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The path to smart cities documented

The report details three different smart city approaches and highlights key developments in technology and business models

The research reveals that there are particular practices that are of universal benefit
The research reveals that there are particular practices that are of universal benefit

"There is no 'royal road' to smartness. But there is a right way to travel", says author

While there is diversity of strategies across different cities, there are three distinct routes

Successful cities have established open and transparent rules for the use of data

The smart city strategies and progress of 22 cities around the world can be read in the newly published report, The Smart City Playbook, commissioned by Nokia.


Developed by Machina Research, provider of market intelligence on the Internet of Things (IoT), the report aims to document best practices for smart cities and provides guidance to city leaders on successful strategies used by other municipalities to make their cities smarter, safer and more sustainable.


Cities profiled in the study include Auckland, Bangkok, Barcelona, Berlin, Bogota, Bristol, Cape Town, Cleveland, Delhi, Dubai, Jeddah, Mexico City, New York City, Paris, Pune, San Francisco, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Vienna and Wuxi.


"No one said becoming a smart city would be easy. There are lots of choices to be made. The technology and the business models are evolving rapidly, so there are many degrees of uncertainty,” said Jeremy Green, principal analyst at Machina Research and author of the report.


He added: “Standards are emerging but are by no means finalised. So there is no ’royal road’ to smartness. But there is a right way to travel - with your eyes open, with realistic expectations, and with a willingness to learn from others. That includes other cities that might face the same problems as you, even if in a different context.”


The report reveals significant diversity in the strategies of different cities, but identified three distinct ’routes’ that cities are taking. The ’anchor’ route involves a city deploying a single application to address a pressing problem such as traffic congestion, and then adding other applications over time.


The ’platform’ route involves building the underlying infrastructure needed to support a wide variety of smart applications and services. ’Beta Cities’, by contrast, try out multiple applications as pilots to see how they perform before making long-term deployment decisions.


Nokia said its goal when commissioning the report was “to cut through the clutter” and identify strategies that are clearly working for cities. "As a global leader in the technologies that connect people and things, Nokia clearly has a great interest in helping bring clarity to the market, and to identify important focus areas,” said Osvaldo Di Campli, head of global enterprise & public sector, Nokia.


While the study found significant differences between cities, even amongst those cities following the same route, it also concluded that there are several particular practices used by successful smart cities that would appear to be of universal benefit, including:

  • Successful cities have established open and transparent rules for the use of data (on which all smart cities are dependent) by government departments and third parties, whether shared freely or monetized to cover data management costs.
  • Many cities that are advanced in their smart city journeys have committed to making both information and communications technology (ICT) and IoT infrastructure accessible to users both inside and outside of government, and have avoided the creation of ’silos’ between government departments.
  • Governments (and their third-party partners) that have worked to actively engage residents in smart city initiatives have been particularly effective, most notably those where the benefits are highly visible such as smart lighting and smart parking.
  • Smart city infrastructure needs to be scalable so it can grow and evolve to meet future needs, and secure to provide certainty that both government and private data are protected.
  • Cities that select technology partners that can provide the innovation capacity, ability to invest and real-world experience, along with technology platforms that are open to avoid vendor lock-in, will be at an advantage.

For city-by-city findings and the complete set of smart city best practices and recommendations, read the full Machina Research Smart City Playbook at


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SmartCitiesWorld Profile - Singapore

SmartCitiesWorld Profile - Singapore

Read our profile of Singapore and their particular evolution into smart living.

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