Understanding the Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Building Smart Cities and Top Startups Working on it

A report by McKinsey Global Institute finds that ‘Smart Cities’ can improve essential quality of life indicators by 10-30 % – such as shorter commutes, fewer crimes, reduced health burdens, and even lower carbon emissions. Smart Cities use technology and data to make improved decisions and deliver a better quality of life.

What makes a city a smart one?

A Smart City is a city with intelligent physical, civic and economic infrastructure. It provides innovative technology, utility, and mobility to its residents, free of bureaucratic hassles. The end goal of a Smart City is a better quality of life, ease of living, economic growth, and sustainable development. 

According to the McKinsey Global Institute study, three layers work together to make a smart city functional :

  1. Technology base consisting of smartphones and sensors producing data and connected to high-speed networks.
  2. Computers to process the raw data and provide insights and give alerts.
  3. General public adopting and using these technologies leading to better decisions and behavior change.

How can Artificial Intelligence (AI) be used in Smart Cities?

  • Traffic Management: Intelligent Traffic Management systems can resolve the congestion problem by informing drivers about roadblocks and delays. It can predict and reduce traffic using Deep Learning algorithms, which will help lower carbon emissions. Road accidents can be significantly reduced using traffic violation detection systems and AI-enabled cameras.
  • Environment Conservation: AI can be used to analyze citizens’ energy use data and decide where renewable energy sources can be used. Moreover, cities can be shown where energy is being wasted and suggest measures to save it. AI can also analyze and predict pollution levels which will help authorities make decisions best suited for the environment.
  • Public Transport: With the help of AI, users can get live updates about public transport, improving timing and customer satisfaction. Automated buses within cities can reduce emissions and improve routes.ย 
  • Parking: Using license plate recognition technology, car parks can enforce tickets upon vehicles parked longer than they should. Awaiting users can be informed about theย availability of space based on the size of their car.
  • Healthcare: Patient monitoring systems can detect chronic conditions in advance and help prevent them. Health reports of citizens can be analyzed for medical consultation. Chatbots can provide medical assistance, informational support, and also schedule appointments.
  • Waste Management: Artificial intelligence can distinguish between different types of waste, track their nearest location and monitor how much they are filled, preventing overflows. AI can sort recyclables much more efficiently and quickly.
  • Security: AI-enabled cameras can detect criminal behavior and instantly report it to the authorities. Drones can recognize human faces and compare them with a database to trace their identity and authenticate a person entering the city or restricted areas.

Companies involved in applying AI in smart cities 

  • ARCubed, a New Zealand-based startup, has manufactured an AI smart bin called One Bin, which uses computer vision to sort recyclable materials from waste. This eliminates sorting errors, diverting waste away from landfills. Waste collectors are also notified when the bin becomes full.
  • Deep tech startup, Machine Can See offers vehicle movement prediction. It analyzes and models cars in an urban area using computer vision and physics simulation. The startup is also involved in building smart parking solutions.
  • Pure Skies, created by Devic Earth, is an air pollution-controlling device that works on wi-fi-enabled pulsed radio wave technology. It accelerates the clearance of pollutants by 6-7 times the natural speed of the dry deposition process.
  • Sentry AI offers solutions for security monitoring. It uses computer vision for facial as well as vehicle detection. It can be used for property management to detect any intrusion or unusual behavior.
  • Upciti ensures the optimum flow of people and goods using AI-based image analysis. It provides solutions like smart parking by counting vehicles and pedestrians and smart lighting to reduce energy consumption.
  • Hayden AI combines computer vision with onboard sensors and embedded connectivity like 5G to help municipalities create more intelligent fleets capable of protecting bus and bike lanes, keeping school zones safe, etc. It makes traffic flow more efficient and less dangerous and automates complex processes, and improves public services.
  • IntelliVision provides insights and intelligence for security monitoring. It can detect intrusions, recognize faces as well as license plate numbers.
  • Arrive is committed to improving parking within cities by offering intelligent parking solutions. Using its technology, users can even use Alexa to help them find parking.
  • Telensa helps cities reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions. Sensors on each street light are connected to a central management system, from which light levels can be fine-tuned based on data from other sensors.

What are the advantages of integrating AI in Smart Cities?

  • The application of AI in cities will enhance the personalized delivery of services, help make forecasts and predict future trends, and simulate the adoption of various policies before its implementation.ย 
  • It will help improve the city’s finance management through targeted predictions and expenditure management.
  • It will enhance equity in the towns by suggesting and taking action on welfare systems like public distribution, primary healthcare, and education.
  • AI in smart cities will positively impact the environment through energy, waste, and traffic management.
  • AI will augment the productivity of laborers with the help of efficient products and services, thereby increasing the city’s economic growth.

What are the challenges involved in integrating AI in Smart Cities?

  • Lack of funds and technological edge is a significant challenge in developing AI-based cities.
  • Implementing and maintaining the sensors in a smart city requires a costly infrastructure.
  • Natural calamities like floods can damage AI equipments.
  • The privacy and security of the citizens are other major issues. The threat of cyber-attacks will always loom upon the population. 
  • While developing Smart Cities, it must be ensured that the collected data is free from all kinds of biases. Moreover, the process of data collection should be transparent and consent-based.

AI-based Smart Cities can play a pivotal role in transforming urban areas to increase the standard of living and build economic growth. However, the above-mentioned challenges hinder it from achieving its objective and must be tackled urgently. Moreover, the government, tech companies, and citizens must collaborate so that AI can be used to create prosperous cities.


  • https://www.businessgoing.digital/artificial-intelligence-in-smart-cities/
  • https://aimagazine.com/top10/10-ways-ai-can-be-used-smart-cities
  • https://www.esds.co.in/blog/how-ai-and-machine-learning-help-build-a-smart-city/
  • https://medium.com/vsinghbisen/how-ai-can-be-used-in-smart-cities-applications-role-challenge-8641fb52a1dd
  • https://technologymagazine.com/ai-and-machine-learning/ai-and-iot-help-bring-about-a-smart-city-experience
  • https://medium.com/vsinghbisen/how-ai-can-be-used-in-smart-cities-applications-role-challenge-8641fb52a1dd
  • https://www.startus-insights.com/innovators-guide/artificial-intelligence-smart-cities/
  • https://www.hayden.ai/
  • https://www.devic-earth.com/how-does-pure-skies-work
  • http://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/operations/our-insights/smart-cities-digital-solutions-for-a-more-livable-future
  • https://aimagazine.com/technology/top-10-ai-powered-smart-city-technologies
๐Ÿ Join the Fastest Growing AI Research Newsletter Read by Researchers from Google + NVIDIA + Meta + Stanford + MIT + Microsoft and many others...