Smart Cities of the 21st Century—A Case for Blockchain Technology

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Seoul, South Korea, is one of the most technically advanced cities in the world. As soon as you arrive in Incheon you are met with the technology that is ubiquitous from well-timed rails, to coordinated buses.  And—you will never miss an internet connection from Incheon to Seoul.

Almost all aspects of public life in Seoul are guided by technology. It includes everything from its integrated public transport system, to the government’s emergency warning system.

The bus system uses online electric vehicle technology (OLEV) which enables buses to transfer electricity—wirelessly—from the road surface while they’re on the move.  According to Cate Lawrence of Read Write, “As a bus drives through along one of the recharging surfaces, power comes from electrical cables buried under the surface of the road, creating magnetic fields.”

Smart Cities for the Future

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced that Seoul would host the Smart City Summit & Conference 2019, October 1 and 2 to seek development of the smart city with global cities and companies. Two weeks later, on October 15, Ted Ross, ITA General Manager for Los Angeles, will deliver the keynote address: “Blockchain for a Smarter Los Angeles.”

As the second largest city in the US in population and the second largest city in GDP—Los Angeles continues to move forward with infrastructure updates and developments.  Moving to development as a blockchain enabled smart city is a natural progression.

What is a Smart City?

Techopedia defines a smart city as: “a designation given to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs.”

Overall, smart cities are designed to improve the quality of life for its citizens by using smart technology.

While there is no complete or definitive explanation of what a smart city is—we do recognize that a “breadth of the technologies that can be incorporated into a city in order for it to be considered a smart city,” says Mark Deakin.

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Husam Al Waer and Mark Deakin (“From Intelligent to Smart Cities”) says that of smart cities, the factors that contribute to a city being classified as smart include the application of technology and policy in order to uplift life and the working environments in the region. These include:

      • Wide variety of digital and electronic technologies to the city and its communities,
      • Application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
      • Embedding ICT within government systems
      • Practices to bring the people and ICT together in order to foster innovation and enhance the knowledge that they offer

Blockchain Smart Cities

City managers will need to have a clear definition of how a smart city ought to guide blockchain use case applications. With many cities implementing Internet of Things (IoT) technology, a good deal of blockchain use case applications is a fitting starting place. Blockchain “can keep messy data organized, manage decentralized systems, and enable trust between nodes, whether those nodes are sensors or humans.”

Andrew Braun writes in IoT Tech Trends  that four cities—Estonia, Seoul, Norway, and Nevada—provide examples of smart city blockchain use case applications. The following is a review of what each is working on.


South Korea is one of the most connected countries in the world and one of the most technically advanced with their bus system and Wi-Fi connectivity. To make their capital city even more technically advanced, Seoul is working diligently to develop blockchain technology focused on citizen services.

S-coin. A points system used to reward citizens for paying taxes or helping to improve civic life.

Workers’ rights program. A blockchain system to improve employer/employee contracts, track employee time, document work history, and register for social services.

Seoul citizen card. In addition to ID cards, residents in Seoul will use blockchain technology to give them access to public services.

Other services. Seoul is looking to use blockchain for used car sales, issuing documents, medical records, and more.


Estonia is actually a country of 1.5 million residents. Although it’s a country, its total population is less than the top 100 worldwide cities. They have an ambitious program to save the government 800 years annually by placing government services on blockchain.

Health records. Estonia is using blockchain to allow patients to view their own medical history as needed, and to see if others, and who, may have viewed their medical records.

E-Residency. This program allows anyone to run a business out of Estonia by accessing their suite of public services. They will be able to connect their ID to an Ethereum address, verify documents with notaries, make investments, and more—all within the secure blockchain enabled ecosystem.

Cybersecurity. Deployment of Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) is “ a method and a globally distributed network infrastructure for the issuance and verification of KSI signatures.” With this technology, Estonia can now ensure that government data and records are protected.

Norway and Nevada

While Liberstad is a small proto-town in Norway and the designated smart city in Nevada hasn’t yet been identified, their common goal is to create cities that “run themselves with as little bureaucracy as possible using blockchain technology, automation, and IoT.”

Liberstad. Liberstad will use the blockchain network to enable “secure and private identities, communications, contracts, transactions, registrations, insurance, and more.” Currently under development. However, if the project is successful Norway will roll it out to other cities.

Nevada. For Nevada, the planned city (parcels of land in a desert) essentially has the same plan as Liberstad. Starting with land near Sparks, Nevada, “crypto-millionaire Jeffrey Berns” has plans to build a smart city. By using blockchain enabled IoT, Berns will focus on technical innovation and decentralized government to manage “everything from land-rights transfers to ride-sharing.”


With blockchain technology making inroads into city planning, the smart city will be able to deliver on its promise to improve the quality of life for everyone in their communities.

While Seoul, like the proverbial Phoenix, has risen from ashes to being one of most technically advanced cities on the globe—blockchain has the ability to bring innovation and to improve the lives of ordinary citizens living in places like Los Angeles, Detroit, or San Francisco where neglect over the years have eroded once thriving communities.

Nevada’s smart city doesn’t even exist, and Liberstad looks more like a proof of concept, blockchain technology is clearly an idea that is catching on—on many levels. Dubai, Melaka Straits City, Tel Aviv, and other, are cities looking to use blockchain technology in some capacity. With smart contracts, IoT, security, blockchain based tokens, and more—there is no shortage of ideas of what can be possible across the globe.


Samuel H. is an author, writer and speaker with over twenty years in the educational technology sector.

Contact Samuel


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