that a balanced and sustainable view on economic, societal, environmental and
institutional development is realised.
Table 1 Domains, terms and definitions of city brands relate to smart cities (Continued)
Learning city A learning city, town or region recognises and understands
the key role of learning in the development of basic prosperity,
social stability and personal fulfilment, and mobilises all its human,
physical, and financial resources creatively and sensitively to develop
the full human potential of all its citizens (Longworth 1999, p. 4).
Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity (2016) 2:8 Page 6 of 13
focus, in particular the central role given to ICTs. Even when they minimise the import-
ance of new technologies, most definitions are based on the prescription of strategic
actions (Neirotti et al. 2014) and usually make much more explicit how the proposal
advocated by the authors should be executed than why to do it and, more importantly,
what does it aim to generate in people’s lives. In other words, they are centred in the
means such as the intensive use of new technologies, more open governance processes, or
more sustainable strategies for economic and social development. Despite some attempts
to produce a definition with a more holistic and integrated view, such as Caragliu et al.
(2009), most smart cities definitions vary from a perspective centred on one of the four
domains previously mentioned. There is not a shared vision (Neirotti et al. 2014), and
there are no elements capable of giving significance—in the epistemological sense—to the
term itself and the smart cities approach.
In search of significance: smartness for what?
The functional cities and the function of cities
In a utilitarian perspective, which sets the value (utility) of anything as its ability to produce
pleasure or happiness and avoid pain and misfortune, an ideal society is one that: (i) Allows
the fulfilment of the individual’shappiness,aslongasthisdoesnotcompromisethewell-
being of the group, and; (ii) Seeks to maximise the level of satisfaction of the society—the
greatest happiness for the greatest number (Rosen 2003). The Greek philosopher Aristotle
(384–322 BCE) was already aware of the function of the city far beyond just providing ideal
conditions for promoting development and creating prosperity. “The goal or purpose of the
city certainly encompasses physical existence and survival, but is also more than that,
namely, living ‘finely’[…] The best city is happy and acts finely”(cited in Martin et al. 2003,
p. 5). Aristotle understood the city primarily as a society, and happiness as a collective good
that should pervade it. Therefore, if smart city is intended to be seen as a model of excel-
lence, the term cannot leave any doubt that the promotion of the wellbeing and the happi-
ness of its residents is a guiding principle and one of its key challenges (Ballas 2013).
Smart cities are happier cities
Despite the fact that wellbeing being a controversial concept also with an unresolved
definition, it is known that both its meaning and the factors that condition it are linked to
cultural aspects and are not free of value judgments and ethical positions (Ryan and Deci
2001). Several studies on the subject consider it inappropriate to deal with wellbeing as
something that can be assessed simply from a universal set of conditions, such as income,
marital status, individual freedom, and so on. Ryan and Deci (2001), Diener (2009) and
Ballas (2013) show us that wellbeing and life satisfaction have objective and consistent
conditions across cultures; but also a significant portion of subjective conditions, strongly
influenced by local culture and circumstances. Moreover, in spite of having pan-cultural
conditions, the importance that each society gives to them can differ substantially
(Kitayama et al. 2000; Ryan and Deci 2001). This was already pointed out by a research
conducted by Oishi et al. (1999), demonstrating that in poor nations income is a strong
condition for life satisfaction, while satisfaction with family life is more important in richer
nations. The same study suggests that individual freedom is less predictive of wellbeing in
collectivistic societies than in individualistic ones. Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize in
Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity (2016) 2:8 Page 7 of 13
economics in 2002, argues that wellbeing and happiness are usually more related to
subjective aspects such as the way we allot our time and the kind of social activities we
engage into than to objective features (Kahneman et al. 2006). For these reasons, subject-
ive aspects of wellbeing promotion should demand the same attention from city planners
(Ballas 2013) as that they pay to its objective aspects. That is, in addition to providing
quality of life—understood as levels of income, health, education, mobility, and so on—it
would also be ‘smart’to promote a lifestyle aligned with the values and other constituents
of local culture (Ballas 2013; Neirotti et al. 2014).
