What are Smart Cities?

Written by: Sara Dennis
This article is the first in a series we’ll be posting about Smart Cities and how they will influence our future.

Infrastructure, often intimately connected with civil engineering, provides the backbone and structure that serves various spaces, such as cities or countries. It provides roads and sidewalks for transportation, a water supply for people to drink, sewers to deal with waste, and much more. In the past, infrastructure design and construction has been reactive. It was a response to an event, like a natural disaster, or a local issue such as flooding or fires. Now we are looking for infrastructure to be proactive and work to solve multiple problems with dynamic solutions, like Smart Cities.


The definition of a Smart City is not exact or universal as it differs depending on the city, but generally the term refers to an urban area that collects different types of electronic data to gather information from citizens, devices and assets to better understand and manage their resources both efficiently and effectively. By measuring and collecting data about current conditions in these areas, we can better predict future conditions with some amount of accuracy. These data allow city planners and officials to engage with the community and infrastructure to see what improvements should be made and how the city is adapting and changing. The data analysis can help make informed changes to traffic and transportation, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement and more. These impacts can have a variety of effects including reducing crime, traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as saving money for municipal services and helping create a city that is more accessible for all populations. 

In 2016, Columbus, Ohio won the Smart City Challenge, winning $40 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $10 million from Vulcan, Inc., and will be joining the growing list of Smart Cities found all over the world. The main goals of Smart Columbus are to:

  • Improve the quality of life
  • Drive economic growth
  • Increase mobility and accessibility to jobs and ladders of opportunity
  • Become a global leader in logistics
  • Promote sustainability

With these changes we will likely see big changes to our infrastructure and the ways we think about transportation. We’ve already seen some of these changes with the launch of COTA’s CMAX, a new rapid transit bus line, as well as Chariot, the new commuter shuttle service.

At Moody Engineering we are excited to see what other changes Smart Columbus will bring about!  Stay tuned for the next post in our series exploring Smart Cities!