Skip to main content

Smart cities of the future


Here we sketch the rudiments of what constitutes a smart city which we define as a city in which ICT is merged with traditional infrastructures, coordinated and integrated using new digital technologies. We first sketch our vision defining seven goals which concern: developing a new understanding of urban problems; effective and feasible ways to coordinate urban technologies; models and methods for using urban data across spatial and temporal scales; developing new technologies for communication and dissemination; developing new forms of urban governance and organisation; defining critical problems relating to cities, transport, and energy; and identifying risk, uncertainty, and hazards in the smart city. To this, we add six research challenges: to relate the infrastructure of smart cities to their operational functioning and planning through management, control and optimisation; to explore the notion of the city as a laboratory for innovation; to provide portfolios of urban simulation which inform future designs; to develop technologies that ensure equity, fairness and realise a better quality of city life; to develop technologies that ensure informed participation and create shared knowledge for democratic city governance; and to ensure greater and more effective mobility and access to opportunities for urban populations. We begin by defining the state of the art, explaining the science of smart cities. We define six scenarios based on new cities badging themselves as smart, older cities regenerating themselves as smart, the development of science parks, tech cities, and technopoles focused on high technologies, the development of urban services using contemporary ICT, the use of ICT to develop new urban intelligence functions, and the development of online and mobile forms of participation. Seven project areas are then proposed: Integrated Databases for the Smart City, Sensing, Networking and the Impact of New Social Media, Modelling Network Performance, Mobility and Travel Behaviour, Modelling Urban Land Use, Transport and Economic Interactions, Modelling Urban Transactional Activities in Labour and Housing Markets, Decision Support as Urban Intelligence, Participatory Governance and Planning Structures for the Smart City. Finally we anticipate the paradigm shifts that will occur in this research and define a series of key demonstrators which we believe are important to progressing a science of smart cities.

Graphical abstract


  1. A. Aurigi. Making the Digital City: The Early Shaping of Urban Internet Space (Ashgate Publishing Company, Farnborough, UK, 2005)

  2. K.W. Axhausen, Env. Planning B: Planning Design 35, 981 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. M. Batty, Technology highs. The Guardian 29 (1989)

  4. M. Batty, Env. Planning B: Planning Design 17, 247 (1990)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. M. Batty, International Planning Studies 2, 155 (1997)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. M. Batty, Cities and Complexity: Understanding Cities with Cellular Automata, Agent-Based Models, and Fractals (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005)

  7. M. Batty, Env. Planning B: Planning Design 37, 577 (2010)

    Google Scholar 

  8. A. Bazzani, B. Giorgini, L. Giovannini, R. Gallotti, S. Rambald, MIPRO2011, 1615 (2011)

  9. A. Bazzani, B. Giorgini, S. Rambaldi, Encyclopaedia of Complexity, Systems Science, edited by R. Meyers 3, 9411 (2009)

    Google Scholar 

  10. A. Bazzani, B. Giorgini, S. Rambaldi, R. Gallotti, L. Giovanninii, J. Stat. Mechanics: Theory Exper. 5, P05001 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. E. Beinhocker, The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics (Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008)

  12. A. Caragliu, C. Del Bo, P. Nijkamp, Smart Cities in Europe. VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics, Research Memoranda 0048, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2009

  13. W.H. Dutton, J.G. Blumler, K.L. Kraemer, Wired Cities: Shaping the Future of Communications (G. K. Hall, New York, 1987)

  14. N. Eagle, A. Pentland, Pers. Ubiquitous Comp. 10, 255 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. N. Eagle, A. Pentland, Behavior. Ecol. Sociobiol. 63, 1057 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. R.K. Brail (Editor), Planning Support Systems for Cities and Regions (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Cambridge, MA, 2008)

  17. E.O. Fernandes, et al., Smart Cities Initiative: How to Foster a Quick Transition towards Local Sustainable Energy Systems ( (2011)

  18. L.M. Correia, et al., Smart Cities Applications and Requirements. White Paper, 2011-05-20, Net!Works European Technology Platform Expert Working Group ( (2011)

  19. R. Giffinger, et al., Smart Cities Ranking of European Medium-Sized Cities. Centre of Regional Science, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria ( (2007)

  20. P. Expert, T. Evans, V. Blondel, R. Lambiotte, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108, 7663 (2011)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Edited by F. Giannotti, D. Pedreschi, Mobility, Data Mining and Privacy (Springer, Berlin, 2008)

