Criteria for Smart City Identification: A Systematic Literature Review

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The transition towards greater smartness is an emerging trend in the development of modern cities. This transition manifests itself in the widespread adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs), cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and other technological tools aimed at improving the level of city smartness. Although numerous studies have focused on the smart city (SC) phenomenon, knowledge about empirical criteria that can be used to define a city as “smart” and to measure the degree of a city’s “smartness” remains limited. The present study aims to bridge this knowledge gap by a systematic literature review of recent studies, in which various empirical criteria are used for SC identification. The study helps to identify a total of 48 SC identification metrics, which are further split into three main categories—smart digital technology, living conditions, and environmental (ecological) sustainability. Among these groups of criteria, the “smart digital technology” group of metrics appears to be the most popular, while criteria pertinent to “ecological sustainability” are applied considerably less often. As the study also reveals, only about half of the criteria used by empirical studies for SC identification actually relate to urban residents’ needs, with the rest being general technological measures. Therefore, for a balanced SC assessment, we suggest a ranking system based on the nine most important metrics, which equally represent all the main aspects of the SC phenomenon while placing an emphasis on the improvement of the quality of life of local residents. The proposed system is applied to several major cities across the globe to demonstrate its use and usefulness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4448
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • criteria
  • smart city
  • systematic literature survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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