How big is the Smart City?

Today, over half of the world’s population resides in cities, providing much of the human and social capital that now fuels contemporary life. And every month, 5 million more people move to cities in developing and emerging countries. It is estimated that by 2050, about 8 billion people will be living in the urban context.

Cities are complex urban spaces, shaped by diverse technological and cultural forces. They showcase some of the world’s most intractable problems and challenges, and some of our most innovative solutions.

The idea of the smart city – one that is integrated through sensors and actuators, through big data and artificial intelligence, through open government and citizen participation – is the best hope we have to ensure humanity’s success on this planet.

But, how big is this transformation? Bigger than it seems at first sight.

Five big transformations have made humanity into what we are today, small changes in thinking and doing that have made a big impact on who we are and where we will end up:

The cognitive revolution (70,000 years ago) introduced language and thereby allowed bands of humans to better coordinate their hunting and gathering.

The cultural revolution (35,000 years ago) brought abstract thinking and communication through space and time by introducing the art, namely cave paintings, musical instruments such as flutes and drums and sculptures.

The agricultural revolution (10,000 years ago) actually brought us city-life by allowing humans to stay in one place throughout the year and collaborate in bigger projects. Early cities like Jericho are a tribute to this transformation.

The scientific revolution (500 years ago) forms the basis of our contemporary means-ends thinking and can-do mentality and has led to what geologists call the Anthropocene, the geological age described through the actions of humans.

With the smart city revolution, we are confronted with another revolution of similar magnitude, a world in which, in principle, every atom has its IP-address and where the combination of data collection, artificial intelligence and crowd-sourcing allow humans to profit from automation and collaborate in ways never seen before.

As with any of the prior technological revolutions, it will fundamentally change our lives to the better if we play it smart. It will force us to re-think almost everything about who we are.

Therefore, we need to put our strategic focus on the topic and start translating what is dear to us into the world of smart cities. We have the privilege to live through this big transformation and the responsibility to shape it. Together, we can venture on the digital transformation voyage to the smart city.

At CSC, we help clients on their digital transformation voyage and believe in the ability of technology to integrate information, empower citizens, improve quality of life and educate future generations. In this blog space, we will be bringing some of those ideas to life and introducing you to thought leaders in the area of Smart Cities. We encourage you to provide feedback in the comments section or interact with us on social media. We’d love to hear your thoughts about the Smart City of today – and your vision for tomorrow – and how we can be part of making that a reality.


DrPhilippMuellerDr. Philipp S. Mueller is the general manager for the public sector in Central and Eastern Europe at CSC and teaches strategy and leadership at top universities worldwide. He is a renowned public speaker, the author of three books and many articles focusing on the interplay of technology, strategy and organization. He has a PhD from Ludwig-Maximilians-University, was a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and is a member of the MOC Affiliate Network at Harvard Business School. Connect with him on Twitter.

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