The Global Imperative To Evolve Intelligent Cities

A global study of smart strategies carried out by ArcInsight Partners revealed a wealth of interesting findings from insights shared by numerous city managers, industry practitioners, strategic-thinkers, and IoT experts. A new whitepaper published by the firm shares some insightful flavors of intelligent city initiatives.

It was clear from the economic data analyzed and the most typical investments that aspiring intelligent cities make have a reasonably strong relationship. It was also observed that driving by high aspirational levels, cities even at the low end of economic evolution spectrum often jumped into investments and initiatives. Various factors drove such impulsive decisions ranging from political motivations, a need for the city to generate press/PR, a lack of understanding of the dynamics of intelligent cities, even a need to create new narratives for tourism. Unsurprisingly, many such initiatives achieved sub-optimal success at best. And, remained stillborn (or never took off post-announcements) at worst.

In order to clarify the evolutionary path of an intelligent city, we consider it necessary to share the following chart of how initiatives progress along the economic growth continuum, that which brings the most bang for the buck for smart investments.

Perhaps the most consistent message that came through was something we had known intuitively all along – Intelligent Cities Are Not Defined Entirely By Technology Investments Alone. They Are Foremost About People Who Live There And A Quality Of Life They Expect From The City. Beginning A Conversation About Intelligent Cities With Technology Risks Taking Us Down The Path Of Unintended Outcomes.

Intelligent Cities Feature Sustainable Urbanism With An Adaptive Capacity For Resilience. By Design. 

In Order To Cope With The Coming Surge In Growth & Demand For Innovation, Intelligent Cities Must Necessarily Become Digital Cities At Their Core.


It Leverages Digital Technologies:

We have a lot of accelerators, co-working spaces, incubators, working in the space of digital, and have some accelerators and hackathons around smart cities, things like putting people, young people, or students, or entrepreneurs, developing new apps for the city around the smart city and everything that goes with digital.”

Is Senseable & Integrated:

An integrated ‘sense, analyze, control and data log’ system that encompasses every citizen, infrastructure, resource, geography and past data, while safeguarding the individual’s privacy at the same time.

Has Resiliency & Adaptive Capacity Planned-In:

There is redundancy in the system. Prior modeling, simulations and drills ensure a smooth process to handle and recover from low-probability high-impact events.

Aspires Towards A New Paradigm Of Urban Mobility:

The serious congestion on public roads cannot be solved by looking at the problem from the same paradigm of the previous century. Ownership vs usage; Autonomous transportation; Drive commute vs telecommuting; Physical presence vs telepresence (or even better, A Digital Twin). New emerging paradigms such as the sharing-economy are critical to delivering the same familiar services without the assumed underlying infrastructure. Projects from bike sharing to intelligent parking to green municipal cars.

Sets A High Bar For Energy Efficiency:  

Everything that relates to energy management, from municipal efficiency to individual citizens monitoring their own usage.

Leverages Open Data, Open APIs, Open Standards:

How transparent is governance and city management data to its public stakeholders? How does the public consume open data and create new valuable services for themselves and the city using innovative analytics?

Enables Social Collaboration For Urban Resiliency:

Ensures meaningful stakeholder engagement. Resiliency is really the inverse of risk, it is fundamentally about maintaining an acceptable level of service and livability in a dynamic and changing environment. How does a flood or tornado affected community regroup quickly and organize itself using social and collaborative technologies before public services can kick-in with support.

Accelerates Co-Creation & Participation:  

Creating new value out of data made available freely to the public.“We have a participatory budget because we believe that one of the key cornerstones of a smart city strategy is participation and co-creation.”

Infrastructure Asset Registry, Models &
Tracking/Monitoring Systems:
(Water Works, Pipelines, Generation-Plants, Transmission & Distribution Networks, Transportation, Environmental Systems, Public-Safety Systems.)

For a long time GIS and CAD/BIM have been evolving on parallel tracks relying on different file-formats, workflows and expertise, making it complicated and costly to move
data between them. In order to determine the impact of large-scale projects, an understanding of existing conditions and geographic context of each site is critical – the topography, floodplain, connecting roads, underground infrastructure, etc. 

The Key Registry of Large-Scale Topography project in The Netherlands is a fine example of a nationwide infrastructure platform. Read about in the whitepaper.

