Smaller cities can be smart cities too

Sat, 2013-04-27 13:17 -- Liz Enbysk

Usually we think of the world's mega-cities – perhaps Amsterdam or Seoul – when we think of smart cities. But increasingly we're seeing examples of how smaller cities have joined the smart cities movement. In fact, some are helping lead the way. That's important, because as city populations expand, having smart infrastructure in place will help ease the growing pains.


We've written about Santander, an old port city on Spain's Atlantic coast -- population of 180,000 -- that installed 10,000 sensors. The sensors give the city a way to measure just about everything, from where traffic jams are or where the air is particularly polluted to which streetlights are out.

Then there's the story of tiny Feldheim, a rural German village – population 125 – that attracts international visitors to see how it became Germany's first and so far only village that can say it's entirely energy self-sufficient.

And the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee – population 170,000 – has installed a smart grid that is becoming the backbone of a smart city. Installed by the Electric Power Board, the project's smart city functions include ultra-high-speed Internet, voice and video access to all residents, a city-wide wi-fi network for use by the city and the utility, street light controls, surveillance cameras and enhanced police and fire response.

Here are two more examples of how smaller cities are deploying advanced technologies to improve operations:

  • The Township of Cherry Hill, New Jersey – population 71,000 -- has partnered with Indiana-based Sustainability Dashboard Tools to become the first municipality in the U.S. to use the company's web-based data management tool to track the way resources such as electricity, water, fuel and consumables like office supplies are used in Town Hall and other buildings.  "The Dashboard’s interactive display makes it easy for us to collect and analyze data across all our municipal facilities, and compare those facilities side-by-side so that we can maximize our potential savings," said Mayor Chuck Cahn. "By understanding how our resources are being utilized, we can more effectively target our reduction efforts and maintain those results. Quite simply, this is a good business plan that will help protect our future while keeping my promise to run Cherry Hill efficiently."  Read more >>
  • The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts – population 105,000 – will use a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to enable the Cambridge, Everett, and Somerville police departments and their research partner, Justice & Security Strategies, to use predictive policing analytics to prevent cross-jurisdictional violent crime.  Data and analytic standards will be established to allow for each partner agency to share data easily at multiple levels within the agency.  The departments will share information about gangs, habitual violent offenders, basic crime data and other information.  Databases of offenders and known associates will be created in an attempt to predict and prevent retaliatory inter-gang violence. Cambridge is one of 16 sites around the country awarded smart policing grants from the DOJ. Read more >>

Clearly, size doesn't matter when it comes to gauging how smart a city is.