• International Journal of Technology (IJTech)
  • Vol 9, No 7 (2018)

Building a Smarter City

Building a Smarter City

Title: Building a Smarter City
Roy Woodhead

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Published at : 21 Dec 2018
Volume : IJtech Vol 9, No 7 (2018)
DOI : https://doi.org/10.14716/ijtech.v9i7.2734

Cite this article as:
Woodhead, R. 2018. Building a Smarter City. International Journal of Technology. Volume 9(7), pp. 1509-1517

Roy Woodhead Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Howard Street, Sheffield, S1 1WB, UK
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Building a Smarter City

This article is adapted from a paper presented at the prestigious "CSID AUN-SCUD International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure and Urban Development" held in Jakarta in November of 2018. It draws on the literature to develop a historical interpretation that explains why the world is changing as it is and how it might subsequently evolve.

The paper recognizes that we live in a period that marks the end of an old era and the start of a new digitally enabled era. The role of creativity becomes ever more important as the evolution of the Internet unlocks new opportunities around innovations in IoT, Big Data, and Cloud Compute, to name but a few. While some organizations try to repeat what they have done in the past, only this time with digital technology, others (e.g., Elon Musk) set out to reinvent value chains and, in so doing, move economic power away from established players. It is by seeing the strategic, tactical, and operational possibilities in an integrated way that substantive ideas emerge (e.g., Airbnb becoming the largest hotel chain without owning a single hotel). In particular, our paper explores the intersect between the evolution of our cities and levels of awareness, of consciousness, that mark the maturity of urban evolution (i.e., the “smartness” of the city and its citizens). Finally, it reports on an attempt to push such an evolutionary improvement in the UK city of Sheffield.

Smart city; Sustainable infrastructure; UK city of Sheffield; Urban evolution


In this paper we explored the idea of what a smart city can be and how we are trying to play our part nudging toward a measurable notion of progress (e.g., developing a foundational LoRaWAN capability). We hope our interpretation of why the world is evolving as it is and how the city is adapting in that macro context to become a true “smart city”  opens creative and innovative conversations for action-researchers. Conferences are where new ideas are often aired, and the CSID AUN-SCUD International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure and Urban Development certainly triggered lots of new ideas and research directions. It is this sharing of ideas that is fundamentally important to invention and later innovation as ideas scale.

The reason the idea of a smart city is necessary is because our cities struggle to cope with the demands placed upon them, and these demands are predicted to grow due to an ever increasing rate of population density with demographic shifts. The need to innovate is upon us, and this requires a move from transactional thinking based around notions of servant leaders and citizens as “customers.” It needs everyone in a city, whether a local government employee or resident, to see themselves as “citizens” with a stake in making their city a great place to live, work, and play.

We cited authors that attempt to describe their idea of a city through particular professional perspectives, but there are many more we have not reported on in this paper. The perspectives offered by reliable scholarly work provide insights that can help us all; they are valuable. However, we need a way of seeing these different perspectives in a more integrated fashion. We attempt such a synthesis by seeing a city as a place where life-conditions and the citizens' corresponding internal experiences influence decisions that result in what a city becomes. The decisions made by many thousands of citizens is what we want to improve.

We see the idea of a city as a reflection of different types of collective consciousness that are dominant within local government, organizations, and citizens. We believe this “collective consciousness” is a function of the way information is shared as well as its quality. If we can make more pertinent information available to citizens, then we believe their level of awareness, their consciousness, will improve. Furthermore, we argue this will make a city “smarter” than other cities because the quality of decisions made by citizens will be improved.The idea is, as a smart city would have more citizens making better decisions than a non-smart city, it should be noticeably better in regard tonumerous attributes.

Central to this ambition is the need for the following:

          A creative vision that is attractive to investors and inhabitants;

•    Power expressed through democratic government with open and shared information  symmetry among all citizens;

•     Incentives for individuals to drive progress with safeguards to prevent exploitation that denies other citizens from fair, full, and enjoyable lives in a smart city;

•     Technology used to collect data and distribute informationto local government employees and citizens in an "up and down" approach rather than only a “top down” or only a “bottom up” approach.

We also discussed our efforts to build a foundational capability in Sheffield around TTN, which was made possible through the support of the Sheffield Hackspace and the open source culture they embody.

We will soon see the arrival of free Wi-Fi in the city center through a project between the local council and a company called Idaq. We will also see a full TTN LoRaWAN coverage across the city through volunteer efforts and the Urban Flows project. What our action research project has done is build foundational capability among about 50 people over five Smart City Hackathons.

Our next action research agenda will be to build specific Internet of Things solutions that again nudge the smart city agenda another couple of steps forward.


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