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What is an Intelligent City?

An intelligent city (also referred to as a smart city or cognitive city) uses digital technologies to enhance performance of devices and services to improve the wellbeing of citizens, businesses and visitors. Through such technologies, it helps to reduce costs and consumption of resources, including—but not limited to—energy, health care and mobility.

The global intelligent city market will be valued at $1.565 trillion in 2020. More than 25 global cities are expected to be smart cities by 2025, with more than half in Europe and North America, according to a Frost & Sullivan report.

While some technologies associated with smart cities already are available, many more are in development. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a worldwide professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation, indicates that an intelligent city may include:

  • Smart building controls
  • Demand response
  • LED lighting and intelligent lighting
  • Solar panels
  • Fuel cells
  • Wireless charging for automobiles

Why would a city want or need to be smart?

During a 2015 Smart Cities Conference sponsored by utility resource Energy Central, keynote speaker Sasha Weintraub, senior vice president of market solutions for Duke Energy, noted that cities have a considerable influence on gross domestic product in a global economy. So adopting greater intelligence is imperative, as information could improve the economic and environmental health of a city.

“If a city doesn’t grow smart, it doesn’t grow at all,” Weintraub said. “How you do this in a smart way really impacts the future of the city.”

Researchers believe an intelligent city is one that uses information technologies to: 

  • Make more efficient use of roads, buildings and other infrastructure to support strong economic, social and cultural development
  • Provide a tool for effective engagement among residents, businesses and local decision makers through open innovation processes  
  • Learn, adapt and innovate—and respond more effectively and promptly—to changing circumstances 

But is there a one-size-fits-all approach? No. 

Intelligent cities will develop in many different forms and over time. Each city faces its own challenges, all dependent upon geographic location, population and existing or future problems (i.e., water, air and noise pollution, traffic). City leaders must determine their vision of an intelligent city and how to draw from resources that can provide technical expertise and innovations that will allow that vision to come to life.

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