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    Creating a smart social city for all

    How can smart cities use digital capabilities to bring people together?

    Whether you’ve moved to a new town, started a new pursuit or interest, are visiting, or just want to make some new friends, smart cities can help you connect with like-minded people and find places of interest. Because smart cities are social cities, social innovations will be among the most profound and long-term smart city innovations. After all, without its people, cities aren’t alive.


    A thriving social infrastructure is needed to improve the quality of human interaction in the homes, streets, and neighborhoods of a city, and across the city as a whole.


    In a world where smart cities mainly seem to focus on technological innovations that increase the efficiency of resources, improve the effectiveness of transportation, and enhance our sense of security, the “social city” concept is one that deserves more attention. Our communities are already social places. How can digital capabilities support social behavior already common in place, and how can it support new behaviors?

    Find your people

    “Find your people” is the promise of The Meetup app or website will connect you with others who share your interests by letting you search for groups within range of your location. For example, if you enjoy the cinema, you can search for others who also enjoy watching movies and you can go together. Or, if you like discovering new restaurants, you can join a local foodie group.


    Meetup is all about being social and bringing people together in a digital age. How could we look at this concept from a smart city point of view? City-wide data and a connected network may offer the kind of infrastructure that would help propositions such as Meetup better deliver upon their promise. As smart cities mature, new possibilities will undoubtedly emerge.

    Discover your city

    Apps like Meetup are great, but being social is about more than meeting people. A smart social city also welcomes visitors. Tourists from all over the world want to discover what the city they’re visiting has to offer. The same goes for business travelers.


    Business travelers also often want to do something other than simply go to a meeting in a hotel or a convention center. An obvious use case is wayfinding. Cities can consider using new and connected tech to give you to have the best possible experience as a tourist. Augmented reality, for instance, opens up a whole new world of opportunities.


    Unlike virtual reality, which creates an entirely constructed world which a person can explore and potentially act upon, augmented reality (AR) overlays visual, auditory, and other sensory information over the real world, “augmenting” reality with computer-generated information.


    AR holds the potential to allow people to discover an unfamiliar city in a more in depth, more immersive way. Imagine learning about the social and historical context of a certain tourist attraction and immersing yourself in the time period of its creation. AR can take you on a journey that directs you away from the most obvious attractions to experience the city to its fullest and connect with locals.


    Whether employing AR or another kind of digital enhancement, a smart social city can potentially do Airbnb one better. “Experience a city like a local’ will become more than just staying in some local person’s home.

    Find your way

    The first challenge in implementing a smart city is to make sure that the basic infrastructures are in place, so that you can build smart city systems on top of them. Apps like Meetup and technologies like AR suggest just two of the endless number of ways that digital capabilities can integrate such systems into the daily lives of citizens and visitors so that they can use them and derive value from them.

    In this way, smart cities depend on social infrastructures as much as they depend on technology infrastructures. Connecting with new people and finding places or activities of interest can help people get more out of city life, helping them truly to find their place in city society.

    About the author

    Maarten Pieters - A person wearing suit and looking at the camera
    Maarten Pieters, Head of Co-creation & People Insight, Signify, and co-author of The 7 Principles of Complete Co-creation.

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