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How will smart cities transform our lives?

January 14, 2022
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Smart cities have emerged as a possible solution to sustainability problems deriving from rapid urbanization. We explore the main benefits and challenges of smart cities.

By 2050, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP, 2018) estimates that two-thirds of the global population will be residing in cities, compared to almost half residing in them now (UNEP, 2018). This will result in a significant expansion of existing urban environments and the need to create new ones.

Cities use less than 2% of the earth’s surface yet consume more than 75% of the natural resources available globally. UNEP, 2018 estimates that the material consumption related to cities will increase to roughly 90 billion tons by 2050, compared to 40 billion tons in 2010. Some of these resources are primary energy, raw materials, fossil fuel, water and food (UNEP, 2012).

As a result, cities are expected to experience challenges related to growth, performance, competitiveness and residents’ livelihoods (McKinsey & Company, 2013). Deterioration of liveability will also pose a number of major challenges. Rapid urbanization will result in problems, such as waste management, scarce resources, air pollution and traffic congestion that cause human health concerns, as well as aging public infrastructure (Washburn et al., 2009).


Smart cities are considered imperative for a sustainable future. Reducing the CO2 footprint is the main driver behind the development of “smart and sustainable cities”.

Improving energy efficiency and storage, waste management and traffic conditions are among the greatest advantages. Smart grids and smart water management are recurring themes of smart cities.

One main concern is that both sustainability and smart cities are connected, as resources can be managed with the help of new smart technologies. However, smart technologies can be costly and consume more resources, which may lead to the unsustainability.

To enable a better, safer and more interconnected world, SGS provides the world’s most comprehensive range of sustainability services. Our innovative solutions are organized into six pillars – all aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Principles for Responsible Investment. Our support ranges from sustainable use of natural resources to sustainable infrastructures, including sustainable energy and sustainable business practices. We help you to ensure sustainable operations and compliance throughout the life cycle, while enhancing productivity, quality and consumer trust.

Information and Data Security

Building smart cities involves the integration of data from organizations across the private, public and non-profit sectors to improve almost everything we do. Data is at the heart of the smart cities of the future.

However, smart cities are a target for hackers, and councils need to be prepared, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned. Sensors and internet-connected devices may improve urban services but could also be used by hackers and foreign states to disrupt or spy.

A smart city can be considered as a collection of integrated technologies simultaneously exchanging data within a given urban environment. This facilitates the sustainable and efficient management of assets, resources and services to better improve operations.

Smart cities have potential for improving our quality of life. However, organizations responsible for designing and building smart cities face a number of challenges in order to ensure safety, security and data privacy. This means that a unique amalgamation of cyber risks will need to be collectively addressed.

ISO/IEC 27001 is the international standard on managing information security. It sets out the requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining and continually improving an information security management system (ISMS), helping organizations to make their information assets more secure. An effective ISMS brings together information security controls and formalises processes, as well as for paperwork, connectivity, supply chain and many other associated elements including, critically, behaviours.

The resulting processes and culture introduce a number of key improvements. These include error reduction (by minimizing the chance of accidental data leakage), damage limitation (financial and reputational), return to ‘business as usual’ and compliance with laws, regulations and contractual obligations.

In business terms, certified organisations gain competitive advantage in the areas of tendering and business development/retention, as they can:

  • Produce, make available and regularly update effective security policies
  • Reduce data maintenance volumes, including redundant data
  • Achieve and demonstrate secure exchange of data
  • Clearly communicate security requirements to employees, contractors, supply chain partners and other relevant stakeholders, holding regular compliance reviews against these requirements
  • Create and improve a security culture throughout the organization
  • Ensure business, legal, contractual and regulatory compliance
  • Ensure consistently high quality in the delivery of products and/or services
  • Maintain customer/patient confidence

For more information, please contact:

Haider Ali
SGS Business Support
t: +44 (0) 127 669 7715

About SGS

We are SGS – the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification company. We are recognised as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. Our 93,000 employees operate a network of 2,600 offices and laboratories, working together to enable a better, safer and more interconnected world.

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Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, United Kingdom