How to Develop a Successful Smart City Strategy

December 7

Planning a smart city strategy helps guide city leaders toward a more efficient infrastructure and a better quality of life for residents. Many local jurisdictions are looking for ways to adopt more efficient and reliable processes in the face of numerous challenges, such as climate change, a growing population, pollution, and changing technology.

Here's a look at what's involved with smart city planning, along with a list of key points to address when developing one.

The Smart City Ecosystem Model

Commonly, deploying technology is the first thing that comes to mind when developing a smart city plan. But it's only one layer in the smart city ecosystem— the most important thing to keep in mind as you consider any sort of smart city project is the data. Data is the key, and city leaders should take advantage of advances in processing and analytics to figure out what data they need, how to collect it, how to transfer it to where it needs to be, and how to store it.

In order to create relevant services, cities need to be able to innovate the right solutions. To get the right results at a consistent and sustainable level, civic leaders need to set up prudent technology and data policies.

Elements of a Successful Smart City Strategy

The first step in planning a smart city strategy is to write down ideas and commit to a development plan. Four main components of the plan should be the following:

  • Strategic documentation - Gathering a comprehensive and detailed list of ideas surrounding smart city development and management and putting them into a documented strategic overview will help set the plan in motion.
  • Digital roadmap - Developers should create a principle-based plan for digital solutions that define the technology needed to make improvements.
  • Resiliency plan - Create a strategy for overcoming identified and any possible vulnerabilities and challenges.
  • Startup plan - Officials should describe how the city will financially support digital transformation.

Once these four areas are developed, the next step is to define a governance model for members to follow. Then, leaders should envision an ecosystem that allows integration of various new technologies, processes, and ideas. Here are some of the important areas to address when defining your governance model:

  • Replace silos with teams - Smart city architects must be unified and work to build the ecosystem together.
  • Focus on meaningful outcomes - The successful development of a smart city relies on input from people to evaluate the ecosystem and confirm its benefits.
  • Expand your community of thought leaders - A diverse mix of professionals and local residents - not just technical experts - can contribute to innovative ideas for improving the implementation of technology solutions to ensure they are effective at helping to improve municipal systems and residents’ quality of life.
  • Aim for strong policies and partnerships - Smart cities are improved through policies and partnerships that reduce risks and expand access to resources.
  • Collect city data securely - Smart technologies gather massive amounts of data. To maintain the safety of the information gathered, it’s essential to put in place processes that ensure data privacy and security. Cities also need to have full ownership of their data in order to ensure that they have full access and control.
  • Allow for high-quality connectivity - Superior connectivity will help shape an efficient ecosystem of smart technology.
  • Modernize network infrastructure - Using the latest digital technologies available for infrastructure development and upgrading will allow for stronger cybersecurity, faster transmission, and easy integration with new applications.
  • Let trust be part of the equation - While the infrastructure of a smart city must be robust and secure, it should also be easy and transparent for stakeholders to trust in the terms of its successful development, policies, and compliance.

Emphasis on Resolving Citizens' Problems

The term "smart city" is wide open to interpretation. But a smart city should be citizen-centric and provide benefits for everyone in the community, to drive higher efficiency, better service levels and lower crime levels to name a few examples. It should also be data-driven and monitor the city environment, collect the data to make decisions that benefit everyone in the community. The driving energy behind transitioning to a smart city infrastructure should be about how the technology will help improve the daily lives of residents. City planners should identify various problems residents face, and where possible, use technology to resolve them.

For instance, the problem of energy loss due to air leaks in a home can be detected by IoT sensors that measure room temperature. It can lead to an inspector quickly locating and fixing the leak. Additionally, smart meters can help resolve the problem of high energy costs, as customers can always check on their consumption levels and charges in real time.

Smart projects should be evaluated at every stage of development to ensure smart technology is helping people.


Developing a smart city strategy is an essential part of planning for a city's transformation toward a modern, digital infrastructure. This strategy should be documented and evaluated as the project evolves. Cities should also focus on the needs of citizens first to figure out what type of technological solutions will enhance their quality of life.

Johannes Beekman

About the author

After 25 years in engineering, Johannes Beekman founded IoT Marketing with the goal of helping companies bring wide-scale awareness to their inventions. He received a Master of Science in Physics degree from the Eindhoven University of Technology, and a Master in Business Administration degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and started his career in the semiconductor field. Johannes pioneered two successful wafer fab startups for Philips Electronics; one in Europe and the second one in Asia. And served as Senior Program Manager for Sematech, where he provided solutions for semiconductor industry-wide product improvement and cost reduction challenges. Johannes has also published articles on several trade-focused websites.


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