The paper “Smart city ontologies: Improving the effectiveness of smart city applications‘ is an open access article published by the Journal of Smart Cities. The problem we address concerns the observed low impact of smart city applications in the fields of energy, transport, and economy, which are not the only fields where the impact of smart cities is incremental. The purpose of the paper is to provide an explanation for this low impact of individual smart city applications and discuss ways for improving their effectiveness.
The explanation we provide is that impact depends mainly on the ontologies used, and the way these are placed into the overall ontology of the smart city, and secondary on smart technology and programming features. The analysis of impact includes three steps. First, we construct an overall ontology for the smart city, by defining the its building blocks with respect to the most cited definitions of smart cities, and structuring the classes and properties with the ProtÃ©gÃ© 5.0 editor. The creation of this overall Smart City Ontology is original and made for this paper. Second, we study the ontologies, digital space, knowledge processes, and potential impact of a sample composed of 20 well known applications for smart cities. Then we analyse key variables of the ontologies of this sample, how they fit into the overall Smart City Ontology, and the consistency between their digital space, knowledge processes, and type of innovation that determine their impact.
The analysis and conclusions reveal the internal relationships between the smart city, as presented by its overall ontology, and the ontologies of smart city applications, the knowledge processes that derive, and their innovation impact.The findings have significant implications for the design and development of smart city applications. If we wish to improve their effectiveness and impact, then priority should be given to the design of their ontology, the classes and properties contained, and the relationship to the overall Smart City Ontology. The innovation potential should be defined as strategic objective during the design, and the knowledge processes capable to sustain the targeted innovation should be meticulously organised through the digital space of the application.
A series of strategies can contribute to more successful, higher impact applications, such as the design of groups of applications instead of stand-alone solutions; using platforms that integrate individual applications; working with large scale urban entities such as city districts, clusters, service ecosystems, communities of users; targeting solutions that sustain up-skilling of city users, companies, and organisations; and prioritising applications that affect the city’ s innovation system rather than the daily working of the city (Innovation Circuit 2 rather than Circuit 3). Smart city application designers should seek the input and advice of urban and innovation experts, user involvement, experience design, and crowdsourcing, to increase the probability of getting ideas and insights for innovation.