Small Cities Can Be Smart Cities: 2 Shining Examples

Smaller cities can be smart cities just as easily as large cities can, but it’s true that when we consider smart cities, our minds go to the larger, more populated, urban areas first. It’s not just because they are more famous and get more attention from the press, they also have well-established infrastructures, larger local government networks and bigger budgets to make innovation happen.

What are the smart cities doing?

Take Amsterdam for example. Their Smart City program began in 2009 and continues to make giant, innovative strides in areas based on these 6 themes:

  • Infrastructure and Technology: working to create stronger and more expansive connections between citizens and technology
  • Energy, Water and Waste: these programs follow the belief that sustainable energy programs are the future
  • Mobility: transportation by cycling, electric cars and car sharing is growing steadily
  • Circular City: programs to minimize waste and pollution by reducing usage, recycling and re-using
  • Government and Education: bringing ASC teams together with government and education to “make innovation happen”
  • Citizens and Living: these programs work together with citizens getting their ideas and feedback on how to create a more livable city

Hundreds of large cities around the world like Amsterdam, Stockholm and London in Europe; or Seattle, Boston and San Francisco in the United States are integrating information and communication technology with the Internet of things technology to become smart cities in efforts to reduce energy consumption, pollution levels, water waste and to raise the standard of living for their residents.

What about small cities?

While many still believe that smart city technology is only successful in large urban areas, the 2016 Smart Cities Survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors suggests otherwise. Their numbers show that out of 335 total projects taking place in 54 cities, the majority (98) were in small cities, compared to 69 in large cities. Small cities beat large cities for future projects in the planning stages, too.

More and more small cities are taking part in smart city programs to control energy and water waste, to provide a comfortable, safe environment for residents and to prepare for a future that promises to include an ever-increasing amount of technology. But, according to the Smart Cities Survey, there are more advantages  to implementing smart programs:

  • new technology is easier to use and test in smaller environments
  • investing in smart technology attracts more outside investment
  • smart technology spurs economic growth
  • smart technology is costly, but smaller cities are eligible, and more likely to obtain, federal funding

Examples of successful small, smart cities

Ketchum, Idaho  has 2,728 in-city residents and another 2,700 daily commuters that work in town. In Ketchum, there are a number of smart city projects underway and more in the planning stage. The most well-known, The Walkable Ketchum Project, aims at improving the city for pedestrians. Technological improvements associated with this project include solar streetlights with sensors to control the lights automatically, according to the flow of traffic and way-finding signage for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.   Still in the planning stage as of June 2016 is a smart irrigation project which includes the use of weather and soil activated sensors. Estimated results of the project show a reduction in water consumption between 20 to 60 percent, meaning a savings of over 1 million gallons of water per year.

Cherry Hill Township, New Jersey is a small community of around 71,000 residents that has been at the forefront of smart city innovation since 2013 when the town council voted to implement a new program to monitor use of municipal resources. Their goals were to cut costs and make their systems more efficient. They became the first municipality in the United States to use a web-based management tool for projects such as this and soon became a model for other cities to follow.

In the 2016 rankings of Best Places to Live in the U.S., Money Magazine placed Cherry Hill in spot 26 out of a total of 800 and Moody’s Investors Service just gave the Cherry Hill Township a bond rating of Aa1 due to their devotion to economic growth and successful financial management. These are all proof that their steps towards becoming a smart city are paying off.

When it comes to smart cities, size doesn’t matter, the issues and goals are the same. People want to live in a city that offers a high quality of life, is environmentally aware and fiscally responsible, whether it is small or large.