Dublin as a smart city?

The soft launch of Smart Dublin, a website showcasing the city’s foray into becoming a smart city, was launched in October.  It has been accompanied by the four local authorities actively collaborating on a Smart Dublin strategy and the coordination of various smart city initiatives.

The Smart Dublin vision consists of a mix of data-driven, networked infrastructure, fostering economic growth and entrepreneurship, and citizen-centric initiatives, with a particular focus on creating more efficient city services, improving transportation flows, tackling flooding, attracting inward investment and encouraging indigenous start-ups and SMEs, and opening data and encouraging civic engagement.  Initiatives concerning security and policing, which are more prominent in UK and US cities where terrorism is seen as more of a threat, are less of a priority.

Beyond the ambition and rhetoric of Smart Dublin, to what extent is Dublin already a smart city?  An audit of the four Dublin local authorities (Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council, Fingal County Council) reveals a relatively large number of mainstreamed smart city initiatives (see Table 1).

Table 1: Smart Dublin

Smart  economy


Provides access to city datasets, including some real-time data feeds

Digital Hub

Cluster of digital content and technology enterprises; provides space, infrastructure and support services for digital tech companies

Startup commissioner

Advocates for tech start-ups; organises events and support schemes


Provides support and capital investment for start-ups; runs/sponsors hackathons


Cleantech cluster supporting and developing the green economy



A website and app for reporting issues (e.g. vandalism, dumping, potholes) to local authorities

Public realm operations map

An interactive map that reports scheduled public works

CRM workflow

Customer relations management system used to interface with the public and undertake workflow planning

Library digital services

A suite of library apps for various services

Smart mobility

Intelligent transport system

A suite of different technologies including SCATS (transduction loops at junctions), CCTV, ANPR (automatic number plate recognition cameras), detection of breaking red lights at Luas (tram) lines, feeding into a centralised traffic control room

Eflow road tolling

Automated roll tolling/billing using transponders

Fleet management

GPS tracking of local authority fleets and route optimisation


Smart card access/payment for trains, buses and trams.

Real-time Passenger Information

Digital displays at bus and tram stops and train stations providing information on the arrival/departure time of services

Smart parking

Transponder payment system; park-by-text; display around city; API feed

display signs

Traffic (crash/delay) alerts; speeding display signs

Bliptracker displays

Bike counters; car parking spaces counters; airport queue counters

Dublin Bikes

Public hire bike scheme


Sensor flood monitoring

Use of sensor network to monitor river levels by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local authorities

Air pollution monitoring

EPA network of pollution sensors

Public building energy use

Real-time monitoring of energy use in local authority buildings; publicly displayed on screens

Big Belly Bins

Networked compactor bins that use sensors to monitor levels; waste collection route optimisation

Smart living

Street CCTV

Network of digital interactive CCTV cameras (alter direction/zoom)

Community CCTV

Network of CCTV in public places (e.g. parks); provides SMS alerts; can communicate through speakers in lampposts

Sonitus sound sensing

Network of sound sensors monitoring noise levels

Monitored sheltered housing

Remote monitoring of movement sensors and panic buttons in sheltered homes

Smart Stadium

Sensor network monitoring different facets of stadium use

Smart people

Dublin Dashboard

Comprehensive set of interactive graphs and maps of city data, including real-time data, as well location-based services

Fingal Open Data

Local authority open data sets

Map Alerter

Real-time alerts for weather and flooding


Consultation and deliberation tool for planning and development


Consultation and deliberation tool for planning and development


Civic hacking meetups

Code for Ireland

Civic hacking coding meetups

This table only includes operational, rolled-out initiatives procured or co-developed with local authorities, plus selected citizen initiatives.

Unlike other places, where smart cities are being built from the ground up, the Smart Dublin initiatives in Table 1 are building on top of legacy infrastructure and many decades of social and economic programmes.  As such, smart city initiatives and technologies have to be layered on top of long-standing systems and schemes, and be accommodated within or replace existing organisational structures.

Beyond the initiatives in Table 1, there is a whole raft of smart city apps available; some provided/commissioned by local authorities (e.g. Art Trax, Heritage Walks, Mindmindr), others developed by citizens and commercial enterprises (e.g. Hit the Road, Parkya, Walk Dublin).  Moreover, there are a range of ongoing research and pilot projects that have yet to be mainstreamed, and others that ran for a handful of years before terminating. Further, beyond the economic development organisations listed in Table 1, there is a fairly well developed ecosystem of ‘university-industry-local government’ smart city research centres and collaborations (including ‘The Programmable City’ (implications of creating smart cities), ‘Innovation Value Institute’ (business models for smart city technologies), ‘Insight’ (data analytics for smart cities), ‘CONNECT’ (networking and comms for smart cities), ‘Future Cities’ (sensor, communication and analytical technological solutions for sustainability), ‘Dublin Energy Lab’ (smart grids and meters) and some industry centres (e.g. IBM’s smart city global research team) and test-beds (especially relating to the Internet of Things).  Organisations such as Codema and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) undertake smart energy/grid projects and provide advice and guidance.

In short, Dublin can lay claim to being a nascent smart city, rather than simply trying to become one.  However, it is very much at the start of realising the ambition of the Smart Dublin strategy and the form of smart city it will become is still very much open to influence.

Claudio Coletta, Liam Heaphy, Rob Kitchin

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