Modern cities are transforming. Urban environments depend not only on physical infrastructure but are increasingly integrating improved knowledge communications and social infrastructure to expand sustainability efforts. The evolution of integrated physical, social and intellectual capital for efficient resource utilization is the concept of the "Smart City."
Some smart cities are built from the ground up with embedded structures and technology. But this option is not possible for existing communities. Some established cities are taking the strategic initiative to transform existing infrastructure as a competitive advantage. Colorado's own City of Boulder is well known for its sustainability efforts. Xcel Energy launched the SmartGridCity project in Boulder in a pilot attempt to create a fully-functioning smart city powered by an energy-efficient, self-monitoring smart grid in line with the City of Boulder's focus on energy and Climate Action Plan. Yet as this innovative and well-intended program sputters along over budget, it is an essential foundation for further technological evolutions that are simultaneously taking place.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is at the heart of smart city design - and ICT is rapidly evolving. Consider for a moment the Internet and pervasive technological connectivity of data and information.
Smart cities as the name implies are thinking and responding systems. This activity takes place in layers with the use of the World Wide Web. Web 1.0 is the foundation. Web 1.0 is the foundation that connects information, giving description with text. Web 2.0 connects people such as social networking. Further layers include cloud computing which hosts information and programs outside of the individual computer in a virtual cloud.
Smart cities and developing "thinking" technologies capitalize on the next layers of the Semantic Web, or Web 3.0 which standardizes data formats to provide a common framework to connect knowledge. This enables both machines and users to find, share and combine information more easily. Web 3.0 adds a level of thinking to the foundational infrastructure.
Looking ahead the future Internet or Web 4.0 connects everything in a non-centralized intelligent network that is self-organizing, context-aware, self-configuring and pervasively adaptive. Semantic technology seeks to derive meaning from the data providing an abstract layer above existing IT technologies that enables bridging and interconnection of data, content and processes. This provides far more intelligent, capable, relevant, and responsive interaction with large scale and continually changing data than with information technologies alone.
Smart cities of the future integrate ICT that is fully interoperable between content and semantic technology. Moving from basic content upload to connected applications to networks that "know" for processing in waves that advance from recovery to discovery to intelligence to question answering to smart behaviors.
This smart technology can simplify the complexities of ecological, economic, humanitarian, and sociological challenges. Opening the door for PCs and mobile applications to enable communities to engage in open governance and capitalize on absorptive capabilities.