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The growth of smart cities

Posted on 23/04/2021 at 11:20 AM by in Blog

Here at Cornerstone Projects, we use these monthly articles to look at hot topics in the construction industry and recently we’ve been hearing a lot about the rise of smart cities.

So, what is a smart city? What are the benefits? How is this going to affect the industry? Your questions and more answered below.

What is a smart city?

According to Wikipedia (reliable source, we know), a smart city is defined as an “urban area that uses different types of electronic methods and sensors to collect data.”

From our research, a smart city is a framework designed to develop and promote sustainable practices.

Smart cities will take traditional networks and services and make them more efficient using digital and telecommunication technology, benefiting both residents and businesses in the area.

This includes smarter transport networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities, and more efficient ways of lighting and heating properties.

A large part of this framework is an intelligent network of connected devices transmitting data using wireless technology and the cloud, allowing applications to receive, analyse and manage data in real time.

The real time data can influence decisions that will improve quality of life, and people will be able to engage with these smart city frameworks through the use of smart phones, modern vehicles and even their homes.

Some examples of how this technology could be utilised include reduced road congestion through smart traffic lights that receive real time data and respond to traffic, cars that can respond with car parks and electric vehicle (EV) charging points in order to direct drivers to the nearest available spot, and smartphones becoming an officially recognised form of ID.

The general aim of a smart city is to streamline all of these day-to-day procedures in an order to make things more efficient and become more sustainable in the future.

With a huge amount of the population currently living in cities, we need to be investing in these locations in order to meet the growing demands and reduce the overall impact on the environment.

Environmental, social and economic sustainability needs to be priority in order to keep up with the city expansion.

What are the benefits of a smart city?

When upgrading a location to a smart city, the benefits include improved transportation and accessibility, better social services, promoted sustainability and will give residents a voice.

One of the main focuses of this idea is that residents “create the city”, not the other way around.

By using real time data that includes information on traffic and air/water quality, Governments can act immediately to solve any problems, allowing issues to be dealt with in much faster fashion.

As mentioned previously, another benefit to a smart city is the use of sensors that can identify things such as empty parking spots and traffic jams, and can even go as far as estimating when the next bus will arrive.

These sensors also have the power to reduce the amount of street lighting when no one is around, saving electricity and addressing some of the rising environmental issues.

All of these ideas are aimed at creating a better life for residents of these cities, and these small changes can have a big impact.

Smart cities will generally bring more effective, data driven decision making to the forefront, with access to information not made available previously and much quicker processes. They can also provide a higher level of safety and security, with connected cameras, intelligent road systems and emergency support where needed.

So, how do we get there?

For a smart city to work, reliable, fast wireless connectivity is essential.

The use of 5G technology is sure to be helpful in this regard, and will only accelerate new developments as it is rolled out over the next year or so. However, this will only work if data is readily available, and reliable access needs to be priority.

Privacy is obviously a big concern as well, but a key element of sustainable smart cities is that everyone involved shares information, allowing for decisions to be made in real time.

However, steps must be taken to prevent the disclosure of any sensitive information if this is going to work long term.

The data itself also needs to be accurate and trustworthy, so measures have to be taken in order to ensure that the data being used is reliable and not tampered with in any way.

What does it mean for the future of construction?

Whilst parts of Asia remain at the forefront of technology and innovation, more cities across Europe are now facing pressure to upgrade and convert to meet smart city standards.

From lack of resources to sustainability issues to even the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that cities need to become smarter, more efficient and more sustainable going forward.

Construction opportunities will increase as demand for more energy efficient buildings grow and digitalisation plays a larger role.

The role of construction will shift to a bigger focus on digitalisation as smart city development increases, and companies will start looking more like technology businesses.

Smart city technology combines construction and computer tech, so companies will naturally have to adapt to the growing needs and truly embrace the digital age once and for all.

While it does signal changes for the industry, it will also create a boom in workload as construction will receive a boost through the amount of new projects coming through.

For locations to fully take advantage of smart city capabilities, new infrastructures will need to be put in place and this will create plenty of new opportunities for business.

We will also see more collaboration as a result of this, as its unrealistic to expect construction companies to become data experts overnight. It’s likely that we’ll see more public collaboration too, as urban development is going to serve them the most so giving them a platform to discuss their needs is a good idea.


The idea of smart cities might sound like something from the future, but that future is nearly here and construction needs to be ready to embrace it.

Want to get involved in the conversation? Feel free to tweet us @utilitysearches and let us know your thoughts.

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