Smart City – Where Today's Urban Center Needs to Head to Ensure its Tomorrow


A smart city is one that runs wisely, becomes efficient, saves resources and improves the quality of life of its residents and the environment. Technology, while an important ingredient, is only the engine that drives some of the processes and serves to convey information to decision-makers.

Is there an optimized model for a smart city? 

There are a number of models for smart cities, since the topics related to the city plan are many and varied, and encompass all areas for which the city administration is responsible. Choosing a master plan for the smart city relates to the city's priorities, based on its strengths, challenges, threats and opportunities, and especially in line with the mayor and municipal administration's vision. The model leading to the preparation of a master plan is one in which the city undergoes an evaluation process. This process is based on indexes included in the smart city that understands where it is now and plans where it wants to be in each area. The path taken is chosen according to the city's vision and according to the goals derived from the city's strategic plan.

The smart city vision begins with the mayor's managerial concept, and later on thinking, planning and creating plans for improvement in all the areas of responsibility of the city. All this is done with the help of various sources of funding, from business partnerships, through government ministries, to funding bodies of the European Union. Although technology is a central driving force in a smart city, smart cities are not only a technological issue, but also require the use of innovative operational business models.
The six characteristics of the smart city are Governance, Economy, Mobility, People, Life and Environment.

For each characteristic there are indices that help the mayor and plan leaders identify the existing situation and set additional goals. It should be noted that in smart city plans, technology plays a key role as enabler, but it is not the sole factor.

Smart city indices are created according to the ISO standard and according to research conducted by universities in Europe, the Council of Smart Cities and smart city leading consultants. Today there are over 100 indices that measure or mark criteria for smart cities, including ISO indices that are not necessarily from the advanced technology sphere.

Following are examples of Smart City indices:

- Number of buildings in the city built according to the British LEED standard or the American standard for green buildings (BREAM)
- Number of buildings with smart meters (public or other buildings)
- Percentage of energy produced by renewable energy sources (such as solar, wind, etc.), which is defined as an ISO standard. For example, 70% of the daily energy consumption in Eilat, Israel is produced by renewable energy sources.


Principles for managing a smart city master plan 

Major principles for the success of a smart city master plan includes the following:

1.Leadership by the Mayor or the city’s Manging Director.
2. Establishment of a smart city management team headed by a dedicated manager or a team coordinator, in partnership with all municipality divisions' leaders.
3. Professional assessment process according to smart city indexes, goal setting, strategy creating, master plan writing and executing.
Although technology is a core driving force in a smart city, smart cities are not only a technological issue, but require the use of innovative business and operational models.


Who runs the smart city processes?

We think that either the Mayor or the managing director of the city must lead the processes of the Smart City initiative, for the following reasons:
Smart City is not a project, it is not a destination, rather it is a journey, smart city is a status of being a Smart City, and it is a long lasting process that must be led by the leader of the city.

The mayor and the municipality's director general are the ones who see the city's overall picture, since most cities are run by separate administrations or departments that do not usually have “structured” collaborations. Most cities are run in "Silos" that are not really connected, neither coordinated. Many cities do not even have ongoing management meetings, as is common in businesses. A smart city plan while establishing a dedicated team, enables the team members, who are senior municipal managers to cooperate in the various fields that contribute to the smart city's activity and development.

The fact that large ICT companies lead the processes in mega-cities creates a conscious similarity between the concepts "smart city" and "technology" or "ICT." There are technological companies that do not specialize in ICT and lead, for example, energy saving processes. These companies work with various departments in the municipality rather than with the information systems department. There are companies that provide services such as management of the cleaning sphere, garbage collection and maintenance of facilities, alongside companies that manage the ICT services. There is not yet a model of companies that manage all aspects of the city through outsourcing.


The smart city vision begins with the mayor's managerial concept, and later on thinking, planning and creating plans for improvement in all the areas of responsibility of the city.


Smart city – a strategic process 

Cities that have transformed its smart city vision into a strategic one by establishing a professional team subordinate to the mayor, his deputy or the managing director, have succeeded in implementing the main points of the smart city, saving millions of dollars a year. The main goal of realizing the smart city vision is to improve efficiency and save resources, while improving service to residents and improving the quality of life and of the environment. As in any strategic process in the organization, the chief information officer (CIO) should be involved in the smart city initiative and become a central factor in the master plan, but not necessarily has to lead the process.


What is the CIO's role in a smart city?