  22. F. Giannotti, M. Nanni, D. Pedreschi, F. Pinelli, C. Renso, S. Rinzivillo, R. Trasarti. Unveiling the complexity of human mobility by querying and mining massive trajectory data. The VLDB Journal, DOI: 10.1007/s00778-011-0244-8, 2011

  23. F. Giannotti, M. Nanni, F. Pinelli, D. Pedreschi. Trajectory pattern mining. ACM SIGKDD 2007, Proceedings, International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, 330 (2007)

  24. M.C. Gonzalez, C.A. Hidalgo, A-L. Barabasi, Nature 453, 779 (2008)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. M. Granovetter, Amer. J. Sociol. 78, 1360 (1973)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. C. Harrison, B. Eckman, R. Hamilton, P. Hartswick, J. Kalagnanam, J. Paraszczak, P. Williams, IBM J. Res. Develop. 54, 1 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. IFF. 2020 Forecast: The Future of Cities, Information, and Inclusion: A Planet of Civic Laboratories, Technology Horizons Program, Palo Alto, CA 94301 ( (2011)

  28. J.E. Innes, D.E. Booher, Planning with Complexity: An Introduction to Collaborative Rationality for Public Policy (Routledge, London, 2010)

  29. T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL., 1962)

  30. R. Lambiotte, V. Blondel, C. De Kerchove, E. Huens, C. Prieur, Z. Smoreda, P. Van Dooren, Physica A: Stat. Mech. Applic. 387, 5317 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. J. Larsen, J. Urry, K.W. Axhausen, Mobilities, Networks, Geographies (Ashgate Publishing Company, Farnborough, UK, 2002)

  32. M. McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McGraw Hill, New York, 1964)

  33. M. Nielsen, Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2011)

  34. A. Noulas, S. Scellato, R. Lambiotte, M. Pontil, C.S. Mascolo. A tale of many cities: Universal patterns in human urban mobility [arXiv:1108.5355] (2011)

  35. F. Pagliara, M. de Bok, D. Simmonds, A. Wilson (eds.), Employment Location in Cities and Regions: Models and Applications (Springer, Heidelberg, DE, 2013)

  36. Y. Portugali, Complexity, Cognition and the City (Springer, Heidelberg, DE, 2011)

  37. A. Pozdnoukhov, C. Kaiser, Proceedings of the Location-Based Social Networks Workshop, ACM SIGSPATIAL GIS’2011 19 (2011)

  38. J. Reades, F. Calabrese, C. Ratti, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 36, 824 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. H.J. Rittel, Panel on Policy Sciences, Amer. Association Adv. Sci. 4, 155 (1969)

    Google Scholar 

  40. S. Sassen, Talking Back to Your Intelligent City ( (2011)

  41. S. Scellato, A. Noulas, R. Lambiotte, C. Mascolo. Socio-spatial properties of online location-based social networks. Proceedings of Fifth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM 2011), Barcelona, Spain (2011), p. 5

  42. S. Schnfelder, K.W. Axhausen, Urban Rhythms and Travel Behaviour: Spatial and Temporal Phenomena of Daily Travel (Ashgate Publishing Company, Farnborough, UK, 2010)

  43. IBM Global Business Services, A Vision of Smarter Cities: How Cities Can Lead the Way into a Prosperous and Sustainable Future, (IBM Institute for Business Value, Somers, NY) ( (2009)

  44. C. Song, Z. Qu, N. Blumm, A-L. Barabsi, Science 327, 1018 (2010)

    MathSciNet  ADS  MATH  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. F. Walsh, A. Pozdnoukhov, Pervasive Urban Applications workshop at PERVASIVE (2011)

  46. D. Wang, D. Pedreschi, C. Song, F. Giannotti, A.-L. Barabasi, Human mobility, social ties, and link prediction. Proceedings, International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (˜lzhen001/activities/KDD2011Program/docs/p1100.pdf) (2011)

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. Batty.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Batty, M., Axhausen, K.W., Giannotti, F. et al. Smart cities of the future. Eur. Phys. J. Spec. Top. 214, 481–518 (2012).

Download citation

  • Revised:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Global Position System
  • European Physical Journal Special Topic
  • Travel Behaviour
  • Smart City
  • Human Mobility