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DKSR Glossary
DKSR Glossary

Smart City Domains

Smart digital solutions help make our cities more livable, sustainable and resilient. Four main areas of impact can be distinguished within which digital solutions make an important contribution:

  1. Saving resources: Data helps us use infrastructures and resources in cities and regions more efficiently. For example, we can rent vehicles via app and can thus enable several people to use the same vehicle.

  2. Controlling processes: By sharing information in real time, processes in the city can be adjusted more effectively. The green traffic light waits a little longer for the cyclist, the route in the navigation system avoids the garbage truck on the one-way street, or the washing machine runs when electricity is cheapest.

  3. Simulation: A lot of data gives us a realistic digital image of the city. Scenarios and models help us play through different future paths and prepare for the main scenarios in planning. Decisions are increasingly being made on the basis of evidence.

  4. Networking: Digital solutions help us to involve a wide range of people in the design of their city and to make participation a digital reality.

These areas of impact can be found in all domains of the smart city. Smart city domains refer to the different areas of a smart city. We need them in order not to get lost in the complexity of digital urban development and to remain accessible to the organizations that are shaping the smart city.

The classification of the domains is not blurred; that is why there is often multiple allocation of individual processes. The expansion of electromobility, for example, can be assigned to both the environment domain and the mobility domain.

1. Mobility

The smart city domain of mobility includes all forms of movement of people outside the home with the aim of overcoming spatial distance. This can range from the movement of pedestrians and cyclists to that by streetcar or private car, but also "multimodal" movement via different, combined types of mobility.  Smart approaches to mobility increase the efficiency and attractiveness of public transport, reduce emissions from traffic, and make cycling and walking attractive and easy.

2. Health

The smart city domain of health encompasses the improvement of health promotion for citizens. This includes all areas within the healthcare system that are supported by smart technologies in the city - for example, preventive care or nursing. In general, a distinction can be made between two domains:

a) Health-promoting urban design

b) Smart solutions to support the healthcare system

The former involves a bundle of smart measures that contribute to a healthy urban population. This can include aspects such as monitoring air quality and targeted measures to improve it, or optimizing urban space for walking and cycling, for example, based on data from fitness trackers and apps.

The second area addresses the use of technology and data to improve emergency response, but also to support outpatient care or preventive care in neighborhoods. 

3. Citizen participation

Citizen participation refers to the involvement of citizens as users and residents in active urban design. Through conventional citizen participation, opinions of citizens can be included in the decision-making process. By actively involving citizens, their creative power is integrated into the projects. On the one hand, this increases the acceptance of individual measures within the population, and on the other hand, it increases the effectiveness of the projects. Since residents know their own city well, they often have the best ideas for improvements. Digital solutions such as dialog portals, smart city apps or citizen budgets help to bring citizen participation from the office to the smartphone or laptop and help to involve different groups in the design of cities and neighborhoods.

4. Building & Housing

The smart city domain of building and housing includes intelligent systems such as home automation technologies or building management systems. These can be used, for example, to optimize the lighting, ventilation, cleaning or heating of buildings by linking sensor-based systems and controlling them on the basis of intelligent algorithms. However, the smart home only becomes relevant for the smart city when it shares information with its environment - e.g., by providing energy, being used as flexible storage or incorporating public space functions (e.g., parcel boxes).

But also the general new construction or reconstruction of buildings can be designed intelligently to enable or simplify future sustainable management of the buildings. Increasingly, BIM (Building Information Management) based technologies and digital twins of buildings and neighborhoods are helping here.

5. E-Government

The smart city domain e-government refers to administrative processes that can be improved through the use of digital information and communication technologies. Citizens, as well as state, municipal and other official institutions, benefit from a more efficient city administration through e-government, for example, when they can communicate more easily with each other using digital tools.  E-government applications such as government portals, online tax services, eParticipation and self-service kiosks fall into this domain. In Germany, e-government is heavily regulated by the Online Access Act (OZG). So far, the full potential of digitization has not always been realized. End-to-end digitization of municipal processes (e.g., building permits) based on currently available innovations (e.g., AI, BIM, AR/VR) can ensure time and resource savings of up to 50%.

6. Environment

The smart city domain environment includes systems and technologies that help ensure a clean environment or actively protect it. This includes solutions that make existing operations lower in emissions and generally help municipalities cope with climate change. That includes, for example, a range of measures with a positive impact on urban air quality, but also increasingly measures that contribute to climate adaptation, such as the use of nature-based solutions (NBS). Operations from the environmental domain are often attributed to multiple domains, as many actions from other domains simultaneously have a lasting impact on our environment. For example, decarbonization of public transport is a process or measure within the mobility domain and contributes to environmental improvement.

7. Energy

The field of energy encompasses all processes and structures that are necessary for supplying energy to municipalities. In the energy sector in particular, data-based solutions can unleash great potential for more sustainable urban design. Traditional goals here are to improve network quality and supply security, but also to reduce general electricity consumption.

Increasingly, this also includes expanding the use of renewable energies. Here, data is used to balance the fluctuating availability of wind and solar with the existing energy demand. Electric vehicles, batteries or grid-active devices help to find a balance. Significant strategies or technologies for this are smart grids, smart meters, and storage and conversion technologies. Via smart applications, citizens in smart energy communities can become "prosumers" and thus contribute to more renewable energies and a more stable local grid via their own decentralized plants.

