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Smart future: What happens to cities?

By 2050, about 70% of the global population will live in cities. So the problem of organizing urban spaces in the most comfortable and convenient way for their residents is relevant even now. Leading cities, including Barcelona, ​​Helsinki, Beijing, New York, Sydney and Dubai, are already implementing the smart city concept. In Russia, Moscow has come closest to the idea, and in March 2019, the Russian government officially approved the Smart City national project. What is a smart city and what changes in city life will occur in 2020?

A smart city is an urban area where all infrastructure elements are interconnected through digital channels, along with several other criteria:

Enhanced urban mobility

In a smart city, roads have sensors that monitor traffic activity in real time. The sensor readings are analyzed to obtain high-quality results in managing traffic – to track traffic violations, accidents and traffic jams, and, accordingly, to optimize traffic and minimize accidents. In addition, a smart city contributes to the development of unmanned vehicles, and such vehicles will exchange data not only among themselves, but also with the urban infrastructure.

Effective organization of utilities

Buildings, neighborhoods and other structural elements of a smart city are connected into a single digital environment. Its utilities system fine-tunes its operation based on many factors, including weather, accidents and the need for repair and maintenance. Due to this smart organization, a smart city will allocate resources correctly and efficiently.

Online city services

Residents of a smart city have a 24/7 opportunity to contact various utilities and the city administration through online services and mobile apps. The concept of a smart city is not new but it started to become reality only recently. Moscow is the closest city to this urbanistic concept in Russia. The Smart City national project was officially approved in March 2019. Pilot projects will be soon launched in Kaluga, Veliky Novgorod, Perm, Ryazan, Stavropol, Ulyanovsk, Chelyabinsk, Cheboksary and several other cities.


Over the past eight years, Moscow has become much smarter thanks to a whole range of implemented technologies. Specifically, between 2012 and 2019, as part of the Information City state program, more than 200 city services used by almost 6 mio users have become available online. Moscow city website, multi-purpose centers and the electronic government were integrated into a single system. The healthcare system underwent changes as well. Thanks to the new Unified Medical Information and Analytics System, patients can now book doctor appointments online. Other areas affected by digitalization include education (online student portal and grade book and online school lunch payments) and civil society (Active Citizen portal).

Almost all areas of urban life have been transformed to a certain degree and become smarter. These changes helped Moscow to prepare for new conditions of the digital economy.

In the near future, several more programs for city upgrade are planned. For example, the Smart City 2030 strategy was launched in 2019 in Moscow. The strategy is designed to implement even more smart solutions based on artificial intelligence and Big Data.

Every year, the Moscow City Government organizes an international contest of IT solutions for city management, Urban. TechMoscow. In 2019, the program addressed such smart city problems as optimizing street maintenance expenses and providing personalized media content during mass events.   

Smart cities in the regions

In Russian regions, the smart city concept is developing most actively as part of the Smart City federal project. It is based on five key principles, including commitment to the people, the technology-based city infrastructure, the improvement of the quality of municipal resources management, a comfortable and safe urban environment, economic efficiency and environmental protection. By 2024, the cities that joined the project should reach the following objectives:

  • 60% of city residents aged over 14 should receive an opportunity to take part in making important decisions on urban development using digital means (i.e. apps and services, such as the Active Citizen app for Moscow residents);
  • The digitalization of the housing and utilities sector, city improvement, urban development and architecture;
  • Blocks of flats should be connected to the automated communal resources systems;
  • The number of management and utility companies that use automated dispatch systems should grow by 15%.

There are currently several examples of city projects in various regions of Russia where the main principles of a smart city have already been introduced or are being implemented.


An automated traffic management system is being gradually launched in the city. It allows for manage streetlights, assess the traffic flows, and use video surveillance to assess the situation on roads and streets.


The government of a small town of Satka in the Chelyabinsk Region has installed road pavement sensors that assess the quality of road pavement in the real time mode. The city is also building smart pedestrian crossings with information screens. If a person or an animal crosses the road, a warning message will appear on the screen for drivers. In addition, waste containers in the city are also getting smarter by using sensors to show when a container is full. Utility service spare fuel and time while collecting only full bins.


Tula will soon become a true smart city: there are smart bus stops, new traffic lights, and a system of smart street lighting. In addition, the local government digitalizes the utility services by installing smart water and heat meters in residential buildings.


This city in the Tula Region has created a platform named The City’s Digital Twin, which is a model of a city where the consequences of potential changes are simulated. Using this technology, one can calculate the effect of the smart utilities system, digital city management, autonomous city transit, and many other innovations.

What is next?

A total of 41 cities and towns from 27 regions of Russia have submitted applications for the Smart City project. The cities whose applications will be approved will start testing advanced digital and engineering solutions and various approaches to management, as well as regulatory models. Most projects are expected to be completed by 2024.

The national project’s official partner is the Orange Business Services international service provider. In May 2019, the provider signed two strategic agreements. Orange Business Services and SAP Orange will join forces to develop solutions for smart cities. Together with the Far East Agency for Investment Promotion, the provider will develop projects in Russia’s east and the Arctic. In the summer of 2019, Sberbank, Sberbank-Telecom and Orange Business Services signed an agreement on cooperation in developing Smart Cities projects. Orange Business Services plans to develop another four projects in this field soon. In Russia, we intend to utilize our experience in implementation of over 100 smart city projects across the globe, from Europe and Africa to the Middle East and Asia.

The main task of the Smart City federal project in Russia is integration of existing solutions into a unified system that will improve citizens’ living standards. According to National Agency for Financial Studies, over 60% of urban residents support introduction of smart technologies and devices and are ready to make use of their advantages. According to the Regnum news agency, the project is expected to provide up to 125 hours of free time per person annually.

By Robin De Keyser, Head of Business Solutions & Innovations Russia & CIS, Orange Business Services

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