The Age of the Smart City

In this paper (downloadable here), I argue that the smart cities movement is simply the latest stage in the massive dissemination of digital computation that began with its invention some 70 or more years ago. In fact, the key thesis in the paper is that digital automation is simply the outcome of dramatic transition from a world without machines to one with, that digital technologies are the natural end-state of a process of automation that marks the ascent of man in general. This became evident with the rapid super-exponential change in technologies marked by the first industrial revolution which lead to the invention of the steam engine, then proceeding at pace through electrical and then into the digital revolution. In this context, I argue that the smart cities movement is the essence of the sixth Kondratieff wave. In developing this, I relate these waves of technological innovation to the prospect of all waves speeding up and collapsing into a singularity while in parallel, continuing into a regime of permanent creativity at the individual level

This paper also reflects on how the smart city can be defined and the difficulties in providing a coherent framework for its understanding and analysis. To an extent, smart cities are simply one feature of the city and to generate any collective and comprehensive understanding, ideas and technologies defining it must be related to every other perspective on the city. In this paper, I allude to the notion that the world population will stabilise during this century – that the demographic transition will work itself out and when we look back from the distant future, we will see this period as one in which the world moved rapidly from a non-urban regime to an urban one. In an earlier paper, I elaborated this argument in a commentary entitled “When all the world’s a city” which you can download here and can be read alongside the new article (also accessible on Research Gate).

Geographies of Technology


Read our paper by Batty, Lin and Chen on Virtual Realities, Analogies and Technologies in Geography, where we continue to parade the idea of virtual geographic environments – VGE

From the publisher’s blurb: This Handbook offers an insightful and comprehensive overview from a geographic perspective of the numerous and varied technologies that are shaping the contemporary world. It shows how geography and technology are intimately linked by examining the origins, growth, and impacts of 27 different technologies and highlighting how they influence the structure and spatiality of society. Following summaries of important conceptual issues such as diffusion, gender and science studies, the book explores various technologies, which are grouped into six main categories:

  • Computational: code, location-based services and virtual reality
  • Communications: fiber optics, satellites, the internet, radio, cell phones and television
  • Transportation: automobiles, aviation, drones, railroads, and shipping and ports
  • Energy: biofuels, dams, fracking, geothermal energy, pipelines, solar energy and LEED buildings
  • Manufacturing: robotics, just-in-time systems and nanotechnology
  • Life sciences: new technologies of health care, biotechnology and biometrics.

Significantly, the book includes in-depth explorations of new technologies that have so far received very little attention from geographers. This much-needed Handbook offers a comprehensive and state-of-the-art summary of the geographies of major technologies and how they affect society, economies, geographies and everyday life. It will appeal to academics and advanced students interested in geography, planning and the social sciences in general.

Understanding Spatial Media


A new book from the Kitchin stable. I have a short chapter in it on smart cities and you can get it here. Over the past decade, a new set of interactive, open, participatory and networked spatial media have become widespread.  These include mapping platforms, virtual globes, user-generated spatial databases, geodesign and architectural and planning tools, urban dashboards and citizen reporting geo-systems, augmented reality media, and locative media.  Collectively these produce and mediate spatial big data and are re-shaping spatial knowledge, spatial behaviour, and spatial politics.

My chapter on Producing Smart Cities that you can download here within the book edited by Kitchin, Lauriault and Wilson Understanding Spatial Media brings together a series of ideas from around the globe to examine these new spatial media, their attendant technologies, spatial data, and their social, economic and political effects. The chapters are divided into the following sections: Spatial media technologies. Spatial data and spatial media, and the consequences of spatial media.