The world’s urban centers have taken on increasing importance and power as economic engines of growth and places to live, with more than half the world’s population now in cities. With this growth expected to continue in the decades ahead, city leaders face numerous challenges as far as infrastructure and service delivery is concerned.

One of the most promising solutions to this increasingly complex urban problem is making cities smarter through the use of sensor technology: tiny electronic devices that can measure and track just about anything that goes on in a city. But does the technology really work, and does it generate the kind of benefits that proponents claim?

This special report, broken up into five sections below, looks at the growing number of sensor-based smart cities, the ways in which the technology can be used, how citizens and research organizations play a growing role and, most importantly, the potential risks of relying on a sensor-based approach to making a city smarter.

Section I: The Rise of the Sensor-Based Smart City

Section II: Scaling Up Sensor-Based Smart Cities Proves Difficult

Section III: The Boom in Urban Data Labs Helps Support Growth in Smart Cities

Section IV: The Role of Citizens in Smart Cities Looks Promising, but Remains Unclear

Section V: 6 Principles in Planning City-Level Sensor Projects

Tod Newcombe  |  Senior Editor

With more than 20 years of experience covering state and local government, Tod previously was the editor of Public CIO, e.Republic’s award-winning publication for information technology executives in the public sector. He is now a senior editor for Government Technology and a columnist at Governing magazine.