In the era of the Fourth Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution, the CIO is a central figure in the municipal system. His/her involvement is essential in formulating master plans for smart cities, although the plan must be managed at the level of the managing director or the mayor, since technology is only one of the master plan’s components. In the commercial world, the matter has been understood and organized accordingly, and in many organizations the CIO takes his place at the C suite (the management table), and reports directly to the CEO. Moreover, there is no enterprise initiative related to the information systems that does not pass through the CIO or with his/her approval. Unfortunately, today CIOs in many municipalities are neither management members nor even subordinate to the managing director. One of the initiatives taken recently is to improve the status of the CIO in the municipality and turning him into a head of administration/division (directly subordinate to the managing director).


Strong cities versus weak cities – managing the challenges

One of the myths is that weak cities cannot afford to make plans for a smart city. This myth was created as a result of a misconception that a smart city is only about technology and big investment in expensive IT systems. As noted, any Mayor of any city, small or large, can implement a smart city master plan, even without substantial investment in expensive technological projects.
In the technological era, every city can (and must) be managed as a smart city. In other word, it should be attractive to residents and businesses, preserve veteran residents, raise the quality of life in the city and maintain a clean environment. Whether it is mega-cities (over 10 million inhabitants) or a small city, the ratio is reflected mainly in size and budget. In most cases, responsibilities, challenges, and solutions are the same. At the same time, in a mega-city the challenges are more complex, management requires a different kind of knowledge and experience, and the span of control is different because more people have to be managed. For example, the Paris municipality employs 50,000 people, compared with 5,000 in a medium-sized city in Israel with 250,000 residents.


Financing smart city projects

There are various models for funding smart city programs:
1. PPT – a private-public partnership
2. BOT – Build, Operate, Transfer
3. Financing by a contractor who shares the savings with the municipality
In addition, there are various proposals from both government ministries and the European Union, in which any city can participate. While it is true that the chances of winning a grant are slim, every city must try to participate and try to win these grants as it is not only the funding but also connections to other cities, knowledge and exposure.

Eilat – Israel's first smart city 

One of the cities that internalized the process and the essence of the smart city is Eilat, in the most southern part of Israel. Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevy and Deputy Mayor Eli Lankri initiated the process at the end of 2012. Smart city initiatives in Eilat were implemented with the help of a team that included senior executives from the environmental, educational, engineering, technological, electricity and transportation fields, as well as Eilat’s economic companies. Currently, there are more than 30 smart city initiatives in Eilat, including:

1. Replacing traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs - contributing up to 55% savings on the energy and maintenance costs of the urban lighting system. (The city has the option either to finance the process itself, or to do so through a contractor, which would reduce the amount of the savings, though it would still be significant).

2. Irrigation management using advanced technologies and water recycling, reusing wastewater. The city of Eilat has saved millions of shekels each year as a result of water and energy efficiency, and continues to initiate programs in the fields of economics, quality of life, environment and education.

4. Installing solar systems on roofs may result in significant savings, to the point of covering the outlay. According to the master plan, in 2020 energy consumption in the city will be free of charge for households and public buildings.

5. Eilat is already considered a technologically advanced city, combining GIS systems and advanced sensor systems with direct and immediate warning of pollution of fuel fumes, radiation at the beaches and noise at recreation centers.

6. As part of the Smart Economy Program, Eilat developed a plan to promote small and medium-sized businesses, established an incubator for renewable energy projects and developed a program for the development of marine biotechnology, in which it is a leader at the academic level in Israel. Eilat also established a hub for technological and tourism ventures that attracts many entrepreneurs who will help develop the city's economy.

Notably, additional cities in Israel have entered the planning process of a smart city, including Rishon Letzion, Jerusalem, Ashdod, Netanya, Lod, Ramat Gan, Ra'anana' Haifa and Tel Aviv. Experience shows that when a city treats a smart city plan as an essential and strategic plan, and determines that the most senior official will lead it, its chances of success are very high.

By *Uri Ben-Ari, Smart City Expert Consultant

* Uri Ben-Ari is an expert in smart cities with over 25 years of global business experience, including over 10 years in senior management positions in public companies in the field of advanced technology. During his career Ben-Ari initiated, planned and managed business development and marketing activities in 17 countries in North America, Europe and Asia. In recent years, he has been studying the smart city sphere and advising several cities in Israel in the area of smart city master plans. Ben- Ari is also the founder and president of the Athena Fund, a non-profit organization whose goal is to empower teachers in Israel by providing a mobile computer to each teacher, including training ( ). Athena Fund, together with its partners, has donated computers (laptops, tablets and iPads) to approximately 15,000 teachers across Israel, in 1,240 schools and kindergartens in 123 local authorities (municipalities, local and regional councils).


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