Smart Cities Using XR/AR

What are Smart Cities?

In recent years, we see more and more smart cities emerging and governments competing over building the next great smart city. In turn, the country behind the city gains immense publicity, popularity and potential tourism revenue in part due to its enormous benefits to infrastructure, public health, and technological bounds.

It is essential to understand the meaning of “Smart City” because many people use the term interchangeably, which challenges its actual meaning. A smart city uses digital technologies to make cities more resilient, sustainable, adaptive and environmentally inclusive.
However, it is crucial to understand that a smart city is not merely the use of digital technologies; instead, it is an entirely new concept that transforms urban landscapes completely.

This article will explore augmented reality (AR) and extended reality (XR) technology in smart cities to understand how these technologies improve the smart city’s functions from transportation, infrastructure, building systems and more. In addition, these technologies enhance the city’s administrative management to make citizens’ lives smarter.

Sensors + Digital Twin + Smart City = Augmented Reality Success

Augmented reality is a major technological breakthrough that can diversify human experience within a physically built environment. If you are unsure of what AR is, you may have caught on to the Pokemon Go craze, where you have the Pokémon depicted through your mobile lens. In essence, that is what AR is; it augments your day-to-day. Fundamentally, augmented reality (AR) integrates digital data, high-end visuals through computer vision, and sensor-based real-time interactions.

They aid in providing a platform where users can experience, sense, and interact with a real-time environment that exists either only in the digital world or complimented by the real world with additions from the physical world. It can provide users with an engaging environment that unlocks the future of limitless possibilities for diversifying and evolving the urban landscapes and the citizen experience.

How will Augmented Reality (AR) accelerate the smart city evolution?

From an urban landscape perspective, AR is a game changer; people can interact with the environment on a digital platform at the inception phase through simulations or by creating a digital twin and integrating the sensor data. As a result, any debates about the design of infrastructure or building projects can quickly be altered, visualised, and resolved. Furthermore, as discussed above that AR provides a vast pool of data. Consequently, it can be valuable for shaping our environments toward smart city technology.

Since smart cities involve continuous planning at different levels to test whether particular technology or design is fit for implementation. AR technology helps in understanding how decisions and design choices impact the totality. For example, it can be how roads or any other infrastructure system will look and function once built. Thus, it provides multiple options for planners to review their design prototypes. Furthermore, as a smart city uses an intelligent network of IoT devices and sensors, it is also much needed that the smart city is safe from natural disasters and hazards that might erupt due to degradation, accidents, or targeted disruption. In these scenarios, AR technology can detect and support the resolution of a targeted or natural disruption.

Augmented Reality (AR)
a view of the physical world with an overlay of digital elements.

– Interaction Design Foundation

The benefits of AR technology are limitless; in cities, the maintenance works bear critical importance, yet the level of drift can be complicated to monitor, and a smart city necessitates having an up-to-date current state. In this sector, the technology can assist in diagnosing where leakages tend to appear. Similarly, underground electrical cables can be observed with AR technology. Anything from temperature, weather, energy fluctuations, and performance issues are essential data products in a smart city that, when combined, generate valuable insights that can then drive improvements to the smart city, back to the physical object and the digital realm.

Climate change and environmental pollution are one of the most pressing concerns of today’s world. Therefore, the fundamental aim behind introducing the concept of smart cities is to attain a sustainable built environment and to reduce the impact of climate change and environmental pollution.

For meaningful steps toward climate change, reducing pollution and attaining a climate-positive city, collecting the data, and not just digitising a city but transforming it digitally is key.

These concerns impact our urban systems from tsunamis, floods, tornadoes and disasters. To address these challenges, AR technology can present a digital platform with the integration of indoor and outdoor ambience sensors; as a result, significant areas can be linked to disaster prone areas which help in early warning and emergency response. In addition, AR technology can generate real-time information about traffic routes, thus, minimising traffic congestion and ensuring the prompt arrival of emergency response or evacuation of the civilian population.

Extended Reality (XR)
Umbrella term that encompasses the sort of technology that alters reality by adding digital elements to the physical or real-world environment by any extent.

– Interaction Design Foundation

Advantages of XR Technology in a Smart City?

Imagine sitting at an office desk at home with your team members. The meeting has just wrapped up, their avatars around you vanishing into thin air. Together you’ve looked at the concept for another smart city to be built; a digital twin representation, the sensors to be placed for capturing and streaming data, the simulation showing the IoT thresholds, and power coverage to data thresholds. With the numerous projects; and the plethora of workstreams in place to ensure qualification and definition of data products to be harvested and ingested, as the meeting ends, you leave simply using a gesture. Ready to tackle the day, living in a smart city world, you have real-time data visualised depicting your husband en route home from work. Together, you will see your daughter’s piano recital; the potential is tremendous.


To summarise, AR and XR technologies in Smart Cities have immense value. The challenge is tackling it holistically. Today we see concepts at the cutting-edge but at times viewed as unthinkable due to the current limitations of technology.

However, we must aim high through experimentation, development and agility as the tech is at its precipice of innovation.

The use of VR/AR/XR technology in combination with digital twin at the development stage for the concept. In the build phase, it also enables the engineering, design, technology firms, and governments to scale the implementations of their smart city concepts, which improve immensely by using AR and XR technologies existing and evolving throughout the city’s lifecycle.

Additionally, it can save plenty of time and cost. This confirms that AR and XR technologies should be encouraged in the planning and design phase. This will enable us to make informed and intelligent decisions about cities so that cities can continue evolving alongside the technological capabilities.

Are you interested in exploring smart city or extended reality techs such as (AR, VR, MR) reach out! You can connect with me through the comments, Twitter (@UlvBjornsson) or LinkedIn.


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