Extensive Use Of Geospatial Data With BIM & Simulations For City Planning:

Global provider of 3D and mobile mapping software, Orbit GT’s offerings help users efficiently manage, process, and share very large amounts of imagery, point cloud, and 3D
(mobile, oblique, terrestrial, UAS, indoor) mapping data for use with reality modeling and digital twins. Orbit GT’s technology adds to Bentley’s existing digital cities, reality modeling, and point cloud processing offerings including ContextCapture and Pointools. 

Read about how Singapore Land Authority employed multiple rapid mapping technologies in the whitepaper.

Evolving From Building Information Modeling (built On CAD) To Integrated Building Optimization (built on BIM + BMS + IIoT Data + Predictive Analytics):

Building owners also play a unique role in helping cities advance digitally. By transitioning BIM seamlessly to building management systems (BMS) enabling computer-based
control system installed in buildings that controls and monitors the building’s mechanical and electrical equipment such ventilation, lighting, power systems, fire systems, media systems, communication systems and security systems. This is a logical lead-in to formation of digital twins for individual buildings. When intelligent models are
associated with individual buildings, urban planners can merge these models into a citywide digital twin, making the aggregated information on buildings energy & carbon footprint performance within the city context even more valuable.

City-wide Lifecycle Carbon Reporting:   

Online tools to assess the impact of design decisions on life-cycle carbon emissions from design through operational life of infrastructure assets. Identifying low-carbon options during the design phase – needs definition, optioneering stage, the detailed design stage, all the way through processes, practices and workflows that come into play as the asset is operated by its owners.  Nearly every asset owned or operated by the city brings an opportunity to integrate their individual carbon-models into a city-wide carbon heat-map that rewards energy-optimizers while flagging those that may be carbon generators, triggering fines for violation, or decisions on upgrade-projects to bring them into the city’s baseline compliance.

Read about how Great Britain became the first major economy to enact net zero carbon emissions regulation by 2050, and how Mott MacDonald’s carbon portal delivers on that goal, in our whitepaper.

Multimodal Transit Planning & Connectivity Infrastructure:

Multi-modal transit systems involve the coordinated use of two or more modes of transport for speedy, safe, pleasant and comfortable movement of passengers in urban
areas. It provides convenient and economical connection of various modes to make complete journey from origin to destination. Generally multi-modal transit strategies have been characterized by increased capacity, efficient access and better location of both integration and nodes. However they are complex modeling exercises that incorporate a large variety of transit modes – Rail based modes (metro rail corridor, ring rail, light rail transit, mono rail, integrated rail cum bus transit, etc.); Road based modes (regular city buses, mini buses, double-decker buses, articulated buses, express buses, trolley buses, guided buses and battery operated buses, trams); Personal vehicles, taxis and ride-share services.

A lot of data is gathered between the multiple modes, trips and payments for transport, and used to help make people’s journeys more efficient. More on this here. A basic requirement for a seamless multi-modal transit strategy includes a seamless ticketing and payments infrastructure that works across all services.

Placing Humans Back In The Infrastructure Loop: 

Bentley System’s acquisition of pedestrian simulation software providerLEGION fills the gap in infrastructure planning and places the human at the center of city services loop. Basedin London, LEGION supports more than half of the world’s 40 largest transit agencies. The crowd modeling is primarily undertaken to provide an evidence base for wider evaluation of existing and proposed rail infrastructure, public realm, sports venue and major event planning, and design or refurbishment of large institutions. The pedestrian simulation application  offers modeling capabilities of people’s interactions with each other and physical obstacles, and activities, including circulation and evacuations, within public spaces like railway stations, airports, sports arenas, tall buildings, and street level with vehicle interactions.

Read about how the city of Stockholm and Stratford perform crowd simulation to visualize crowd gatherings and projects foot traffic flow-planning public locations, in our whitepaper.

Urban Traffic Patterns – Monitoring, Simulations & Predictions:             

Citilabs’ versatile global mobility simulation (CUBE) is a market leader—with automated mobile mapping workflows for reality modeling of roadways. Predictive transportation technology, helping engineers and planners to design and optimize safe, efficient, effective, and environmentally sustainable mobility systems.  Citilab’s CUBE simulation software provides world-leading predictive transportation technology, helping engineers and planners to design and optimize safe, efficient, effective, and environmentally sustainable mobility systems.

