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Smart Cities – Every Adventure Requires A First Step

A Product Manager opens up a bar but decided not to sell alcohol. “I noticed people come to bars and talk talk talk. Alcohol is just something they like to hold in their hand.”

All were shocked.

“Anyway, getting a liquor license is hard. And, I had to start somewhere.”


Remember when everything was ‘e-‘? Then everything was ‘i’? And, now we have ‘smart’.

However, they are all same. They use the technology of the day to bring in efficiency and effectiveness. How successful they were is a matter of debate. But with each iteration, the scope has increased. The scope of ‘smart’ is now being labelled as transformative.

In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration. (From

That is interesting. However, today conversations around Smart Cities are all about IoT, ICT, etc. We had to start somewhere. But this is not where we want the conversation to end.

“You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret all the best people are.” – Alice in Wonderland

Smart Cities in their current hyped-up form may be bonkers of an idea, but it has a great opportunity to be the best of an idea. All we have to do is step out of the IoT/ICT box.

I have found the concepts of Canvas, Frameworks, Modifying Frameworks, etc a very useful way to force self to think in a certain structured way and not lose track of big pictures. So naturally, I proceeded to create a framework for a Smart City.

But first I wanted to have a definition to start with.

Smart City – Definition

A smart city is not necessarily a digital city. Nor is it applicable to mega-cities or metropolitan cities only. Any city can become a smart city. This can be accomplished via retrofitting, re-development or greenfield development.

An aspirational definitional is not what a smart city is. Rather, what a smart city does. It should aim for and work towards this 9-point balance:




Human Framework

Tech Framework

Institutional Framework

Smart City Grid – Examples

“Alice: This is impossible.
The Mad Hatter: Only if you believe it is.”

– Alice in Wonderland

I tried filling this up based on Smart City conversations I encountered. Especially ones that were critical about something being ignored. This is what I have today:

Smart Cities 3x3 Grid

If this framework is followed to guide a Smart City, we will surely have a city that uses technology to serve the people.

Dinker Charak

Dinker has over a decade of experience in building products across diverse domains such as Industrial Automation, Home Automation, Operating Systems, High Energy Particle Physics, Embedded Systems, Online Video Advertising, Messaging, K-12 education and Private Banking. He also founded Gungroo Software. He books '#ProMa: Product Management Tools, Methods & Some Off-the-wall Ideas' and 'The Neutrinos Are Coming and Other Stories' are available globally. He also manages, an Indian Sci-fi portal.

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