Smart City vs Smart Community vs Smart Residential Community

June 18, 2018 i-Neighbour Smart Community 2 Comments


What is Smart City?

Smart city became a hot topic since the United Nations released a report titled “Urban and Rural Areas 2009”, saying that by the middle of 2009, the number of people living in urban areas (3.42 billion) had surpassed the number of people living in rural areas (3.41 billion) and since then, the world has become more urban than rural. The figure was expected to climb exponentially every year and in the report “World Urbanization Prospects: 2018 Revision”, it is stated that 55% of the world’s population is residing in urban areas in 2018 as compared to 1950 whereby only 30% of the world’s population was urban, and by 2050, 68% of the world’s population is projected to be urban.

Since we expect the population to continue migrating from rural areas to cities, and not the other way around, hence city development and sustainable urbanization were widely discussed, and three major points were emphasized:

• As the world continues to urbanize, sustainable development depends increasingly on the successful management of urban growth, especially in the low-income and lower-middle-income countries where the most rapid urbanization is expected to happen between now and 2050. Integrated policies to improve the lives of both urban and rural dwellers are needed, strengthening the linkages between urban and rural areas and building on their existing economic, social and environmental ties.

• Urban growth is closely related to the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. A well-managed urbanization, informed by an understanding of population trends over the long run, can help maximize the benefits of agglomeration while minimizing environmental degradation and other potential adverse impacts of a growing number of city dwellers.

• To ensure that the benefits of urbanization are shared and that no one is left behind, policies to manage urban growth need to ensure access to infrastructure and social services for all, focusing on the needs of the urban poor and other vulnerable groups for housing, education, health care, decent work and a safe environment.
Many papers were tabled by scientists and experts at the high levels, and the concept of Smart City seemed like the solution to the world that has further moved towards urbanization at a greater speed.

What is Smart City? There are different definitions for Smart City, not a single one accepted by all, so it is hard to precisely define what is Smart City. Wikipedia gives us this definition: A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city's assets. These assets include local departments' information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services. A smart city is promoted to use urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services. ICT allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city, how the city is evolving, and how to enable a better quality of life.

There are four factors contribute to the definition of a smart city that most commonly accepted, is listed by Deakin and Al Waer, in their published Journal of Intelligent Buildings International: From Intelligent Cities to Smart Cities as follow:

1.The application of a wide range of electronic and digital technologies to communities and cities;

2. The embedding of such Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in government systems;

3. The use of ICT to transform life and working environments within the region;

4. The territorialization of practices that brings ICTs and people together to enhance the innovation and knowledge that they offer.

Six Pillars of a Smart City

Let us look further into the most common six pillars to build a Smart City. 

Pillar 1: Smart mobility or smart traffic management
Mobility and transportation shall be simplified for city residents and visitors. The inflow and outflow of people into and from the city or the travel within the city has to be made easy and seamless, and planned so as to provide comfort to all citizens. Smart traffic management should focus on how to reduce traffic congestion as well as road and traffic safety. We believe that the efficiency in traffic management will help eliminate extra commuting hours and save of fuel.  

Pillar 2: Smart Environment
There are many features to smart environment such as autonomy adaptive behavior to environment, and interaction with humans in a simple way. Smart environment is not possible without the rapid evolution of pervasive computing. One of the goals of a smart environment is that it supports and enhances the abilities of its occupants in executing tasks. These tasks range from navigating through an unfamiliar space to providing reminders for activities and to moving heavy objects for the elderly or disabled. For a larger scope of smart environment, we believe that clean resources such as water, air and energy are essential for our city residents to lead healthy and productive lives. A low-pollution and low-emission environment coupled with clean resources will ensure a sustainable development path for a Smart City.

Pillar 3: Smart living
A smart city is focused on providing and developing a desirable place to live, work and spend time in. Quality of life is essential to the prosperity of a smart city. The factors contributing to quality of life include cultural facilities, health conditions, individual safety, housing quality, education facilities, touristic attractiveness and social cohesion.

Pillar 4: Smart economy
The smart economy is a new field to stress on how a city is attractive as well as competitive with regard to factors such as innovation, art, culture, productivity, and most of all international appeal.