8. Waste

The smart city domain waste deals with all technological processes and structures that make waste disposal more ecological, efficient and convenient for citizens. This can also include the avoidance of waste, as well as the development of circular economies within municipalities and beyond.  One technological example is public and private intelligent trash cans that signal when they are full. This data can be used, for example, to optimize routes for waste disposal companies. Other examples relate to intelligent sorting machines, underground systems or a "gamification" of waste avoidance.

9. Security

The smart city domain "security" encompasses all aspects of strategic data use that make citizens' lives safer. As digitization advances, the crimes committed will also become smarter; authorities must adapt to this trend. In general, data provides a good basis for limiting or even preventing crime.  A distinction can be made between physical security and cyber security. The former includes, for example, access controls, surveillance systems in public spaces, or intrusion detection systems. Cybersecurity, on the other hand, protects the city's digital systems, as well as its data and applications, from unauthorized access.

10. Water

The resource water is limited. This is a fact that is increasingly embedded in people's consciousness. The goal within this smart city domain is to find solutions to use and reuse the resource water intelligently and economically, and to protect or increase water quality. Also, flood protection can fall within this domain; early warning systems, for example, are an important technology here. Other smart solutions in the water domain focus on wastewater energy recovery or real-time water quality monitoring and control.

11. Provision

The term "provision" or the German "Daseinsvorsorge" is used in various contexts. For the definition of the smart city domain, DKSR follows the definition of the KommunalWiki of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which states that provision includes the provision of economic, social and cultural services for citizens by the municipality. In the context of the smart city, processes necessary for this are supported by strategic use of data.

In other definitions of the smart city domains, areas of general public services are also covered (waste, water, mobility).

12. Urban planning

The domain of urban planning includes all developments concerning the spatial and social structure of a city. Urban planning has changed a lot in recent years; megatrends such as climate change, transformation of traffic, aging society, urbanization have a great impact on how cities have to adapt and be planned. Where should new areas be developed, where should new bike paths, roads or parks be built? A key aspect of the changing direction of urban planning is the "human scale" - after all, the cities of the future should be built for people, not for cars. At the same time, environmental factors are becoming more volatile (drought, flooding, etc.) and new technological innovations are making their way into cities (cue: autonomous vehicles, delivery drones, etc.) A solid data foundation helps to make sustainable and human-centered decisions on these big infrastructure issues. Digital twins based on real-time data or simulations and modeling with a comprehensive data basis help to better adapt urban planning to complex and dynamic future scenarios and to base decisions on factual knowledge.

13. Governance

The goal of smart governance is to ensure citizen-oriented political decision-making through the conscious participation of the population. Planning and decision-making processes that affect urban development should be made more transparent and participatory. Decision-makers should be able to engage with city residents, enabling everyone to participate in policy-making - in other words, implementing democracy through technology.

Governance has four characteristics: it is not a set of rules or an activity, but a process; the process of governance is not based on control, but on coordination; it involves both the public and private sectors; it is not a formal institution, but a continuous interaction.

Also see: Data Governance.

14. Data

Data is the foundation of the smart city. For this reason, the domain "data" lies at the intersection of all other domains and should always be thought of and managed as an enabler of digital solutions. This must be done at different levels in a city:

  • First, the technical basis for cross-domain data use must be provided and operated. In addition to hardware, such as broadband expansion, sensor technology or radio networks, this refers above all to tools such as data portals or open urban data platforms.

  • Furthermore, data use has a strategic and also a political dimension. The collection of data (e.g., in public spaces), the sharing and publication of data, and its processing often involve ethical, political, and legal issues. Thus, urban data governance and, if appropriate, local discourse with civil society are needed to appropriately manage and regulate data use.

  • Finally, the technical and organizational capability must be established to use data intelligently within a city. Data strategies, processes and data intelligence are therefore also part of the domain of data.

15. Innovation

Another domain is that of innovation. The smart city opens up opportunities for local businesses and the research community to help shape the future of the city, and in doing so to tap into new business potential and research areas. Ideally, economic development, smart city (CIO / CDO of the city government) and city operations work closely with an ecosystem of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), startups and established local companies as well as research institutions to turn the challenges of sustainable and data-driven urban development into potentials for the local economy. Elements such as innovative awarding, hackathons, innovation workshop and, last but not least, jointly acquired funding projects help to achieve this. In this context, the city increasingly sees itself as a catalyst for innovation - and less as an administrator of the status quo.

16. Urban Logistics

Urban logistics refers to the logistical processes and functions that enable the supply of goods to urban areas or serve the disposal of households and the economy. This includes transport, transshipment, storage and transfer to recipients, as long as these take place in urban areas. Urban logistics is a central component of modern cities, essential for the provision of basic necessities for daily life, and a major factor in urban traffic patterns. As such, urban logistics also plays an essential role in urban development, but also in local land competition and infrastructure load, air pollution in cities, and noise and greenhouse gas emissions. For sustainable urban development, urban logistics must become more efficient and innovative in the future on the one hand, and on the other hand, the Covid 19 pandemic and the current geopolitical situation have highlighted the importance of resilient logistics and supply routes.

In practice, previous approaches to improving the situation have mainly focused on technical solutions for the last mile (e.g., via micro-hubs, electric mobility, or cargo bicycles). However, these are only one piece of the puzzle in view of the challenges for an innovative, digitally networked and low-emission supply of urban centers. In addition to new technologies, logistics concepts that are compatible with cities and conserve resources and infrastructure are also needed.

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