Smart Cities Transformation: How to Turn a Regular Society into a Smart One? 

By recent forecasts, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban centers by 2050. That also means our cities will become even more crowded and energy-consuming if we don’t take the right measures now.
If you’re interested in how our cities can become smarter, read on.

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smart cities

Illustration: MilicaM

What is Society 5.0?   

If you look on Google Maps at how much time it takes to get from one place to another, it may not take you that much. But, when you actually try to take that route, you’d often be surprised that it lasted somewhat longer than initially presented. 

The truth is, the problem isn’t in Google Maps, or any other app that you may use. 

The problem is in the way our cities were designed. 

That is, if you get stuck in traffic, or are looking for a parking spot, it may take you twice as much. 

Now, if you multiply that time by the number of days, weeks, or months, you’d be shocked by how much time you lose simply because of poor infrastructure. 

This simple example shows that our cities, in most cases, aren’t as optimized as they could be. Or, in other words, they weren’t designed in a smart way. 


Today’s societal challenges call for a holistic approach to problem-solving, putting people at the center of innovations and allowing for everything to be connected and where benefits are shared by everyone without disparity.

Source: Azbil report 

In a nutshell, Society 5.0 is characterized by these three elements: 

  1. Comfort – An advanced fusion of cyberspace and physical space. 
  2. High-quality lives – To balance economic advancement with the resolution of social problems. 
  3. Vitality – Liberated from cumbersome work, effectively utilizing time, benefiting everyone regardless of age. 

There are countless reasons why we need to reconsider our ways of spending days on Earth, but one of the most important ones is probably this sentence, cited from the Azbil report

Cities account for only 2% of the Earth’s surface but are responsible for 2/3 of greenhouse gas emissions. 

So, how could we get closer to Society 5.0? 

By leveraging the convergence between the Internet of Everything (IoE), smart data, and artificial intelligence to solve critical societal issues. 

Now, let’s hear it from an expert in the field and try to explain it based on one case study. 

Synergy between people and technology   

Many tend to dismiss the idea of smart cities, claiming that it’s only possible in high-income societies. In fact, a solid number of case studies show that smart projects that took place in developing countries were more than beneficial to the local community. 

For example, let’s look at the example of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and its capital, Sarajevo. 

If you’re wondering why we used this as an example, it’s because BiH had significantly fewer smart projects compared to Croatia and Serbia. Not only that, but BiH didn’t even make it to the charts after 2012. 

Luckily, some smart people from this country decided to change that narrative. 

According to the ICT expert Aleksandar Mastilović, technology can help but cannot solve all our problems. 

“A smart city is a tricky name. Cities cannot be smart. The truth is, people are smart. Similarly, artificial intelligence is not really intelligence. It’s something that’s controlled by us,” he pointed out during his Ted Talk. 


If you think that technology can solve your (security) problems, then you don’t understand the problems and you don’t understand the technology.

Quote: Bruce Schneier 

Contrary to popular opinion, smart projects don’t have to be complicated or difficult to comprehend. Their benefits are usually easily proven because they are visible, practical, and efficient. 

Namely, in Sarajevo, one European project took place with the idea of making streetlights more efficient by complying with the smart city system. In only three days, smart lights decreased energy consumption by 72%

How did these smart lights work? 

Well, they were placed in a walking area, near the bus station. The lights were dimmable, meaning that, if there were no pedestrians, the lights would only use 20% of their power whereas, if there were people walking by, the lights would turn up to 100%. 

Not only that, but the smart lights system is designed to save energy by up to 80% with LED lamps and optimize maintenance with up to 42% operational cost reduction. In addition, it increases lighting service quality, saves money, increases security, and reduces CO2 emissions. 

And the best part is, some of the built-in products were domestic. 

Mastilović, who took part in this project, shared advice on how to bring regular cities closer to smart societies: 

“Firstly, don’t try to solve your problems individually, even if there are great individual professionals. Try to create teams because they are stronger, and these projects aren’t an easy thing. Secondly, stop being a reseller of somebody else’s product. Try to create your own idea, vision and product. Try to do something for the community,” said Mastilović and added that smart societies should harness the potential of digital technology and connected devices in a way that improves people’s lives. 

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.