Pillar 5: Smart Governance 
Smart governance suggested that the role of ICT is important to achieve openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence for the five governance goals. Smart governance further encloses better city planning, emergency management, budgeting, and forecasting based on real time data describing needs as well as changing priorities. In addition, it also relies on strategic orientation and better healthcare that reduces the impact of aging populations. At last, it ensures the aggregation and monitoring of energy production and consumption data in order to provide better management policies.  

Pillar 6: Smart people
For a smart city to thrive, the human factor has to be accounted for. Since ICT is one of the main infrastructures for smart city, city residents have to possess additional technological skills that allow them to interact and benefit from their smart city as well as to improve it.

Figure 1: Smart City and its 6 Pillars

Smart Community

And, what is Smart Community?

Often, Smart City is used in plural form - Smart Cities, and it is interchangeable with Smart Communities. I state my disagreement here, but I will revisit later to elaborate my points.

If we refer to the Smart Communities Guidebook, developed by the State University of San Diego (1997), Smart Community is described as a geographical area ranging in size from neighborhood to a multi-county region whose residents, organizations, and governing institutions are using information technology to transform their region in significant ways. Co-operation among government, industry, educators, and the citizenry, instead of individual groups acting in isolation, is preferred. The technological enhancements undertaken as part of this effort should result in fundamental, rather than incremental, changes.

And in the Implementation Guide (1997), developed by the same Institute: 
A “smart community” is a community in which members of local government, business, education, healthcare institutions and the general public understand the potential of information technology, and form successful alliances to work together to use technology to transform their community in significant and positive ways. 

Because of these unified efforts, the community is able to leverage resources and projects to develop and benefit from telecommunications infrastructure and services much earlier than it otherwise would. Instead of an incremental change, a transformation occurs which increases choice, convenience and control for people in the community, as they live, work, travel, govern, shop, educate and entertain themselves. Smart communities or regions are also economically competitive in the new global economy, and attract and promote commerce as a result of an advance telecommunications infrastructure. 

Based on the above definition, even though it is much simpler, if we compare it to the lengthy description of a Smart City, it seems like the essence of the two definitions does not have much differences.

Smart City vs Smart Community

But, should the term Smart City be equated to that of the Smart Community? Since there is no single definition accepted by all, I rather champion the difference for easier comprehension.

Let us look at the definition of the words “city” and “community” to discern the difference.
According to the very first paragraph of Wikipedia, a city is a large human settlement. Cities generally have extensive systems for housing, transportation, sanitation, utilities, land use, and communication. Their density facilitates interaction between people, government organizations and businesses, sometimes benefiting different parties in the process.

Whereas the first paragraph in Wikipedia, a community is defined as a small or large social unit (a group of living things) who have something in common, such as norms, religion, values, or identity. Communities often share a sense of place that is situated in a given geographical area (e.g. a country, village, town, or neighborhood) or in virtual space through communication platforms.

From the two definitions, you may find that “City” is referred more to as an infrastructure to most individuals, but “Community” is referred more to the people themselves. Hence, even if we add the word “Smart” before the word “City” or “Community”, the former still should focus more on infrastructure, and the latter should focus more on people. 

And, in view of its infrastructure or info-structure nature, Smart City should be more about government-led mega projects, and Smart Community even with or without the involvement of government can be a community self-initiated projects, and normally smaller in term of scale. 

Learning about the Smart City’s stakeholders could help us understand the complexity of a Smart City project. Nearly all Smart City projects are founded upon collaboration in the triple or quadruple of local administrations, knowledge institutes, industry and citizens. This means that involvement of the relevant stakeholders and governance play a dominant role in the successful implementation of any smart city project. The complexity of most smart city projects means that many stakeholders need to be involved, and the fact that many independence exists between these stakeholders, a large variety of interests have to be aligned. The following list of possible stakeholders has been drafted:

       Municipality, local government, politicians
       Other local authorities
       Regional authorities
       National authorities
       Transport operators, owners of transport infrastructure
       Energy network operators and energy suppliers
       Owners of infrastructure, building and land
       End users of buildings and services
       Real estate developers
       Investors, financial institutions, banks, private equity
       Citizens, tenants
       Bottom-up initiatives
       Local businesses
       Construction industry
       Architects, planners
       Advisors, consultants, engineering
       Knowledge institutes and universities
       Providers of technical solutions
       ICT consultants

Figure 2:  Preliminary Visualization of Actor Network

The first four government authorities namely municipality, local government, regional and  national authorities almost inevitable in kick-starting any grand plan of a Smart City project. And with the fundamental ICT info-structure built by the government, for example smart traffic, smart governance and smart economy, only different community groups with different interests may initiate their own smart community projects. The involved parties are varied depending on the objectives to be achieved by different community groups or business groups. With the ubiquitous ICT info-structure provided by some tech giants like Amazon to enable the global accessibility for the cloud computing, it became less dependent for some communities on government’s infrastructure to start their own smart community projects to serve their own smart purpose.

