This overview covers some cross-cutting themes in the field of Smart City-SC, such as major world experiences, critical issues, future visions, high level training opportunities and funding instruments.

The definition of Smart City according to the European Innovation Partnership - Smart Cities and Communities EIP-SCC is: "[Smart cities should be regarded as] systems of people interacting with and using flows of energy, materials, services and financing to catalyse sustainable economic development, resilience, and high quality of life; these flows and interactions become smart through making strategic use of information and communication infrastructure and services in a process of transparent urban planning and management that is responsive to the social and economic needs of society".

Smart City concept was officially introduced as EU keyword for the first time in 2009, as part of the Strategic Energy Technology Plan-SET and in the following years extended to other sectors. Today, the concept is associated with the strategic solution of several problems associated with the urbanisation process (sustainable mobility, waste management, energy and environment sustainability, competitiveness and attractiveness of investment, health and social inclusion, etc.), making the city an ideal platform for experimenting with new digital technologies.

The first pilot projects in Europe in 2010-2011, mostly small scale technological demonstrators, were followed in 2014-15 by a second phase characterized by significant scale projects (e.g. neighbourhood or district), where sustainability along with financial, environmental and social acceptability of the proposed solutions have also been demonstrated [ENEA - Un percorso di convergenza nazionale sui progetti Smart City]. In addition, important lessons have been drawn from these projects regarding the need for an integrated and multidisciplinary approach to problem solving over the medium to long term, by means of continuous monitoring of needs and impacts [OICE Confindustria - Un percorso di convergenza nazionale sui progetti Smart City].

In Europe several cities participated in initiatives and projects on Smart Cities [Assolombarda, Confindustria - Smart cities tra concetto e pratica]. Among the most successful examples we find Amsterdam for timely monitoring actual consumption of individual electrical appliances to provide indications for improving residential energy consumption; Hamburg with a range of flagship projects including smartPORT, smartHOME and smartHEALTH; Copenhagen as an example of sustainable growth, low environmental impact of infrastructure and activities, and effective traffic and transport management; Vienna, where existing infrastructure has been adapted in revolutionary way that (e.g., the old telephone booths, now in disuse, have been transformed into service stations for recharging electric cars); London already home to a research centre with the aim of making transport more efficient (electric bike sharing schemes and a intelligent parking monitoring project), along with bureaucracy management, business and the academic world; Oslo considered virtuous especially for an excellent lighting system based on intelligent led technology, a traffic detection system and efficient policies to reduce the emissions; Barcelona, which boasts efficient parking and traffic monitoring systems, as well as an excellent level of energy efficiency; Santander with its 12,000 sensors for the detection of the most important environmental parameters and 240 magnetic loops for traffic detection on main roads, etc.

Also Italy is characterised by numerous experiences although with some limitations. The heterogeneity between the different realizations to the detriment of the systematic nature and replicability of the solutions, together with a low level of coordination between central and local government are the main issues [Roberta de Santis and Alessandra Fasano and Nadia Mignolli and Anna Villa, Smart cities: theoretical framework and measurement experiences, Italian National Institute of Statistics Istat, 20 September 2013].

More recently, the process of urban transformation has also involved emerging economies of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe, thanks to a rapid urbanization that has involved the main cities in those areas. According to data published by the United Nations, in fact, the world population is increasing by 2.5 billion between 2014 and 2050, with Africa and Asia alone accounting for 90%. Large scale projects prevail in Asia and Africa such as the Smart Nation Initiative to transform Singapore into an intelligent island with the acronym E3A (Everyone connected to Everything, Everywhere, All the time), the project "Next Generation Energy and Social System Demonstration" to create smart communities in Japan, the "Digital India" plan that provides for the construction of 100 smart city by 2022, Guangzhou Knowledge City (China), which aspire to become the preferred hub for high-tech start-ups and the initiative Cina IBM Green Horizons in Beijng; Masdar City (United Arab Emirates), which aims to be cleantech hub; Konza Technopolis (Kenya), the African Silicon Valley with a focus on life science and communication technologies and the Songdo International Business District (South Korea) a smart commercial district 6.

According to a study conducted by Juniper Research based on the Smart City Index metrics [Juniper Research - Smart Cities On the Faster Track to Success], the main non-European experiences in the smart city field are Singapore, the Southeast Asian country, which is a candidate to become the first smart nation in the world. In the Republic of Singapore every aspect of urban life is monitored through sensors (provided by private companies), capable of processing a considerable amount of data: from parking to healthcare, from waste disposal to low-consumption public lighting. All collected data are monitored by Virtual Singapore, a software through which the local authority analyses the information and defines the most effective ways to manage the city.

