Smart Cities and the Digital Transformation: Unlocking the Potential of Smart Technologies for Improving Urban Quality of Life

Stewart Balanchine - Sep 29, 2021 12:46:48 PM

A digital transformation is happening in cities across the globe. These cities are adopting smart technologies and smart processes into their infrastructure to improve urban quality of life and improve internal efficiency. Smart technologies and processes are saving the city valuable time and money that could be better spent on quality of life initiatives and emergency preparedness.

Each city is unique not only in their culture and needs, but also in their baseline infrastructure setup. Therefore, not all smart technologies and processes will be equally beneficial everywhere. Each city needs a customized plan for implementing the smart technologies that will benefit them the most, before diving into those that may not apply as well to the culture and needs of the city.

The McKinsey Global Institute conducted an analysis of various areas where smart cities can improve the quality of urban life. Results indicated there is a wide variety of impacts this digital transformation can have, especially in the following domains of quality of life: environment, level of independence, physical capacity, and social interactions


Environment of safety.

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Research shows that incorporating software applications could decrease fatalities from a variety of causes by 8-10% and reduce other violent crimes by 30-40%. The secondary impact of that would be immeasurable. The lives lost, the families left in grief, and the financial loss. With digital process automation, for example, police leaders could collect data on locations with the highest crime rates and automatically have that data analyzed by time of year, weather conditions, social/political events, etc. This analysis can enable leaders to deploy resources to the most appropriate location.

Law enforcement can also use the devices already in place to collect real-time data that allows for proactive policing. According to Techjury, it is projected that 35 billion devices will be connected globally through the Internet by the end of 2021. That is 35 billion devices that are supplying data for analysis. Data from social media, home security systems, and smart surveillance can be collated to give a full and real-time picture of the crime level in the city. Using these devices and the right smart technologies, law enforcement leaders use a data driven policing approach.

A data driven policing approach has been explored by the United Kingdom since at least 2019. They saw the value in smart technologies to improve crime detection, reducing public vulnerability, reducing public fear, and reducing crime. Smart technologies and a data-driven approach to policing would also be the most economical for the tax payers. This digital transformation would save cities time and money so that it could be spent in a more impactful way. Smart technologies will never replace law enforcement personnel, but it can give them the tools and information to make the best possible decision when time is of the essence.

And for when an accident or crime cannot be prevented by law enforcement, the emergency response vehicles need smart technologies that will get them to the scene as fast as possible. Cities have already begun using traffic signal preemption devices to allow emergency vehicles to move through a crowded city, reducing travel times by 10%. That could make the difference between life or death for someone involved in a shooting or motor vehicle accident

Cleaner and sustainable environment

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Environmental demands are growing in every city. The need for closer living, more industry, and higher consumption drives emissions up. However, smart technologies such as smart meters, optimized street lighting, and ride sharing can reduce emissions by 10-15%. Depending on the previous level of pollution, pollution tracking technologies have helped cities reduce pollution-related health impairments by 3-15%.

In addition to energy and emissions, water usage contributes to sustainability of a city. Especially in cities where droughts are common or in growing cities, city leaders can use smart technologies for encouraging water conservation. For example, real time smart meters for water consumption for each household or rental unit could alert residents to current water consumption. Beyond simple data presentation to consumers, smart processes can analyze water consumption usage of residents in nearby houses or rental units for social comparison. Helping residents understand how their water usage compares to other similar residents can empower them to make realistic changes to improve the sustainability of their city, saving cities up to 80 liters of water per resident daily.

Smart technologies have also improved waste management in cities. Digital tracking of household waste production encourages residents to decrease their waste or pay more for waste management services. Similar applications have decreased municipal waste production by 10-20 percent.

Level of independence


Perhaps one of the most common uses of smart technology in cities is a digital transformation of the transportation system. Cities have integrated real-time tracking for public transportation to improve the flow of traffic, increase safety, and optimize transportation routes.

Beyond just making life easier for residents, improving public transportation makes the city safer for residents. According to Bloomberg CityLab, making public transportation more accessible to people ultimately can reduce traffic fatalities by almost half. Using smart technology such as real-time trackers and safety monitoring, encourages more people to use public transportation and less to drive.