According to Statista, a statistic portal, number of smartphone users from 2014 to 2020, the number of smartphone users is forecasted to grow from 2.1 billion in 2016 to around 2.5 billion in 2019, with smartphone penetration rates increasing as well. Just over 36% of the world's population is projected to use a smartphone by 2018, up from about 10 percent in 2011. All these numbers contributed to more and more self-initiated Smart Community projects and they are viable even without government intervention.

Figure 3: Number of Smartphone Users from 2014 - 2020

Besides, the Smart City planning papers tabled by the elitist groups are always ideal to assume a good government is in place to look after their own people’s interest, or the government usually has a larger worldwide humanity goal. But that was not always the scenario it turned out to be. According to a weekly, The Economist, on its June 2nd -8th issue, featuring “The Surveillance State”, the adoption of ICT in a Smart City project may serve opposite functions against the humanity. It says “Under an authoritarian government such as China's, digital monitoring is turning a nasty police state into a terrifying, all-knowing one.”

“Since the digital revolution has transformed surveillance, as it has so much else, by making it possible to collect and analyze data on an unprecedented scale. Smartphones, web browsers and sensors provide huge quantities of information that governments can hack or collect; data centers allow them to store it indefinitely; AI helps them find needles in the digital haystacks thus assembled. Technologies that once seemed a friend of freedom, allowing dissidents in dictatorships to communicate and organize more easily, now look more Orwellian, letting autocrats watch people even more closely than the Stasi.”

In its conclusion statement,  “Police rightly watch citizens to keep them safe. Citizens must watch the police to remain free.” It is of the utmost importance that unless necessary, smart community projects should remain independent, and keeping its own data in control and serving its own purpose.

Since there are so many books discussing about Smart City, I shall focus all my topics towards Smart Community with the intention to promote practicality instead of generalization, to be more specific, it should be about Smart Residential Community.  

Smart Residential Communities

We understand that the world is evolving, and society has become increasingly digital, mobile, and connected. Smart communities in short, are the places that recognize the trend and willing to adopt the intelligence infrastructure effectively, deliver services efficiently, collaborate freely, and analyze data for local benefits. Smart communities achieve exciting lifestyle benefits for residents, robust economic opportunities, and more efficient governance within a safe and healthy environment.

We should agree that there is no universal way to design a community of the future, and there is no standard smart community in terms of achievement; hence one can set their own scope of contribution, so I particularly draw my scope of discussion towards the Smart Residential Community, where Smart Living is inevitably, my highlight.

Although we narrow down the scope from Smart Community to Smart Residential Community, when we referred to Wikipedia once again for definition, it led us to something like this, "A residential community is a community, usually a small town or city, that is composed mostly of residents, as opposed to commercial business and/or industrial facilities,..." which is also playing quite "big", and will not easily be viable when come to implementing a "smart" residential community project. Because residential communities will not normally like to think of something beyond their reach at a "town" or "city" level, but rather focus on some issues that surrounding their neighbourhood.   

But the main objectives of Smart Residential Community still would be quite similar to of Smart Community or even the same with Smart City, which are:

1. To enhance security 

A Smart Residential Community, same like Smart Community, is a collection of interdependent human-cyber-physical systems, in which the states of these systems are estimated and adapted by IoT technology. It enables sustainable societies that can offer increased well-being, safety, and security.

2. Easy to manage and convenient

The once PC-oriented and Windows-based software has slowly been taken over by the web-or the cloud-based system, more required functionalities inflicted by the ubiquitous personal smartphones, achieving conveniences and easing management at the same time. 

3. Social & Communication platform

Smartphone is the communication tool, when loaded with specific App either on iOS or Android platform; it sparks the interactive functionalities to the advantage of Smart Residential Community.