Road mobility digital twins converge cities’ digital context (including 4D surveying facilitated by Orbit GT for drone-and vehicle-mounted mobile mapping), and digital components (including from Bentley’s OpenRoads engineering applications) with Citilabs’ CUBE simulations—to model and assure real-world throughput capacity for proposed and existing roadway assets.

Resiliency, Sustainability & Responsiveness:

The SuRe® Framework provides a useful basis for assessing projects for resiliency and sustainability.

Águas do Porto (Oporto Water Utility – AdP) in Brazil is an excellent example of how a water utility forecasts flooding and water quality issues, improve city services and responsiveness, and ensure resilience of its water infrastructure. Read about AdP in our whitepaper.

Driving Collaboration & Cultural Change Across An Ecosystem Of City Planning Stakeholders: 

City operations, planning, and economic development, as well as emergency services and utility operators, all need to collaborate and share information with transportation agencies to improve decision making that results in the support of each group’s initiatives. Read about how City of Helsinki drives fundamental cultural change within the city  administrations by promoting the use of new technology and change work methods at universities, companies, and within city departments.

Citizen Engagement Platform: 

Technology such as digital twins allow processes that city planners can leverage for a fast, easy, and visual way to successfully communicate, promote, and share city projects in an interactive way to gain buy-in from residents and attract investors. This sharing includes delivering digital experiences (mixed reality and wearables), or visualization and crowdsourcing through devices such as web, mobile, touchscreens, and digital billboards. This information enhances the city’s ability to deliver on its promise of greater transparency, while communicating its vision for mobility and other infrastructure improvements.           

Senseable City

Urban Sensing: Cities have many factors that need measuring, like air pollution, weather, traffic patterns and road quality. By attaching inexpensive sensors to crowd-sourced urban vehicles, we can capture hyper-local measurements across a large portion of a city. Models built model from empirical data from Singapore, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Vienna, and Shanghai, by MIT’s Senseable City Labs, helps city planners and policy makers to quantify the number of mobile sensors necessary to cover different urban areas, as well as the temporal coverage requirements. Deploying sensors on vehicles provides cheap and effective sensing capabilities to cities.

Analyzing FitBits For Human Activity: Tens of millions of self-tracking applications are used by people eager to monitor how many calories they consume, how many hours they sleep, how many steps they take. By analyzing such data, we can start to understand the factors that influence outdoor human activity—such as weather, urban morphology, topography, traffic, the presence of green areas. Singapore has made FitBits available or free to all its citizens to track their own personal activity and fitness.

Analyzing Sewage For City Health: MIT’s Underworlds Project imagines a future in which sewage is mined for real-time information. Underworlds combines automatic samplers, biochemical measurement technologies, data visualization, and the down­stream computational tools and analytics. Read more about it in the whitepaper.


The real value of a city-level twin becomes apparent when it allows the city to gain better insights into performance of its vast array of geographically dispersed assets, while working across a wide range of infrastructure owners, multiple internal city departments, and manage to drive massive cost savings through reduction of unscheduled down-times, better allocation of field resources to maintenance jobs and better near real-time visibility into operations. A capability that has potential to impact both Capex and Opex planning for the city.  

At their core, digital twins are a digital representation of a physical asset, process or system, as well as the engineering data that allows users to understand and model its performance. The intelligent digital city leverages a federated approach to sharing information using an open connected data environment that includes multiple stakeholders & contributors, data-sources, model types and formats. The digital twin aims to become the single reference source for reliable information available wherever and whenever required for decision making.  

Digital twins allow city planners to achieve a higher level of detail & currency in their plans. As city leaders continue to challenge siloed city departments and their inefficient ways of working, to adopt digital tools and workflows, this technology promises to enable planners to stream large-scale digital twins online to visualize projects spanning entire cities down to the street level using a combination of terrain models, reality meshes, and semantic 3D city models.
It supports collaborations and project delivery for users ranging from engineers, architects, geospatial professionals, constructors, and owner-operators for the design, construction, and operations of infrastructure.


Please email us for a copy of the entire ArcInsight Partners whitepaper. 

©ArcInsight Partners   Nov 2019