Clean. Tidy. Well presented. Intelligent. Perceptive. Street-wise. Bright. According to a quick flick through a dictionary. But what does “smart city” mean? Sustainable, connected, resilient?

Faced with growing populations, cities globally are becoming larger and more complex. Across the UK numerous cities are starting to tackle their urban challenges; congested transport networks, high-energy consumption, inadequate housing infrastructures to name just a few. The term “smart city” is becoming increasingly used to denote the promise of change.

But what is a UK smart city?

Smart city is a term that means different things to different cities, and each will have its own definition based on its individual needs and the challenges it faces.

The broad goal of a smart city is to improve a city’s quality of life for its citizens most often through the introduction of technologies to enable advanced analysis of city data and increase the connectivity of citizens.

Below is a selection of cities across the UK tackling their challenges with new technologies. The list aims to demonstrate the differences in purpose with a smart city approach.


Peterborough DNA aims to make Peterborough a better place to live, work, and invest by harnessing the power of data and technology.

Their achievements so far include improving the resource efficiency of a network of 100 businesses, the creation a Living Data Portal for partner organisations, installing 25 weather stations in schools across the city, a sustainability placement scheme for local graduates, and a cycle of innovation that brings together local SMEs, academia, entrepreneurs and communities.


Smart Cambridge is exploring how new technologies can be used to enhance the lives of Cambridge citizens. Its goals are to sustain business and housing growth, and improve transport and energy efficiency.

The project is a collaboration between local councils, technology businesses, university researchers, and partner organisations. It aims to achieve its goals by providing an infrastructure for collecting and analysing data, which can then be used to develop solutions to the challenges Cambridge faces.


Smart Oxford is a commitment by Oxfordshire Partners to use data and technology for the benefit of Oxford’s citizens.

The project co-ordinates a range of smart activities taking place across Oxford. These projects include autonomous vehicle research, a citizen-led Internet of Things flood detection network, improved transport, and a purpose-built smart community that’s a hub for exploring the opportunities available to smart cities and testing intelligent mobility solutions.


Putting people at the heart of Glasgow’s future Future City Glasgow has been exploring how to use open data to make a real difference to the lives of its citizens.

Areas where it has been using data to improve the city include making streets safer, making it easier for people to lead active lifestyles, improving health, and developing an understanding of how to better use, save, and generate energy.


Milton Keynes
As one of the UK’s fastest growing city’s sustainable growth is a challenge for Milton Keynes, MK:Smart has been set up to overcome the challenge of supporting sustainable growth without exceeding the capacity of infrastructure.

The project is innovating in the areas of transport, energy and waste management. At the centre of it all is the MK Data Hub which allows vast amounts of data from the city to be gathered and analysed.


Exeter City Futures Smart City Map


Why Exeter City Futures?

The aim of Exeter City Futures is to make Exeter more sustainable through innovative solutions to key problems it faces relating to congestion and energy. Our goals are focussed on improving Exeter’s energy balance – by becoming congestion free and achieving independence.

Exeter City Futures is not just another “smart city programme” – we are not defining technologies and looking for use cases. Instead we are engaging citizens to understand the problems that should be addressed in pursuit of our goal of being congestion free and energy independent.

By involving the city in the problem solving process we will ensure that the solutions we find genuinely address the needs of the city and deliver significant positive impact.

Through our programme we seek to stimulate, accelerate and scale up solutions that will have positive impact. Presently we are engaging and gathering insights from Exeter’s residents, key stakeholders, communities, businesses, entrepreneurs and technologists. By combining these insights with analysis from city data, challenges relating to congestion and energy will be defined.

We need you to get involved to help Exeter become congestion free and energy independent. We need you to help Exeter become a world-leading sustainable city. Anyone who has an insight into a problem that needs to be solved in order to make Exeter energy independent and congestion free by 2025 can join the Exeter City Futures crowdsourcing platform now, and start sharing their ideas.