The Practical Focuses 

We will discuss the topics of Smart Residential Community in more details in the following blog articles. I just state a framework outline here for our academic research coverage and the practical implementation suggestions and guides:

1. What are the essential areas to be covered in forming a Smart Residential Community? For example, visitor management system, vehicle management, surveillance and patrolling system and etc are the core modules for a Smart Residential Community.

2. Shall the different individual Smart Residential Community be interconnected to become Smart Residential Communities?

3. If so, how the interconnection shall be established?

4. What are the communication technologies and the IoT hardware involved to build a Smart Residential Community?

5. Cloud computing and smartphones, the two technologies that spark the Smart Residential Community system;

6. Security issues in Smart Residential Community, physical access issue and data security issue.

7. What are the social functionalities that constitute a Smart Residential Community?

8. What are the roles of Smart Home in a Smart Residential Community?

9. Are E-billing and e-Payment part of the integral Smart Residential Community System?

10. How to initiate smart environment in a Smart Residential Community?

11. Is e-commerce a part of a Smart Residential Community system, what type of e-commerce shall a Smart Residential Community promote?

12. To discuss Smart Living, we also shall look into the relationship of a Smart Workplace or a Smart office with a Smart Residential Community.

13.  The deployment of Blockchain, Big Data & AI to build a future Smart Residential Community system


1. In this topic, readers are supposed to learn about the concept of Smart City, sustainable urbanization as its major objective, and the six pillars in building a Smart City namely, smart mobility or smart traffic management, smart environment, smart living, smart governance, smart economy and smart people.

2. Smart Community is the concept often gets equate to Smart City, but the author disagrees with, discerning the two definitions whereby the Smart City focuses on government-led infrastructure initiatives, whereas the Smart Community focuses on the self-initiated projects for different community groups. The author highlights that an authoritarian government might launch a smart city project that works against humanity, jeopardizing the goodwill of a smart city.

3. Notwithstanding whether Smart City, Smart Community or even more specific Smart Residential Community, development vision is to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city's or community’s assets.

4. To enhance security, easy to manage and convenient, and to promote social and communication functionalities are the main objectives to build a Smart Residential Community, as well as a Smart Community.

5. The author establishes a list of topics concerning Smart Residential Community, which would be discussed in the following chapters and can be served as blueprints for implementation.


1.     Smartphone Users Worldwide 2014 – 2020 2014?, The Statistics Portal, viewed 20 July 2018, <>.
2.     World Urbanization Prospects, The 2018 Revision 2018, United Nations, viewed 5 July 2018, <>.
3.     The Economist 2018, Perfected in China, a threat in the West 2018, The Economist, vol. 427, no. 9093.
4.     Mohammad S. Obaidat & Petros Nocopolitidis (eds) 2016, Smart Cities and Smart Homes, Key Enabling Technologies, Todd Green, pg. 2-7.
5.      Azahara 2017, Smart Cities vs Smart Communities, Geographica, viewed 23 May 2018, <>.
6.      J. Borsboom-van Beurden, J.Kallaos, B.Gidroz, J.Riegler, M.Noll, S.Costa, R.Maio 2017, Smart City Guidance Package for Integrated Planning and Management – Planning and Implementation of Smart  City Projects: Phases, Common Obstacles and Best Practices, Key Performance Indicators, Upscaling and Replication,  Intermediate version June 2017, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
7.      Wikipedia 2018, City, Wikipedia, viewed 1 July 2018 <>.
8.      Wikipedia 2018, Community, Wikipedia, viewed 1July 2018, <>.
9.      Wikipedia 2018 Smart City, Wikipedia, viewed 1 July 2018, <>.

Teh Hon Seng, Group CEO of TimeTec Group of Companies. Prior to forming TimeTec, Teh led PUC Founder (MSC) Bhd to be listed on MESDAQ (ACE) market of Bursa Malaysia in 2002. Teh initiated the R&D in fingerprint technology in 2000, which later developed into a renowned global brand for commercial fingerprint product known as FingerTec. In 2008, he foresaw the trend of cloud computing and mobile technology, and over the years, he had strategically diversified and transformed its biometric-focused products into a suite of cloud solutions that aimed at workforce management and security industries including smart communities that centered around the cloud ecosystem. Teh has more than 10 patents to his name, and he is also a columnist in a local newspaper and a writer of several books.


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