Or….5 things you need to do first

Having just come back to the UK from a smart cities conversation on the other side of the world, I would like to share some thoughts.   The role of KnowNow is to prepare the IT architectural blueprint for this new smart place.   In effect create the wiring and usage diagram of where IT will be deployed and how it will be used. As much as you have an architectural blueprint for a plot to be built showing the materials and measurements.   The IT infrastructure needs similar design outputs to ensure that the IT works as required, when required for the right person.

KL by night

SE Asia by night

I was shocked by a question asked whilst away that on reflection is not that strange.   Just because I am familiar with a smart city, why should anyone else be?  However, having been in the smart cities market for over 5 years now, it is a question that I probably should have been asked plenty of times, yet this was the first.    The question was:

“What things make up a smart city”?

After a little thinking, I believe I have distilled what makes a smart city into 4 key areas.   In fact, I believe you can benchmark your city against other cities in these four areas too.   The four areas are:

  1. Interoperability
  2. Open
  3. Sustainable
  4. Outcomes Focused

It is though how joined up across these 4 domains that truly separates the smart from the smartest.    For those places that have a common shared set of outcomes, that are sustainable and collaborative the evidence suggests these places will be more successful, be it from a GVA growth and also a quality of life/happiness index.


The term interoperability means what it says. A smart city needs to work across its silos. Re-using what another agency or service provider has done or created is smart. It is not collusion or a ripoff. Measuring quality can be done in more sophisticated ways if you have access to the data.


Being open about data is an excellent health indicator of a smart place. Embracing open data and having good data governance is essential too.  The piece de resistance is ensuring that the knowledge from the data is then applied to decisions and actions.  This way leads to smart things happening.


Having a sustainable outlook is smart economics, let alone smart environmental politics. Putting in place the systems, processes, and culture to develop services that cities/places can operate in a sustainable way for the benefit of all is a smart allocation of resources and effort.

Outcomes Centric

The final piece is having an outcomes-centric mentality. By outcomes, it means having a qualitative measure that has an owner. This owner will then be able to use this outcome to prove the service is smart, sustainable, and collaborative.

Forgetting something?

Sort of.  Which is leadership.  None of the above happens naturally.  A strong motivated set of leaders in a place will make a place change and shift its behaviour to smarter ways of working.

So what is the conclusion?   In short most of the conversations and projects KnowNow deals with could be a lot smarter if the above 4 points were more readily acted upon.