Using GIS In Smart City Planning

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Smart cities have been growing in the past several years, but that growth and the innovation that comes along with it has been accelerated exponentially due to the events of the last several months. A burgeoning number of data tools along with the demand (and necessity) for transparency from civic leaders and planners have also been drivers of this growth. 

What Is A Smart City?

While the definition of a “smart city” can vary widely, generally it applies to urban environments or communities that use data-driven technology to build infrastructures that allow for increased equity, mobility, and overall quality of life. This data is collected with tools that are constantly connected to cloud databases that keep information to be used to make decisions in real-time. Generally, this data should be available and accessible to city and organization leaders that are involved in smart city growth.

What Role Does GIS Play?

Geographic information systems (GIS) are the backbone of smart city initiatives, providing location-specific information in a hypergranular and contextualized way. GIS maps offer a visual way to convey complex data to those involved in the planning process with any and every level of technical knowledge — including smart city constituents. GIS also allows emergency response managers to predict and track elements like extreme weather and natural disasters.

Choosing Smart City GIS Platforms

There’s no shortage of GIS platforms available for smart city planners and managers, but they’re not all created equal by any measure. Getting a return on investment means knowing what to look for in a platform that’s best suited for the specific application.

Usability and Relevancy

Data tsunamis can cause paralysis for those whose role doesn’t lend itself to a deep understanding of how to analyze a massive influx of information. Without an intuitive dashboard and layout, government officials — who already have so much on their plates — could easily become overwhelmed trying to find relevant information and drawing insight from it. 


To that note, the solution you choose or build needs to work with the data-collection and smart city systems already in place. Their way to do this (efficiently) is by customizing and personalizing the GIS platform before adopting it. Users are then able to fully control the outcomes they’re looking for. 


Data privacy is a huge issue for smart city constituents, who may already have mixed feelings about surveillance tools throughout their community. Stakeholders, too, need to have peace of mind that their reputation won’t be impacted by a breach. GIS platforms need to offer end-to-end encryption to protect that data and keep it secure from bad actors.


Having only one user or team member who knows how to use the platform creates a silo that slows down productivity. The GIS platform you use needs to allow users of all groups to find the data they need quickly and easily without requiring expertise to do so. Training materials should be easy to find and understand, as well.


Government officials are no strangers to clunky, outdated legacy systems that are expensive or even impossible to update. GIS platforms should fall under that umbrella; you’ll want to choose a solution that can expand along with your smart city without growing pains. It should be easy to add features as your smart city adds sensors and tools to track data.


GIS platforms should offer data integration. Gone are the days where each department or organization operated on their own separate platforms; imagine the domino effect that would happen if just one of those servers went down. If there is a continuity issue, integration means that only one vendor will need to be contacted for a fix.

Growing a smart city is a complex dynamic process, and the right GIS platform can become a cornerstone of that growth. Make sure you’re working with a team of experts that will work closely with your team to create that platform — like our team of geospatial experts.

We are committed to providing services and platforms for geospatial solutions, seamless one-feature-one-time map production, world-class city wayfinding, and integrated public transport information; all of which help a smart city grow and thrive. Join our team today and find out how to help develop your career by developing GIS tech that drives smart city progress forward.