Smart cities are emerging in response to an increasingly urbanized world dealing with scarce resources, along with the desire to improve energy efficiency. By providing appropriate technologies and solutions, smart cities can deal with issues such as congestion and energy waste, while also allocating stressed resources more efficiently and helping to improve quality of life.

For instance, as an increasing proportion of the world’s populations live in cities—3.42 billion in urban areas vs. 3.451 billion in rural areas as of mid-2009, according to the United Nations—services such as public transportation, energy provision or the urban road network are inevitably strained. Smarter solutions can be deployed to lessen the negative effects of growing urbanization, including the use of sensors to monitor traffic, or the implementation of smarter ticketing solutions to improve the use of public transport.

Smart cities can also help achieve energy-efficient targets. London, for example, is retrofitting both residential and commercial buildings to lessen carbon dioxide emissions. The city is also adopting charging infrastructure to support the introduction of 100,000 electric vehicles.

For areas of the world where water is a scarce resource, smart cities can allocate this precious resource, using sensors to manage water use or provide critical information on water-storage levels. In Santander, Spain, soil-humidity sensors detect when land requires irrigating for more sustainable water use.

Smart cities also can provide other benefits. They can generate new employment opportunities through the creation of projects, prevent citizens from moving away by improving quality of life within their jurisdictions, and reduce costs. In the case of cost reduction, cities are discovering the benefits of light-emitting diodes (LED) in street lighting, an area that can take as much as 40 percent of a city’s energy budget.