The top 10 smart city citizen projects around the world

A look at some of the best IoT and smart city projects which aim to make the lives of citizens better.
1 of 10 Wikimedia Commons

Yinchuan: Your face pays

Yinchuan, the capital of the Ningxia province in China, intends to be a blueprint for other Chinese smart city projects. One scheme of particular interest that the city runs is the use of facial recognition software to make your face act as your credit card. Instead of using plastic, fare boxes or prepaid cards, local buses use the software to speed up boarding.

Residents' faces are linked to their bank accounts and so when they step on board, their fee is automatically fished out of their account -- rather than a pocket.

2 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Smart Citizen kits

There are many IoT-based smart city projects around the world which utilize Big Data, but what about putting this information directly in the hands of residents? This concept is exploited by the creators of the Smart Citizen kit, a portable device which attempts to get residents to become involved in urban air quality monitoring and mapping.

Based on Arduino programming, the kit can be placed on balconies, windowsills and on the top of buildings to sense air composition, temperature, humidity, light intensity and sound levels. Once set up, the device streams this data over Wi-Fi and is able to add it to a crowdsourced pool to give residents and city officials more insight into pollution levels in their environment.

3 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Japan's Eco Cycle parks

For some in cities, their bicycle is not only a mode of transportation but also their pride and joy. However, sometimes parking and finding a safe place to chain up your bike can pose a challenge.

To tackle this issue, a number of Japanese cities have installed Eco Cycle bays, which take your bike and move it underground for safekeeping. Multiple bicycles can be stored with a capacity of 204 bikes per unit, which not only solves space issues in crowded areas but gives cyclists piece of mind.

4 of 10 Block By Block

Minecraft's Block By Block

Block by Block, a smart city scheme inspired by Mojang's Minecraft and ran by the company alongside United Nations Human Settlements Programme, is a smart city project for developing countries. The scheme, running in 35 countries is exploring ways in which the popular game can be used to engage citizens in developing urban public space.

Over in Gautam Nagar, Mumbai, Block by Block has been used to gather resident input on how to improve the feeling of "ownership" due to resettlement; in Peru, the scheme was used to map out improvements to public parks, and over in Lokoja, Nigeria, Block by Block was used to create job opportunities for residents.

5 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet


Waze, a mobile app, has been around for some time and is used in urban areas worldwide. When traffic is a pain, congestion common and sudden accidents can ruin a day's plans, being warned in advance of anything going wrong on city roads can be valuable.

Waze works by connecting together a community of drivers and riders which crowdsource real-time traffic information. In what the company calls the "common good," these reports can be used to warn drivers to take alternative routes, let them know where police speed traps are set up, and whether any accidents have taken place on their routes.

6 of 10 Wikimedia Commons

New South Wales smart healthcare

New South Wales, Australia, is the home of a pilot smart scheme designed to improve the healthcare of city residents. In what the NSW government calls "integrated healthcare," residents -- which are aging and putting more pressure on the existing system -- are now part of an $180 million scheme designed to overhaul care from the ground up.

The initiative includes the promotion of HealtheNet -- the connection of different healthcare providers and patient data across the region -- funding for the development of technologies which better track patients and care for monitoring purposes and to "improve outcomes," as well as the Shared Care Collaboration scheme, which encourages families to work with professionals.

7 of 10 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet


MK:Smart, a Milton Keynes, UK-based project, is a citywide scheme designed to not only boost economic growth but also aims to include residents of all ages in future plans. The IoT project utilizes data from city systems, including energy sources, satellites, and social datasets to tackle key city issues, and also runs a smart city education programme for schools and local universities to give students skills in digital technology and smart city creation.

8 of 10 Wikimedia Commons

Project NOAH

Project NOAH was born out of the Philippines, being one of the areas most prone in the world to natural disasters which can level cities and destroy the lives of residents. The Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) scheme, created by the country's Department of Science and Technology, aims to provide a six-hour lead time warning to communities vulnerable to disasters including floods and earthquakes.

In order to do so, the program's operators are developing water sensors, 3D mapping technology, a flood information network, landslide sensor systems and new warning systems for citizens.

9 of 10 Wikimedia Commons

Better Reykjavik

Reykjavik, Iceland, is home to a smart city project called Better Reykjavik. Built on the Your Priorities Icelandic Citizens Foundation platform, the scheme asks residents for ideas to improve their living conditions and over 200 projects based on citizen ideas have been taken up. Over 70,000 people have contributed their ideas, which include promoting field trips in schools, connecting roadways and new parking areas.

10 of 10 Wikimedia Commons | Livelikerw

Yuhua's smart estates

Singapore wants to become a "smart nation." To further this goal, government officials are starting with the ground up -- by turning an existing estate into a "smart living" area.

Roughly 9,000 residents living in 3,194 flats in Yuhua will act as a living lab for smart living features including monitoring systems for the elderly and technology which will help residents monitor and improve their energy usage rates through real-time electricity and water use trackers, as well as alerts when things go wrong -- such as leaks and forgotten, running taps.

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