The low down on smart cities

What is a smart city?

Intelligent cities, future cities, smart cities—these are all ways of describing how a technology-led and data-driven future will shape our cities.

The Smart Cities Council was set up to help cities all around the world find new ways of becoming smarter for their citizens. They define a smart city as one that has digital technology embedded across all city functions.(1) They're aiming for cleaner and more sustainable cities and want to achieve that through new integrated technologies.

IBM, the American technology company, are in on the smart city action. They define a smart city as one that makes optimal use of all the interconnected information available to better understand and control operations.(2)

The ultimate purpose of a smart city? To drive efficiency and improve quality of life. EDF Energy Research and Development team believe the smart cities concept is the integration and optimisation of the complex systems that are used to run cities. By optimising these systems with smart technology, the ultimate aim is to improve the quality of life of the city's people and make sure resources are distributed efficiently.

Why do we need smart cities?

As more and more people move to cities there is increased pressure on city services like its energy supply. The World Energy Council stated: “Reducing the impact of urbanisation through increasing energy efficiency and switching to clean, low carbon resources is clearly critical.”(3) This energy transition needs collaboration and innovation across our cities.

Smart city solutions in practice

From London to Amsterdam to Singapore, city leaders are sketching out a vision for how technology and data can be used to make their cities more sustainable, resilient and generally better to live in. The historical, cultural, economic and social makeup of each city is unique; therefore, each city will define a smart city strategy that addresses its particular needs. These would include smart solutions that are organised across these major themes: energy, transportation, water, waste and health.

Researchers from the EDF Group have developed a 3D city platform that helps local authorities evaluate the impacts of various energy strategies. It was developed to support sustainable and smart development of cities everywhere. As you can see from the image below, the EDF City Platform is an urban planning tool that also enables city leaders to compare the effects of development scenarios relating to policies in energy, transport, air quality, water and waste management.

Smart city energy innovation

Smart energy solutions will complement the development of smart cities and underpin the operations of other city systems such as transportation, water and health. To meet carbon emission targets, cities are playing an active part in the move towards renewable energy like solar and wind energy.

With programmes promoting photovoltaics (solar), wind power, electrical storage and other community energy strategies, cities are encouraging commercial and residential energy generation. We're supporting wind energy by managing 28 wind farms in the UK, find out more on our wind energy page.

Cities are also supporting smart grid pilot projects that are showcasing the flexibility and control afforded by a digitally-enabled electrical grid. If you're interested in the smart grid and how that's affecting our national grid supply, find out all you need to know with our guide to the smart grid.

The future energy landscape is likely to see cities becoming nodes of smart energy communities in a complex network consisting of various small and large-scale energy generation. EDF Energy is uniquely positioned to meet the challenge and make a significant contribution to the development of smart cities in the UK. You can read more about how the EDF Energy R&D UK Centre is advancing research within the fields of energy systems, energy storage and efficiency and digital technology.

How can you be smarter?

If you're interested in making your home smarter, you can find out more about smart meters. From monitoring your energy use to getting accurate bills, there are many ways a smart meter can benefit your home.

Another way to optimise your energy use would be to consider solar panels for your home. Find out how we can help you with our solar PV installation and information guide.

You can also support low-carbon energy production by switching to one of our Blue tariffs - they're all backed by 100% low-carbon energy to power your home. There are three tariffs in the blue range, so there's an option to suit you. Check out our Blue tariffs on our tariff page.