In a special number on the revival of urban utopias (Futuribles 414, Sept-Oct. 2016), the rise of smart cities was seen as an important strand in future urban development, given the technological developments involved. More than 20 years after the appearance of this concept, the aim of which is to make cities ‘smart’ through the application of digital technology and the optimized management of local data, how is this idea faring today? Have the most notable experiments of recent years borne fruit? Has the phenomenon proliferated? How are we to reconcile the establishment of ‘smart city’ projects with respect for citizens’ rights and data? How does the governance of cities work in cities where private companies have control of residents’ data?
Jean-François Soupizet, who has been following the development of smart cities for many years, offers an interim assessment here. After providing an update on several emblematic projects, he firmly outlines the drivers of these projects and the factors holding them back, showing how the smart city is evolving under the pressure to combine technological performance, pursuit of the collective interest and transparency with regard to data use.