According to the same ranking, the U.S. comes fourth with San Francisco, considered one of the technological capital of the world, where intelligent systems for the payment of tariffs via smartphones and contactless cards have significantly improved the use of public transport by the population. In general in the USA the public-private model through the alliance with the big industrial players of information technology has led to positive consequences in many urban settings: in Seattle, the a partnership with Microsoft enabled residents to track their energy consumption online, thus contributing to the achievement of the energy saving objectives set by Climate Action Plan, while in Portland the partnership with IBM has allowed to analyze data of different phenomena to assess possible interconnections and integrated actions for improvement urban environment and life quality [].

Other experiences in USA are Kansas City and Chicago. Kansas City is deploying various interconnected efforts in the transportation system by means of increased transportation and connectivity solutions through information sharing and connected and autonomous vehicle to decrease congestion in key transportation corridors and increased safety throughout the transportation system.  The Chicago Technology Plan is characterized by a holistic approach that highlights 28 initiatives that together will enable Chicago to realize its vision of becoming the city where technology fuels opportunity, inclusion, commitment and innovation.

Roadmap. Today in the world the main challenge for smart cities is to overcome some obstacles that still remain [EIP-SCC Strategic Implementation Plan]. These include the lack of standardised and integrated products on the market so that the solutions are developed as ad hoc solutions for a specific application, the lack of stable and consolidated business models to enhance the economic value of additional services based on open data, the lack of urban governance (lack of coordination between different administrative domains) and of instruments of civic participation and the difficulty of adoption and the complexity of managing new instruments such as innovative procurement for projects financing.

To improve these critical issues, in 2013 the EIP-SCC produced the Strategic Implementation Plan-SIP which proposes a number of actions among which:

  1. advance Smart City open standards;
  2. develop infrastructure platforms and common architectures for smart city information;
  3. make widely available, relevant data in the urban domain through culture change towards “open data by default” with public and private actors;
  4. develop tools for scalable integrated design, simulation and multi-criteria optimisation to enable multi-stakeholder analyses of different spatial and sectoral perspectives (i.e. performance and life-cycle assessments, sustainability assessment, and visualisation of impacts).

In Italy (May 2018) the "Tavolo di convergenza smart city and community" was launched, promoted by Enea, in collaboration with the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Consip, Confindustria Nazionale and Agenzia per l'Italia Digitale, to define a national roadmap for projects for the adoption on a large scale of experiments carried out in the field of smart cities.

CRS4 projects. The themes and actions of the SIP are largely present in the development of the project Tessuto Digitale Metropolitano, a collaborative research project of CRS4 and University of Cagliari. The project objective is to design and implement:

  1. an open urban digital infrastructure of data from sensors distributed throughout the metropolitan area,
  2. multi-sector and multi-space decision support systems, by means of advanced analysis, simulation and visualization tools, enabling new digital services in the energy and environment domains, to improve the quality of life of citizens and the attractiveness and competitiveness of the city.

In this field, CRS4 has already participated in the European project FP7 SMARTSANTANDER (2010-2013), which developed an experimental research platform on a global scale to support typical applications and services for the smart city, and today collaborates on the Horizon 2020 project NETFFICENT (2015-2018), to develop and demonstrate local storage technologies in a real power grid and ICT tools to exploit the synergies between storage, the smart grid and citizens. In addition, the CRS4 is participating in 3 national research and development projects, funded by the program Smart Cities and Communities of the Ministry of Education, University and Research: Cagliari 2020 on sustainable urban mobility, CagliariPort 2020 on last-mile port logistics and PATH on smart-health (digital pathology).

Among the financing instruments for Smart Cities projects are both direct EU funding (such as Urban Innovative Actions-UIA, Horizon 2020 etc.) and indirect funds, provided by the national/regional government, such as the National Operational Programme (PON) "Metropolitan Cities 2014 - 2020" which has a budget of more than 892 million euros. The Programme supports the priorities of the National Urban Agenda and is in line with the objectives and strategies proposed for the European Urban Agenda, which identifies urban areas as key territories for meeting the Europe 2020 strategy challenges of smart, inclusive and sustainable growth. There are 14 metropolitan cities involved: Turin, Genoa, Milan, Bologna, Venice, Florence, Rome, Bari, Naples, Reggio Calabria, Cagliari, Catania, Messina and Palermo. In particular, in Cagliari, the operational programme focuses on satisfying the needs of citizens in terms of social hardship, access to digital public services and slow mobility (cycle paths).

Higher education. Given the great interest in Smart City, some of the best training and research institutions in the world offer a wide range of free Massive Open Online Course-MOOC courses on both urban planning and the underlying enabling technologies (big data, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, data analytics, etc.). Among these we find:

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