The Rise of Smart Cities: Needs, Challenges, Future Directions, and Ways for Improvement

By By Dr Muhammed Basheer Jasser, Senior Lecturer and Program Leader of BSc (Hons) Information Technology, Department of Computing and Information Systems, School of Engineering and Technology, Sunway University

Smart cities use technological solutions to enhance the living standards of their citizens while preserving the environment and prioritising sustainability. Advances in multiple domains contribute to making cities smart. The main domains include the environment, safety, security, health, mobility, and education sectors. Optimisation is required in smart cities where finding the best ways to accomplish certain tasks by individuals is profitable. For example, in delivery systems, finding optimal routes for delivery vehicles will be cost-efficient.

Various technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data are prevalent in smart cities as they allow the improvement and innovation of multiple systems in different sectors. For example, in the environment sector, IoT-based systems, sensory technology, and prediction models can be used to predict the energy consumption in an industry so that energy-efficient models can be designed.

Despite the continuous efforts and plans to employ technology to build smart cities, I think there are still ways to provide quality services making smart cities smarter. However, these also bring with them a set of challenges.

More automation efforts in smart cities could still be achieved to provide better services with lesser need to interact with humans. For example, deploying electric driverless vehicles will reduce the need for human intervention and carbon emissions. Another example is to employ face recognition techniques to allow accessing premises using face data.

Better quality services could also be delivered to inhabitants by employing more data collected from people (e.g. sensory and personal data). This data could be used in artificial intelligence models to provide better user experience, for example, in shopping malls where customers can be provided with predictions for customers’ shopping preferences.

Although using data promotes the life quality of smart cities’ communities, data protection and ownership are still serious concerns for many.  For example, a face recognition system could be employed to allow people to enter premises, but data privacy would weigh heavily on users’ minds. Transparency is also important to demonstrate how people’s data is collected and used as this increases the people’s trust in the smart cities’ management and deployed systems.

Although quality services could be achieved by automation and using people data, safety is still a critical concern for both people’s lives and their assets when dealing with safety-critical systems. Driverless cars, for example, have been discussed at length for years now. However, addressing safety still requires more effort as several safety procedures are necessary to avoid exposing human lives to danger.

One way to address safety is employing robust modelling techniques that deal with safety-critical systems with utmost care. An example of robust techniques is formal methods to model systems’ safety using precise mathematical notations.


Smart cities aim at enhancing the citizens’ living standards by using technologies to innovate various sectors. Computing solutions are introduced to tackle the problems encountered in smart cities including artificial intelligence techniques.

Although efforts are done on making smart cities smarter, there is a need for further planning to tackle the persistent challenges when dealing with systems employed in smart cities including safety, automation, and privacy.

Although ways for tackling these challenges are proposed briefly in this article, there is more to be done to resolve various challenges yet to be discussed. 

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