Smart Cities Initiative Wants to Make Towns More Efficient

White papers, MOOCs, and a conference are among the new offerings

24 July 2015

Like a major metropolis, the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative has been bustling with activity since The Institute featured the initiative in its special report on smart cities in June of 2014.

In the months following, the initiative’s working group selected Trento, Italy, and Wuxi, China, to join Guadalajara, Mexico in piloting this global, multidisciplinary effort to help municipalities apply information technology to improve the quality of life of their citizens. The three cities’ plans for transforming themselves have been published in white papers and are available on the initiative’s website.

In addition, a new category was created for cities that want to get involved but don’t meet the initiative’s requirements of having an existing plan and funding.

Also on the initiative’s website are a host of educational materials, including a massive open online course (MOOC) and several webinars dealing with how various technologies can be applied to improve the efficiency of a town’s operations. And the first IEEE International Smart Cities Conference will be held in October in Guadalajara.

“Our efforts cover geographic, demographic, and topical diversity,” notes IEEE Member Gilles Betis, the initiative’s chair. “That’s good, because that means we’ve started on the right path. We are working with people who are proficient, who are fascinated with smart cities, and who want to make a difference in their communities.”


Guadalajara, Trento, and Wuxi are “core cities.” The initiative places them in this category because they are able to build on existing plans to develop a smart city, they have the funding to carry out those plans, they are willing to share their knowledge and experience, and they can form multidisciplinary working groups. To be in this group, cities must also engage local universities to work on their smart-city projects, and local IEEE chapters or sections must be willing to help supervise the activities. IEEE in turn will support the cities in producing white papers, developing MOOCs describing, for example, the elements for developing a smart city as the city sees it, and organizing an international smart cities conference every two years. Applications are now being accepted to select the next two smart cities. The deadline is 14 August.

With a population of more than 114,000, Trento, in northern Italy, is ranked first among the country’s cities for its quality of life, standard of living, and business and job opportunities. It is home to the University of Trento, the Trento Rise innovation center, and the European Institute for Innovation and Technology. The IEEE Italy Section will help support the project.

“Being selected to participate in the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative is an honor, and collaborating with such an impressive community of experts will be of great benefit to Trento, which has always been sensitive to its citizens’ needs,” says Chiara Morandini, the municipality’s general manager.

Trento is focusing on five areas: e-government, health and well-being, energy efficiency, integrated tourism services, and mobility. White papers on what Trento plans for each of these areas are on the initiative’s website.

Wuxi, in Jiangsu province in eastern China, has more than 1.4 million citizens. Technology giants including IBM, Microsoft, and Siemens have set up research and development centers there. Various state-owned organizations with technical talent, such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Mobile, the China Space Agency, and China Telecom are headquartered there, along with many universities, including Jiangnan University and the Wuxi Institute of Technology.

Wuxi is focusing on reducing pollution levels and traffic congestion, providing an adequate supply of electricity, improving the operational efficiency of the city’s departments, and strengthening its infrastructure.

“Engaging in the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative will give us the opportunity to exchange information with other municipalities also interested in the building of a smart city,” says Hang-Feng Qi, director of the department of electronics and information industry of the Committee for Economy and Information of Wuxi.

The IEEE Nanjing Section is helping to support the project.


A new category dubbed IEEE-affiliated smart city was created for cities that want to participate in the initiative but may be unable to meet all the requirements. They must meet the same criteria for plans and funding the core cities do, but they won’t, for example, have to produce MOOCs and white papers.

“We created this new category for two reasons: to recognize the high quality of the applications from the 28 other cities that responded to that first call early last year and to honor their desire to somehow be involved in the initiative,” says Betis. “Affiliated cities will help us increase awareness of the initiative and disseminate what is learned, especially in parts of the world where we didn’t get a lot of applications.”

Guayaquil, Ecuador; Medellín, Colombia; and Kiev, Ukraine, are among the affiliated cities. Betis says 100 cities with this designation will not be a difficult target to reach once more cities apply.

“IEEE core and affiliated smart cities will serve as living labs as they offer real-world successes and best practices and share the questions, concerns, and failures encountered during the process,” Betis says. “Sharing such knowledge will save precious time for all stakeholders, helping them make the right decisions and the best choices.”


The first MOOC, Introduction to Metrics for Smart Cities, provides a basic understanding of the elements of a smart city and describes how to define and establish metrics to measure a city’s success. Produced by Guadalajara University, the course was given in April on the website. More than 7,500 people from 149 countries took it. Three more MOOCs in development will cover the IoT, open data frameworks, and data visualization.

There are also several on-demand webinars, including Smarter Citizens for Smarter Cities; How to Integrate the Smart Grid, Smart Transportation, and the Internet of Things With Smart People; and Electric Vehicles, the Smart Grid, and the Internet of Things—How Everything Will Be Integrated in the Smart City of Tomorrow.

A bimonthly news bulletin reports on the latest developments taking place in the initiative’s cities.


Each core city is required to hold an international conference. Guadalajara will host IEEE’s first such meeting focused exclusively on smart cities. Organized by the initiative’s steering committee, it takes place from 25 to 28 October.

“This is a very important starting point for the initiative,” says IEEE Member Yinhai Wang, who leads the conference task force. “The conference’s multiple tracks reflect the reality that smart city research and practice are broad areas that involve different fields.”

Nine tracks will cover such topics as transportation, the environment, health, the IoT, home and building, and manufacturing and logistics. (You can read more about the conference in The Institute’s August issue.)

“The key idea behind the conference will be to show how to apply human wisdom and information technology to support smart city growth and improve the well-being of citizens,” Wang says.

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