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Smart Cities and Cyber Security: Securing Cities for Growth

Future is already here. Do you wonder why? Because cities get smart. Smart cities are adding digital intelligence to existing urban systems, saving time, reducing waste, and helping boost social connectedness, thanks to data and technology. Keep reading to see the key features of a smart city, smart city examples, and smart cities and cyber security.

What is meant by smart cities?

Cities are the main poles of economic activity. They hold the potential to create synergies enabling great development opportunities for their inhabitants. On the other hand, cities need to manage their growth whilst enhancing environmental sustainability and increasing the quality of life of their citizens.

The smart city concept developed because of some critical challenges like technological advancement, innovative devices, knowledge economy, and of course, environmental pressures. Given that, we can consider the smart city to be an integrated vision of all components of urban life including the economy, government, energy, mobility, and governance.

European Parliament suggests 2 definitions of smart cities. The first one defines a smart city as “a city seeking to address public issues via ICT-based solutions on the basis of a multi-stakeholder”. According to the second definition, the notion of a smart city is rooted in “the connection of human capital, social capital and information technology infrastructure” to generate greater yet sustainable economic growth and a better quality of life. The World Bank defines a smart city as “a technology-intensive city with sensors everywhere and highly efficient public services leveraged by available data”.

Can you guess what one common thing those definitions have? If you guessed ‘the reliance on data‘ (or the integration of real-world data via the use of sensors and personal devices), you guessed right.

What are the features of a smart city

What are the features of a smart city?

Smart city is becoming a reality rather than a buzzword. Many cities have already begun integrating technology into their infrastructure, enhancing the quality of life. There are several key features of a smart city. Firstly, smart cities promote the use of technology along with data to bolster their infrastructure and services. This may include access to resources like water and electricity.

The second feature is that smart cities bring an increase in access to public transportation and new solutions like smart parking, intelligent traffic management and integrated modal transport. Also, neighborhoods are expected to be more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. Last but not least, smart cities consider developing unplanned or poorly planned areas such as slums, with an aim to make cities much safer and less disaster-prone.

What are the smart cities in the world?

Here we are going to have a look at some exciting smart city examples.

What are the smart cities in the world


The vision for Oslo is to make it a smarter, greener, as well as and creative city for all citizens. It is a city that innovates with the citizens’ interests and well-being at the core. This capital city is committed to reducing city emissions by as much as 95% by 2030, hence setting itself as an example for other smart cities. In order to attain the targets successfully, Oslo is showing its efforts in areas like testing electrical buses, smart grid, green buildings, renewable fuels, zero-emission construction sites, and EV charging equipment.


The city is leveraging major emerging technologies including blockchain, AI, and also harnessing big data capabilities to create everyday experiences for residents as well as visitors of Dubai. Moreover, Dubai aims to become a completely paperless city by 2021, ensuring all government transactions are 100% digitised, eliminating more than 1 billion pieces of paper used annually for government transactions. Another initiative in support of the smart city is ‘Smart Nol Card’ which is a unified card to pay for transport services in Dubai.


The City of Geneva has already joined the movement of European cities for an energy transition. This vision assumes that territorial partners and citizens work jointly to accomplish the goal of “For Geneva, 100% renewable by 2050”. To attain this goal, Geneva is making the transition from oil heating to natural gas and develops renewable energies.


The capital city of the Netherlands is one of the early adopters of smart city strategies across Europe. The city’s approach entails all of the necessary fields of action for a municipality, which can be summarised by the indicators smart economy, smart environment, smart government, smart living, and smart mobility. The Amsterdam Smart City (SSC) online platform lies at the heart of the city’s strategic approach, which is based on a rapidly growing community of over 400 organisations and more than 5000 individuals, including startups. Amsterdam’s smart city solutions ecosystem covers enabling initiatives, social initiatives, mobility initiatives and circular city initiatives.


As a smart city, Barcelona has achieved a wide range of positive outcomes through investment in IoT for urban systems. The city is successfully incorporating smart sensors and big data analytics into everything from parking and transportation to waste disposal. Also, the bus transit system is taken to another level in Barcelona, that the city has integrated an orthogonal bus network of diagonal, vertical, and horizontal lines, making it easier to use and faster.

Benefits of smart cities

Smart cities that leverage data and technology across their operations reap a wide range of benefits. First benefit is the improved energy efficiency and health. Smart technologies give cities the tools to effectively eliminate unnecessary waste of water and electricity. Apartments that are equipped with smart energy meters reward residents’ reduced energy consumption.

Benefits of smart cities

Second benefit is the minimum environmental footprint. Energy-efficient buildings combined with air quality sensors and renewable energy sources provide cities with new tools to reduce their ecological impact. Improved transportation is indeed another benefit of a smart city. Technologies like intelligent traffic signals help optimise traffic flow, relieving congestion during peak travel times. According to SmartCity Press, smart city transportation investments are expected to rise over 25% per year over the following 5 years.

Smart cities and cyber security

In its “Smart City Cyber Security” report, ABI Research predicts that there will be over 1.3 billion wide-area network smart city connections by 2024. Smart cities are becoming increasingly interconnected, hence the level of digital infrastructure will become highly complex. It means that digital services are now more vulnerable to cyber threats. Although more and more city governments are developing smart city technologies, it is critical to contemplate how to make smart cities cyber resilient.

There are a number of security challenges in smart cities. The primary challenge concerns data privacy and protection. As mentioned above, smart city technologies capture data relating to all forms of privacy and enhance the volume of the data being collected about people and places. Interconnectivity improves citizen’s lives, but citizens also express concerns regarding the use of their data.

The second risk comes from the applications. The increase in the number of applications on the device increases the probability that some may contain security weaknesses.

Furthermore, smart cities comprise a significant number of different sensors, network access points, complex hardware and software. Hence, insecure hardware is another challenge that can result in signal failures and even system shutdowns in smart cities.

Final thoughts

Smart cities have to strengthen development while not compromising on data privacy and security. By implementing solid security and information protection framework and policies in place, safety of smart cities can be achieved.

Are you excited to explore the role of technology and data in cities? Check our Cyber Challenge – Smart Cities course. This course is provided by Swiss Cyber Academy and Airbus CyberSecurity. The fact that 80% of this training content is made of practical exercises makes us different. Book a free consultation with us now and we would gladly answer your questions.