On the Sustainability of Smart and Smarter Cities in the Era of Big Data: An Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Literature Review
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Big Data. 2019, . 10.1186/s40537-019-0182-7
There has recently been a conscious push for cities across the globe to be smart and even smarter and thus more sustainable by developing and implementing big data technologies and their applications across various urban domains in the hopes of reaching the required level of sustainability and improving the living standard of citizens. Having gained momentum and traction as a promising response to the needed transition towards sustainability and to the challenges of urbanisation, smart and smarter cities as approaches to data-driven urbanism are increasingly adopting the advanced forms of ICT to improve their performance in line with the goals of sustainable development and the requirements of urban growth. One of such forms that has tremendous potential to enhance urban operations, functions, services, designs, strategies, and policies in this direction is big data analytics and its application. This is due to the kind of well-informed decision-making and enhanced insights enabled by big data computing in the form of applied intelligence. However, topical studies on big data technologies and their applications in the context of smart and smarter cities tend to deal largely with economic growth and the quality of life in terms of service efficiency and betterment while overlooking and barely exploring the untapped potential of such applications for advancing sustainability. In fact, smart and smarter cities raise several issues and involve significant challenges when it comes to their development and implementation in the context of sustainability. With that in regard, this paper provides a comprehensive, state-of-the-art review and synthesis of the field of smart and smarter cities in relation to sustainability and related big data analytics and its application in terms of the underlying foundations and assumptions, research issues and debates, opportunities and benefits, technological developments, emerging trends, future practices, and challenges and open issues. This study shows that smart and smarter cities are associated with misunderstanding and deficiencies as regards their incorporation of, and contribution to, sustainability. Nevertheless, as also revealed by this study, tremendous opportunities are available for utilising big data analytics and its application in smart cities of the future to improve their contribution to the goals of sustainable development by optimising and enhancing urban operations, functions, services, designs, strategies, and policies, as well as by finding answers to challenging analytical questions and thereby advancing knowledge forms. However, just as there are immense opportunities ahead to embrace and exploit, there are enormous challenges and open issues ahead to address and overcome in order to achieve a successful implementation of big data technology and its novel applications in such cities.