What is a smart city?

Policies and Publications


"The concept is not static: there is no absolute definition of a smart city, no end point, but rather a process, or series of steps, by which cities become more “liveable” and resilient and, hence, able to respond quicker to new challenges."

GOV.UK Smart cities: background paper

"A smart city uses intelligent technology to enhance our quality of life in urban environments. Cities can use the data in a variety of ways; to save money, minimise waste, measure domestic water usage and manage transport routes."

GOV.UK Press release: New initiative to support $40 billion smart cities in the UK

"A smart city is a place where the traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunication technologies, for the benefit of its inhabitants and businesses."

EC Digital Agenda for Europe: Smart cities

"A Smart City is a city well performing in 6 characteristics*, built on the ‘smart’ combination of endowments and activities of self-decisive, independent and aware citizens."

* people, living, economy, mobility, environment, governance

European Smart Cities model

For comparison, a definition of a sustainable community:

"Sustainable communities meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, their children and other users, contribute to a high quality of life and provide opportunity and choice. They achieve this in ways that make effective use of natural resources, enhance the environment, promote social cohesion and inclusion and strengthen economic prosperity."

The Egan Review: Skills for Sustainable Communities (2004)

The Egan Wheel is referenced in The Cambridgeshire Quality Charter for Growth which sets out core principles of the quality for new developments across Cambridgeshire.

Challenges and opportunities

  • Is a smart city a sustainable community with added technology?  Or is a smart city more sustainable because of the way it uses technology/data?
  • The term "smart city" is challenging depending on how a city is defined.  The European Innovation Partnership broadens the term to "Smart Cities and Communities".  Where data is concerned there is more than one way to define Cambridge.