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Smart City vs Ordinary City: What are the differences?

Smart City vs Ordinary City: What are the differences?

As urbanisation continues to accelerate, cities around the world are faced with the challenge of ensuring the well-being and satisfaction of their residents. In response, the concept of a “smart city” has emerged, integrating advanced technologies and data-driven solutions to enhance efficiency, sustainability, and the overall quality of life. But what is a smart city vs and ordinary city?

In contrast, ordinary cities operate on traditional systems and infrastructure. Here, we provide a thorough comparison between smart cities and ordinary cities, examining various aspects such as resident engagement, transportation, environmental policies, energy efficiency, connectivity, government involvement, benefits, and operational costs.

Smart City vs Ordinary City: Resident Engagement

Both smart cities and ordinary cities recognise the importance of keeping residents engaged and connected with their communities. In ordinary cities, traditional methods such as community centres, libraries, and public parks play a significant role in fostering social interactions. Cultural events, local festivals, and neighbourhood gatherings serve as platforms for residents to connect and engage.

Smart cities leverage technology to enhance resident engagement. They employ interactive mobile applications, smart kiosks, and digital platforms to provide information about events, public services, and community initiatives. Smart cities also promote citizen participation through online voting systems, crowdsourcing ideas, and digital feedback channels. These technological advancements facilitate seamless communication between residents and local authorities, fostering a sense of ownership and active involvement in shaping their city.

A good example would be how in an ordinary city, organisations may hold regular meetings where residents can voice their concerns. In a smart city, a mobile application allows residents to report issues like potholes or broken streetlights directly to the local authorities, who can then respond promptly and track the progress of the request.

Smart City vs Ordinary City: Transportation

Transportation systems are crucial for the smooth functioning of any city. Ordinary cities typically rely on traditional modes of transportation such as private vehicles, public buses, and trains. While efforts are made to improve public transportation, challenges such as congestion and limited accessibility persist.

Smart cities prioritise sustainable and efficient transportation. They integrate intelligent transportation systems (ITS) that utilise real-time data to optimise traffic flow, reduce congestion, and enhance safety. Smart traffic lights, dynamic routing algorithms, and smart parking systems are employed to streamline transportation networks. Additionally, smart cities encourage the use of electric vehicles, car-sharing programmes, and bike-sharing initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and promote eco-friendly mobility.

Smart City vs Ordinary City: Environmental Policies and Practices

Environmental sustainability is a pressing concern for cities worldwide. Ordinary cities typically implement environmental policies, such as waste management and recycling programmes, to minimise their ecological footprint. However, these efforts may vary in their effectiveness and implementation.

Smart cities place a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability. They employ innovative technologies like sensors, IoT devices, and data analytics to monitor and manage energy consumption, water usage, and waste management systems in real-time. Smart grids optimise energy distribution, while smart sensors detect and manage water leaks. Renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, are often integrated into the urban infrastructure of smart cities, promoting clean energy generation.

A good example to highlight how environmental policies and practises differ in both is the role of waste management. In an ordinary city, recycling bins are available throughout the city, and waste management trucks collect recyclables along with regular trash.

In a smart city, waste management systems employ sensor-based smart bins that automatically detect the fill level and optimise collection routes, reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Additionally, smart grids and energy management systems ensure efficient energy distribution and monitor power usage.

Smart City vs Ordinary City: Efficiency and Connectivity

Smart cities leverage technology to enhance overall efficiency and connectivity. Intelligent systems are used to optimise resource allocation, streamline operations, and improve service delivery. For instance, smart lighting systems adjust brightness based on real-time conditions, reducing energy waste. Automated systems in smart buildings regulate temperature and energy usage, optimising efficiency. Whereas, in an ordinary city, streetlights operate on fixed timers, resulting in unnecessary energy consumption during low-traffic hours.

Connectivity is another crucial aspect. Smart cities provide widespread access to high-speed internet and ensure connectivity throughout the city. This enables seamless communication between residents, businesses, and government entities. Additionally, smart cities implement IoT devices and sensors to gather data on various urban aspects, allowing for data-driven decision-making and proactive management.

Smart City vs Ordinary City: Government Involvement

Both smart cities and ordinary cities rely on government involvement to shape their development. In ordinary cities, governments play a central role in urban planning, infrastructure development, and policy implementation. They provide essential services such as healthcare, education, and public safety.

Smart cities foster stronger partnerships between governments, private entities, and citizens. Governments collaborate with technology companies, research institutions, and startups to implement smart solutions. They create regulatory frameworks and incentives to attract investments and promote innovation.

In an ordinary city, the government would emphasise collaborating with local businesses to organise an annual street fair, promoting local culture and entrepreneurship. Whereas, in a smart city, the government prioritises partnering with technology companies and startups to launch innovation challenges, and encouraging the development of smart solutions that address specific urban challenges like waste management or traffic congestion.

These examples illustrate how smart cities leverage technology and data-driven solutions to enhance various aspects of urban life, from transportation and environmental sustainability to resident engagement and government involvement. While ordinary cities rely on traditional methods, smart cities embrace innovative approaches to create more efficient, connected, and sustainable urban environments.

5 cities known for their smart city approach and features


Singapore is often considered a pioneer in smart city development. It has implemented various technologies to improve urban living, such as the Smart Nation Sensor Platform, which collects data on various aspects of the city.

The city-state utilises advanced analytics and real-time data to optimise traffic flow, manage parking spaces, and enhance public transportation systems.

Singapore’s smart initiatives also include intelligent waste management systems, a nationwide cashless payment system, and a comprehensive e-government platform.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona has gained recognition for its smart city initiatives, focusing on sustainability and citizen engagement.

The city utilises a network of sensors and smart meters to monitor energy usage, waste management, and water consumption, promoting efficient resource allocation.

Barcelona’s “Superblocks” project aims to transform neighbourhoods by pedestrianizing streets, reducing traffic, and creating green spaces for residents to enjoy.

Songdo, South Korea

Songdo, located near Seoul, is a purpose-built smart city that prioritises sustainability and connectivity.

The city is equipped with a robust IT infrastructure, enabling advanced technologies like ubiquitous sensor networks, intelligent building management systems, and eco-friendly transportation options.

Songdo’s smart features include automated waste disposal, smart grid systems, and extensive use of telepresence and telecommunication technologies for remote work and healthcare.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is renowned for its smart city initiatives focused on sustainability, mobility, and quality of life.

The city promotes electric transportation with widespread electric vehicle charging infrastructure and encourages cycling through smart bike-sharing systems and dedicated bike lanes.

Amsterdam’s smart initiatives also include energy-efficient buildings, smart grids, and open data platforms that allow citizens and businesses to access and utilise urban data for innovative solutions.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai has embarked on an ambitious journey to become one of the world’s leading smart cities, with a strong focus on technology and innovation.

The city has implemented initiatives such as smart transportation systems, autonomous drones for government services, and blockchain-based digital transactions.

Dubai’s vision for a smart city includes projects like the Dubai Smart City Platform, which integrates data from various government entities to improve service delivery and enhance the quality of life for residents.

These examples demonstrate the diverse approaches taken by different cities to embrace smart city concepts. Each city showcases unique features and innovative solutions tailored to their specific needs and goals, all with the aim of creating sustainable, efficient, and liveable urban environments.

These examples demonstrate the diverse approaches taken by different cities to embrace smart city concepts. Each city showcases unique features and innovative solutions tailored to their specific needs and goals, all with the aim of creating sustainable, efficient, and liveable urban environments.

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