As the world’s cities continue to grow at phenomenal rates, more city governments and urban planners are embracing intelligent city digital initiatives to help address growing urban sustainability challenges like overcrowding, pollution, budget constraints and inadequate infrastructure.

The foundation for the city of the future will be the collective intelligence that it can harness to operate more efficiently, deliver improved citizen services, and foster economic growth for local governments and businesses alike.

But cities today are challenged to find solutions that deliver the tangible benefits they are looking for. Many technology vendors, for example, offer are mega city project-based solutions to a mass market of ‘smart cities’ rather than a solution focused on each city’s unique challenges.

City leaders do not feel vendors are offering solutions integrating the local ecosystem with a stronger role in system integration. They need vendors to provide product-ized solutions with tangible functionalities and clearly defined program methodology that make smart city programs easier to start up and deliver in measurable phases.

Many cities are anxious about becoming dependent on a single technology provider and are therefore looking for solutions built on open source technologies with a rich set of integration capabilities for interoperability across different solutions.

To realize the dream of vibrant, sustainable cities, it is important to find a solution built on open source technologies with rich integration capabilities for interoperability across different solutions. Data from all types of sources—networks, sensors, social media, open city data and other data sources—must be collected and analyzed for real time insights and next-step recommendations. An integrated, solution built on a platform to support city planning and operations enables cities to:

  • Leverage fact-based policy decisions to execute smart governance for greater efficiencies in public services and community development
  • Use real-time and historical insights to improve targeted development and optimization of service delivery and municipal infrastructure
  • Create urban living in a safe and responsive community with easy access to citizen services for higher citizen satisfaction and improved utilization of public services
  • Promote local business, engage civic developers, and develop contextual services to drive economic development
  • Establish digital foundation and intelligence to make cities truly ‘Smart’ promoting civic innovation that can turn such insights into tangible benefits for the city and citizens
  • Provide and operate responsive infrastructure of digital cities to reduce energy consumption, improve sustainability, conserve water, and provide optimized city services

In fact, TCS analysis of cities with population in the range of 300,000 to 500,000 shows that cities can:

  • Reduce energy costs up to 20% with green public lighting and building use optimization1
  • Conserve up to 7% of city’s water through detection of leaks and optimizing usage2
  • Optimize city infrastructure and provide improved service levels to citizens. For example optimizing bus services can potentially save $ 12.5 million annually3
  • Save $ 6.7 million annually through reduced commute times for citizens and $3.3 million annual increase in revenue from higher bus ridership3
  • Potentially generate $100,000 per day in revenue for local businesses through location-based offers4
  • Increase citizen satisfaction through digital social initiatives to shape the cities of future themselves

By giving citizens and businesses an open city portal, Intelligent Cities can automate customer service, demonstrate transparency, and reduce silos between departments. Intelligent Cities connect governments more closely to citizens, delivering relevant services that address urban challenges, support green city initiatives, and generate economic growth.


(1)     International Energy Agency – Promoting Energy Efficiency Best Practice in Cities – A Pilot Study

(2)     Clean Edge webinar: Smart Water: Reinventing the Management and Use of H20 at

(3)     TCS research and calibration for city with population of 300,000 – 500,000 based on average commute data collected from Chicago open transit data (, Chicago census data ( and McKinsey Global Institute paper on Open Data, October 2013

(4)     TCS research and calibration for city with population of 300,000 – 500,000  based on location based service revenue estimates from Fierce Wireless Reports ( and bostinno report on Pyramid research (

This article is published in collaboration with TATA Consultancy Services. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Kathleen Holm is Marketing Director of the TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group.

Image: Vehicles move along New Delhi’s Connaught Place during evening hours. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee