What is a Smart City?

Zaac Woodhead
Oct 18, 2018 · 3 min read

Smart City’ has become the globalised term to reference a city that is progressive and innovative. Ironically, with the aim to simplify the idea with a name it has confused everyone. In reality, it means something different to people wherever they live in the world and how they interact with their city or local area.

People naturally think that a Smart City is all about the technology — they think of a digitally connected city using the Internet of Things (IoT), high-speed wireless network, sensors, and cameras — but it’s more than this. Others think it’s a place far in the distance with flying cars, and it’s not this either.

A Smart City, I’ve learned, is more of a mindset. It means something very different geographically & culturally across the planet — from Hangzhou to Hamburg, Los Angeles to Melbourne. It depends on the focus of that city — their priorities can differ drastically.

It also means something different for various city services & assets — energy, utility, transport, tourism, infrastructure, social & community, accessibility, emergency services. Each has different needs and expectations.

We need to look deeper than just the sectors and services. To truly be a Smart City we need to look at the people & users. It’s crucial to consider the different kind of individuals within these cities; residents, workers, and visitors.

A Smart City asks the following questions for its residents:

  • how do you design them a better quality of life,
  • how do you remove friction in a person’s day,
  • how do you provide more convenience & speed,
  • how do you integrate more tightly into a person’s behaviours?

Ultimately, a Smart City is one providing an enhanced experience to its inhabitants.

What I am illustrating is that a human and their experiences are at the core of any ‘Smart City’ strategy and planning. For this reason, our team at 24 Digital often reference ‘future citizenship’ before ‘Smart City’.

We are working with cities and councils across Australia who are leading by example when it comes to innovation. They are actively deploying impactful digital ideas and initiatives, mostly using IOT (Internet of Things) and other ‘smart’ meters or devices, which means they are now capturing valuable data. But we have found that teams are unclear on what do to do with this data, how to make it meaningful and how to act.

Making data meaningful

This is the next challenge, or opportunity, for cities. By making sense of this data and capturing meaningful insights, they can start to future-proof their cities. It’s essential to bring science to the original idea to help build a framework for decision making…no more guessing or assumptions. These are facts and they have value, making it easier for cities and councils to align internally and change the DNA from the industrial age into the digital age.

Cities will start to benefit from both creating amazing experiences and leveraging the economics of running an intelligent city (growth, cost-cutting, smarter investment).


Zaac Woodhead is Managing Director at 24 Digital, a digital product design agency based in Melbourne, Australia.

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We want to work with ambitious people & businesses to create amazing things. Does that sound like you? Say hello — hello@24digital.com.au

24 Digital

Discover the inner-monologue of the team from 24 Digital - a group of creative technologists looking to enhance the human experience through digital solutions.

Zaac Woodhead

Written by

Director at 24 Digital. Solving problems using data, design & technology. Interested in the future / neuroscience / gadgets.

24 Digital

Discover the inner-monologue of the team from 24 Digital - a group of creative technologists looking to enhance the human experience through digital solutions.

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