Sense of community and the endogenous producing of wellbeing
The definition of ‘sense of community’varies among different studies, but its constitu-
tion includes membership, mutual influence, fulfilment of needs, and shared emotional
connection (Kim and Kaplan 2004) and reflects the feelings of attachment and belong-
ing that an individual has towards the community (Pooley et al. 2005). According to
Pooley et al. (2005), sense of community is equivalent to the social capital of a commu-
nity, also called ‘neighbourhood social capital’by Mohnen et al. (2011), which in turn
defines it as “a resource one can access via membership in a group or community and
consists of norms of reciprocity, civic participation, trust in others, and the benefits of
membership”(Mohnen et al. 2011, p. 661). In the urban context, the most important
benefit to be derived from joint activity with others is the realisation of goals related to
physical and social wellbeing, and this importance is reinforced by evidences that
neighbourhoods differ in their level of community and that such differences reflect in
many relevant matters to people’s lives (Völker et al. 2007; Han and Lee 2013). How-
ever, it is common sense and a phenomenon pointed out by social scientists that local
neighbourhood communities are disappearing in present-day society as a side effect of
growth and densification of cities (Wilson and Baldassare 1996; Völker et al. 2007).
Supporting neighbourhood communities
The key factor for the formation of a community is social interaction (Wilson and
Baldassare 1996; Pancholi et al. 2015a, 2015b; Esmaeilpoorarabi et al. 2016), which is
enhanced by the following three factors: (i) Opportunity for contact; (ii) Proximity to other
people, and; (iii) Appropriate interaction spaces (Keane 1991). The physical-spatial reorgani-
sation plays an important role in creating the sense of community, since it must provide
formal and informal socialisation spaces (Talen 1999; Kim and Kaplan 2004). The same is
said in relation to activities that strengthen social bonds, for example through actions that
bring the neighbourhood together around the development of projects, shared purposes
and goals (Lowe 2000; Völker et al. 2007). However, merely a proper planning and an incen-
tive to social interaction (via processes of participatory governance, for example) seem
unable to create such ‘sense of community’, especially its more ‘affective’aspects (Talen
1999). Other variables, such as life pace, climate, size, density, diversity, economy, historical
heritage and cultural identity must be considered, since they shape and make the experience
of living in a given locality unique (Milgram 1974; Levine and Norenzayan 1999; Kim and
Kaplan 2004; Völker et al. 2007). The construction of such psychological foundations of the
sense of community depends on a number of factors that embed in citizens affective bonds
with the place (Talen 1999). Such bonds are narrowed when residents are pleased with the
Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity (2016) 2:8 Page 8 of 13
community and familiar with its history and traditions, i.e., with the local narrative; when
there is congruence or compatibility between the individuals personalities, the physical char-
acteristics and the ‘atmosphere’of the place; and when the place is able to awaken in its
residents a sense of pride in being part of it (Talen 1999).
The concept of smart cities is currently a hot topic (see Yigitcanlar 2016). However, intense
technology use alone in an urban environment does not equip this locality with the func-
tionality of smart cities. Thus, it would be useful to underline what Caragliu et al. (2011)
highlight as the key characteristics of smart cities, that are: (i) The utilisation of networked
infrastructure to improve economic and political efficiency and enable social, cultural and
urban development; (ii) An underlying emphasis on business-led urban development; (iii) A
strong focus on the aim of achieving the social inclusion of various urban residents in public
services; (iv) A stress on the crucial role of high-tech and creative industries in long run
urban growth; (v) Profound attention to the role of social and relational capital in urban
development, and; (vi) Social and environmental sustainability as a major strategic compo-
nent for smart cities. Considering these key characteristics and the popularity of this type of
city brand, we highlight below a new definition of the concept, its possible practical implica-
tions, linkages between smart cities and communities, and future directions.
A new focus and definition
In the light of the review of the literature, we propose a new smart city definition as follows.
Smart city is “a community that systematically promotes the overall wellbeing for all of its
members, and flexible enough to proactively and sustainably become an increasingly better
place to live, work and play”. Although this definition places people at the heart of smart
city concept, it does not undermine the role of infrastructure, economy and sustainabil-
ity—the four domains highlighted by Nam and Pardo (2011). Moreover, even being deliber-
ately neutral in relation to the use of specific technologies or strategies, the definition
implicitly incorporates the main approaches in literature, since that intelligence obviously
manifests itself when the city promotes economic development with social justice and envir-
onmental sustainability; adopts and develops appropriate technologies for its local reality
and uses governance processes that help build a community associated with the culture
values and lifestyle its residents desire to retain or embrace (Neirotti et al. 2014). That,
despitebeingsimple,fulfilstheroleofbeinggeneric and comprehensive. In addition to be-
ing human-centred, as it brings promotion of wellbeing to the centre ofthesmartnesscon-
cept, this definition imprints a dynamic character to the smart cities approach. Being smart
is not just getting a high score on a set of metrics, even though this is a form of assessment.
The definition implies the existence of neighbourhood communities (Talen 1999) with the
goal of changing themselves for the best, on a continuous and sustainable way. In order to
support this leading role; the community should be able to learn to build on their strengths
and find their own way to become a better place for the current and future residents.
