The majority of cities around the world are not smart cities

Of course, the majority of cities around the world are not smart cities. Updating existing technologies to more advanced and more efficient ones will take time. But, in the meantime, individuals and organizations can do their part, by getting engaged and forming civic groups to focus on topics ranging from reviewing city data to gathering developers to create applications for the city. 

Chicago wants to promote smart cities throughout the globe by giving them access to their code via open source. “Every city is facing tight budget times just like the city of Chicago and there’s no reason another city couldn’t take our restaurant code [for example] and implement it without making the investment that we did. We plan to adopt other open source codes from other cities. There’s a collaborative nature between municipalities and governments so we’re working on each other’s behalf,” Berman said.

“The entire code itself is online so other researchers can take a look at this code and take a look at this data,” Schenk said. Researchers can then work on the code and improve it, or even use it for their own smart city projects at no additional cost. Schenk said Chicago is also hoping to use open source code from other municipalities.

Journalists and programmers are the most likely candidates to use the data to spur a city to action, as well as entrepreneurs creating hack-a-thons to spur interesting applications for the municipality. And if they create this data and information, the city will likely listen, Schenk said.

No matter how appealing it is to offer new services, keep in mind that what citizens want is key.

“Smart cities are evolving cities, and smartness is relative—part of the requirement to be a smart city is to understand that change will always be necessary—but the intelligence comes in choosing the best tools that support that city’s people and keep its culture vibrant and sustainable,” Menon said.