Understanding Sensor Cities: Insights from Technology Giant Company Driven Smart Urbanism Practices

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Aug 6;20(16):4391. doi: 10.3390/s20164391.


The data-driven approach to sustainable urban development is becoming increasingly popular among the cities across the world. This is due to cities' attention in supporting smart and sustainable urbanism practices. In an era of digitalization of urban services and processes, which is upon us, platform urbanism is becoming a fundamental tool to support smart urban governance, and helping in the formation of a new version of cities-i.e., City 4.0. This new version utilizes urban dashboards and platforms in its operations and management tasks of its complex urban metabolism. These intelligent systems help in maintaining the robustness of our cities, integrating various sensors (e.g., internet-of-things) and big data analysis technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence) with the aim of optimizing urban infrastructures and services (e.g., water, waste, energy), and turning the urban system into a smart one. The study generates insights from the sensor city best practices by placing some of renowned projects, implemented by Huawei, Cisco, Google, Ericsson, Microsoft, and Alibaba, under the microscope. The investigation findings reveal that the sensor city approach: (a) Has the potential to increase the smartness and sustainability level of cities; (b) Manages to engage citizens and companies in the process of planning, monitoring and analyzing urban processes; (c) Raises awareness on the local environmental, social and economic issues, and; (d) Provides a novel city blueprint for urban administrators, managers and planners. Nonetheless, the use of advanced technologies-e.g., real-time monitoring stations, cloud computing, surveillance cameras-poses a multitude of challenges related to: (a) Quality of the data used; (b) Level of protection of traditional and cybernetic urban security; (c) Necessary integration between the various urban infrastructure, and; (d) Ability to transform feedback from stakeholders into innovative urban policies.

Keywords: City 4.0; Internet-of-Things (IoT); disruptive urban transition; sensor city; sensors; smart city; smart governance; smart urbanism; sustainable urban development; technology giants.