Additionally, digital process automation can enable city workers to identify problems and fix them before they delay anyone’s commute. No one wants to tell their boss they were late because the train broke down. Fixing the issue before the user ever knows about it is what smart technology does best.

There are times when public transportation just won’t work for people. Maybe they are going on a long road trip outside the city and just trying to navigate out. Smart signage can help ease the burden of traffic jams by automatically alerting drivers to accidents, delays, and construction. Smart parking can also eliminate the endless search for street parking, by giving a real-time look at where a parking spot might be available.

Efficient labor markets and lower cost of living

Smart cities are not designed for job creation directly. However, smart processes implemented in a city can improve the efficiency of labor markets and lower the cost of living. The impact is slight, but an added perk when taken in conjunction with other benefits discussed.

Smart processes such as e-career centers can help connect unemployed workers and other job seekers with the right position quickly. This can reduce unemployment rates and encourage businesses to move into the city where a sustainable job force is evident.

Digitizing a city’s small business center and entrepreneur resources can empower new businesses to establish themselves more readily in the city. There is an emerging digital business transformation happening right now, and the city infrastructure must change with it. Not only will the resources be easily accessible, but so will business licenses, permits, and tax filing. Digital process automation can save the city money and the business time to move through red tape without feeling like there was any tape at all.

Physical capacity for health


Healthcare technology is an ever-evolving landscape. However, there are some technologies that can be used by cities to improve overall health, as measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). It is estimated that by implementing smart technologies and processes, cities can reduce DALYs by 8-15%, giving people back years to their life and life back in their years.

The most impactful applications are those that prevent, treat, and monitor chronic health conditions. These conditions could include diabetes, heart disease, stroke, or cancer. Applications empower the residents to take control of their chronic health condition, thus reducing the burden on the city’s healthcare system. Automated processes can alert a resident and their appropriate healthcare professionals when intervention is needed, preventing devastating and costly emergency visits.

Low-income urban areas often have higher rates of health conditions, both chronic and acute. Smart technologies such as mHealth (or mobile health) and telehealth can fill in the gaps for low-income areas where doctors are typically in short supply. Digitally transforming the city’s health systems increases access to healthcare for at-risk populations.

Social interactions

Loyalty to your city is founded in community. Having a sense of urban community includes not only your friends and family, but also the leaders who represent the citizens and make decisions for their wellbeing. But in a big city, connecting with leadership can be difficult. Having applications improving access to local officials may even triple the number of residents who feel a sense of connection with the local government.

According to Sprout Social, 62% of adults in the US get a majority of their news from social media. Becoming a smart city means using these social media channels to keep your residents updated on official statements and meetings.

Beyond a sense of community, communication with local officials and agencies is essential to enacting meaningful change in the city. Allowing residents access to channels where local agencies and leaders can directly hear their concerns, speeds up the time between a resident developing a concern and the city being able to address it. Improved communication leads to improved satisfaction and quality of life.

Unlock the Potential of Smart Technology


Quality of life is a multi-faceted beast that every city must tackle. It involves improving the environment around people, their ability to be independent, their physical health, and their sense of social connectedness. Digitally transforming the city's inner workings with smart technologies and processes creates a quality of life unprecedented by previous methods of infrastructure development. Smart technologies unlock the potential of city leaders and services by using real-time data analyzed to give real-time or even proactive support to local residents and tourists.

Cetrix can help you seamlessly integrate smart technology into your current infrastructure and start improving the lives of your citizens today. Email us at or call us at (302)480-9399. 




technologies that deliver essential services to residents in a meaningful way.




Topics: Digital Transformation Solution

Stewart Balanchine

Stewart Balanchine

Stewart former Director of Market Development and Innovation - Inbound Marketing Strategies and Educational Technology Platforms at Cetrix Tech is now directing our Salesforce Higher ED solutions. An evangelist of 21st century Education Technology, he is a regular contributor in this blog. He writes to share ideas in helping others in the transformation process and tackles technology integration in the active learning process in depth.

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