Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Smart Communities Will Work


The Future Is ... Soon
Also known as Smart Village Cairo, this smart community is one of a kind.
Also known as Smart Village Cairo, this smart community is one of a kind.

A community doesn't have to be big to be smart. Let's start with one in the Netherlands that the Intelligent Community Forum named Intelligent Community of the Year in 2011. Eindhoven is the fifth-largest city in the Netherlands and already had plenty of high-tech companies, including many that were once divisions of Philips (the largest lighting manufacturer in the world). It also has a history of cooperation between research institutions, government organizations and corporations to develop new products as well as foster start-up companies.

In 2000, it formed a cooperative between private companies and public entities called Brainport, designed to grow its knowledge-based economy and better serve the needs of residents. Projects included improving healthcare for the elderly and improving the infrastructure. Some impressive statistics include 90 percent or higher broadband penetration everywhere and more than 50,000 new jobs added in the past decade.

Eindhoven was already high-tech at the start (although their accomplishments are no less impressive because of it). Sometimes, communities become smart by learning how to adapt and evolve their existing structure and economy to meet today's challenges. A nonprofit called Enterprise St. John in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, helped take the region from an industrialized city to one focused more on technology and service industries. Its history was one of shipbuilding, oil drilling and different types of paper production, but these industries had fallen into decline by the early 2000s. Enterprise St. John began initiatives like recruiting skilled college students from local schools as well as immigrants and entrepreneurs. About 24 percent more residents are college-educated than in 1991, and they have the highest median income of anybody in the province.

Both of these communities are existing ones that have been working toward "smart" status. Some communities have approached the concept in a different way: building it from the ground up. Smart Village Egypt was built in 2003 as a high-tech cluster of multinational businesses, government organizations and educational institutions, with meeting spaces, recreation and restaurants to serve them. All buildings have the latest in broadband technology. They also provide bus transportation for employees to cut back on traffic and car pollution. Companies like Microsoft, IBM and Vodafone have offices there. There are no residences yet, but there are plans for schools and a hotel.

These are just a couple of examples of smart community practices at work -- there are many more. In the future, the numbers will continue to grow as leaders work to make their communities thrive in our ever-changing economy.


More to Explore