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The 3 Pictures That Explain Everything About Smart Cities

The vision of the technology-powered metropolis of the future is being sold with images that bear little resemblance to the real world.
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Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Suddenly, the world is awash in smart cities. Google is about to build one in Toronto. Hudson Yards in New York City is one, kind of. China and India have both declared national missions to construct or retrofit dozens of smart city projects all at once. And global tech giants and startups are racing to offer customers urban dashboards, “smart’’ systems, and new-age transit networks to make life happier and more efficient.

But no one seems able to agree on what a smart city actually is. Are they “the intersection of digital technology, disruptive innovation and urban environments”? Or “a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunication technologies”? To some, they’re a revolutionary “blueprint for the 21st-century urban neighborhood” that merges the “physical and digital realms.”