Transitioning from Smart Cities to Smarter Cities: The Future Potential of ICT of Pervasive Computing for Advancing Environmental Sustainability

  • Simon Elias BibriEmail author
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


Smart cities are evolving and ever changing, i.e., morphing into new faces. This is being fueled by the rapid computerization and urbanization of the world, driven by the evolvement of ICT visions of various forms of pervasive computing into deployable and achievable computing paradigms, as well as by the perceived role of advanced ICT in overcoming the challenge of urbanization. Indeed, visions of noteworthy advances in computing and ICT bring with them wide-ranging common visions on how cities as social fabrics will evolve in the future along with the immense opportunities and potential threats such future will bring. However, there are several critical issues that remain largely ignored concerning smarter cities. In particular, smarter (and smart) cities involve several problems—when it comes to their development and implementation as to their concrete contribution to and explicit incorporation of the fundamental goal of environmentally sustainable development. They moreover pose many risks to environmental sustainability due to the ubiquity of computing and the massive use of ICT throughout all urban domains. Also, relatively little or no attention has been given to smarter cities as future visions of smart cities in terms of the potential of ICT of various forms of pervasive computing to respond to the challenge of environmental sustainability. In addition, it is important not to conceive of smarter cities as “isolated islands”, like some urban scholars might presume. Instead, the interplay between such cities and other scales, as well as the links to political and regulatory processes on a macro level have to be recognized. The purpose of this chapter is manifold. First, it reviews the key deficiencies, misunderstandings, fallacies, and challenges associated with smart and smarter cities with respect to environmental sustainability. Second, it identifies the significant risks that smarter cities pose to environmental sustainability, which are expected to escalate during the transition of smart cities to smarter cities. Third, it substantiates the potential that smarter cities hold in accelerating and advancing environmental sustainability on the basis of ICT of various forms of pervasive computing. The underlying assumption is that smarter cities are still at the early stage of their development and thus could, if planned strategically, do a lot more in this regard, including the mitigation of environmental risks posed by ICT itself, if linked to the goal of environmentally sustainable development. Fourth, this chapter endeavors to reflect on what it means for smart cities to move behind their foundational visions as they transition to smarter cities and embrace environmental sustainability as an important trend increasingly gaining prominence in urban development as a result of the unprecedented urbanization of the world. Fifth, this chapter probes both the ways in which the transition of smart cities to smarter cities (with environmental sustainability in mind) can be managed or governed at the macro level as well as the role of politics and policy in the creation and evolution of smarter cities. This entails drawing on different theoretical perspectives from socio-technical studies, innovation studies, and discursive studies, most notably transition governance; technological and national innovation systems; and the link between political practice and the emergence, insertion, and functioning of new discourses.


Smart cities Smarter cities Environmental sustainability Environmentally sustainable development Environmental risks Visions ICT Pervasive computing Big data analytics Context-aware computing Transition governance Innovation systems Socio-technical systems 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer and Information Science, Department of Urban Design and PlanningNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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