The main practical implication of this definition (or view of smart cities) is that any
smart city project is set by and assessed from local cultural values point of view. For
Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity (2016) 2:8 Page 9 of 13
example, an appropriate smart cities proposal to São Paulo (Brazilian city known for its
entrepreneurial, competitive and cosmopolitan inclination) may be completely unsuitable
for the residents of Rio de Janeiro (another Brazilian city with strong values related to
contemplation of the nature and balance between work and personal life). Thus, there
must be reservations to replication proposals of successful projects imported from other
cultures and geographies—even if they are in the same country (Ballas 2013; Neirotti et al.
2014). For the same reason, the work of planning the transformation of any territory into
a smart city may require more than just good experts’directions. In order to establish a
real understanding of the place, collaboration of people and institutions who actually
understand the history and values of the community (including the future of it) is
required. In other words, insiders are most likely to have better conditions to define what
is relevant and useful (in the utilitarian sense), and to define priorities. These people and
institutes also set what is secondary or undesirable for the community and city at any
time. In addition to the continuous nature of the transformation process, it is assumed
that potentially in the long run the most successful smart cities projects are the ones those
made for with and eventually by the residents themselves. To paraphrase Ghandi, a smart
city should create the conditions for people and institutions to be the change they wish to
see in the city—derived from Mahatma Gandhi’sstatementof:“be the change you want
to see in the world”.
Smart cities as the home of smart neighbourhood communities
Considering a smart city as a set of one or more smart neighbourhood communities makes
it human-centred and creates one of the pillars of cities smartness: participatory governance
based on the engagement of civil society in the processes of urban transformation (Rizzo et
al. 2013). From the individuals’point of view, the desirable emotional connection between
the place and its residents suggests that planning a smart city needs to strongly engage its
residents in the process of building the vision for the future. For some scholars, this involve-
ment goes way beyond participating or providing feedback; it also includes helping in its
building itself, through co-design and public-private-academia-community partnerships—so
called quadruple helix model partnership (Rizzo et al. 2013). In this approach, individuals
are seen as the producers of their own wellbeing by having a say and determining the
features of their smart community/city (Völker et al. 2007).
From the proposed definition of smart cities in this paper (a smart city is a community
that systematically promotes the overall wellbeing for all of its members, and flexible
enough to proactively and sustainably become an increasingly better place to live, work
and play), two different research agendas emerge. These are: (i) How to start and drive
the transformation process of places for them to become smart cities, and; (ii) How to
assess the process of smart city transformation. The first agenda includes framework
proposals for planning, initiating and managing transformation processes of a given
geographical locality; it includes strategies, approaches, methods and techniques that
help the actors involved in this challenge. The construction of frameworks may require
identification, compilation or building of success cases (aligned with the human-
centred perspective suggested in this paper). The second research agenda includes
Prado et al. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity (2016) 2:8 Page 10 of 13
conducting studies that propose mechanisms to evaluate a locality, not only according
to the metrics associated with the various domains of a smart city (Neirotti et al. 2014),
but also their ability to autonomously conduct the transformation processes it will need
to go through to become an even better place to live, work and play. This includes
measuring its ability to identify, learn and do whatever needs to be done to ensure a
better and sustainable future for its residents. In conclusion, success of smart cities
concept depends on accurately determining the ‘smartness that matters’, and whatever
smartness needs to be created it has to be done through a human-centred participatory
processes to form successful smart cities and communities.
The authors wish to acknowledge the financial and in-kind contributions of Federal University of Santa Catarina,
Queensland University of Technology, and the DGIST R&D Program of the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning
of Korea (14-IT) in supporting the research upon which this paper is based. The authors also thank anonymous referees
who provided constructive comments on an earlier version that helped us improve the paper.
This paper represents a result of collegial teamwork. ALP, EMDC, and TZF designed the research and prepared the first
draft of the manuscript. Tan Yigitcanlar finalized the manuscript, by incorporating his views and editing it thoroughly,
and submitted to the journal. After the peer-review process, Tan Yigitcanlar revised the manuscript in the light of
referee comments. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Knowledge Engineering and Management, Federal University of Santa Catarina, R. Eng. Agronômico Andrei Cristian
Ferreira, S/N - Trindade, Florianópolis 88040-900, Brazil.
Civil Engineering and Built Environment, Queensland
University of Technology (QUT), 2 George Street, Brisbane QLD 4001, Australia.
Received: 6 April 2016 Accepted: 27 May 2016
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