January 6, 2023

Smart Cities Glossary


Communities across Canada are embracing smart city technology to improve the lives of their residents. These discussions can sometimes be challenging to follow — from cloud computing to smart infrastructure, the language we use to have these important conversations is changing every day.

We’ve created a glossary of definitions to help navigate the smart city landscape, and facilitate these conversations in your own community.


Artificial intelligence, or the simulation of human intelligence in programmed machines. A subset of A.I. is machine learning, which refers to computers learning and adapting to new data on their own.


An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a software intermediary that allows existing applications to communicate with each other.


The portion of a telecommunications network that links the core network to smaller subnetworks.


The amount of data that can be transferred from one point to another within a network in a specific amount of time. Typically expressed as a bitrate, and measured in bits per second, or bps. It is an important factor when determining the quality and speed of a network or internet connection.

Civic Tech (or Civic Technology)

Civic Tech is a general term to describe a wide range of technologies that bring society and government together. For example, it can help to improve civic engagement, or to help improve public service delivery. These technologies are often developed by non-profit groups (such as ‘Code for Canada’), but also the private and public sector.

Clean Tech (or Clean Technology)

Technology that is designed with environmental sustainability in mind, including renewable energy sources.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the availability of computer system resources, including data storage and computing power, available to users over the Internet.

Community Broadband

Internet services provided by municipalities, nonprofits, small Internet service providers, co-operatives, public utilities, community organizations, or some combination thereof, to community residents.


In a smart city context, effective mobile coverage systems, including 4G and 5G coverage, which can support a wide-range of smart-city technology.

Data Collaboration

The sharing of data in clear, accessible ways with the necessary stakeholders. Monitoring and analysis tools can synthesize data from multiple sources into data visualizations that are easier to navigate and understand.

Data Governance

The process of managing the integrity, use, security and availability of data. Data governance can organize our complex and evolving relationship with data as a matter of public policy.

Digital Placemaking

Digital placemaking is the use of digital technology to create and enhance public spaces, such as parks, streets, and squares. It involves using digital media, such as interactive kiosks, projection mapping, and social media, to create engaging and immersive experiences for people visiting these spaces. The goal of digital placemaking is to make public spaces more interactive, informative, and enjoyable for all users, and to create a sense of community and belonging among the people who visit these spaces. Digital placemaking can also involve using technology to gather data about how people use and interact with public spaces, in order to inform decisions about how these spaces can be improved and better serve the needs of the community. 

Ethical Smart City

A city whose diverse communities are celebrated and actively engaged in the consideration, creation and integration of technological or data-driven solutions, and where the needs of residents are represented in the community’s built and networked environment.

Fibre Optic

Fibre Optic, short for Fibre Optic Internet, is an Internet connection that transfers data via fibre optic cables. The “fibre” is thin glass wires inside a larger protective cable, while the “optic” is the way data is transferred, through light signals.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The network of physical objects, or things, which are connected to other devices and systems over the Internet.


Physical spaces that put the modes of fabrication and training into the hands of community members by offering virtually any kinds of tools and training, from crafting and woodworking to digital design and fabrication, like 3D printing.

Mesh Networks

Type of internet networking that offers more reliable connections. They create connections between all devices in the network, and information is passed from one device (or node) to the next until to reaches its destination.

Open Data

Data that anyone can access, use and share. Any person, business, government or organization can use open data to bring about social, economic and environmental benefits.

Open Smart City

An Open Smart City is where all sectors and residents collaborate in mobilizing data and technologies to develop their communities through fair, ethical, and transparent governance that balances economic development, social progress, and environmental responsibility.


Stands for radio-frequency identification. A technology that uses radio waves to passively identify a tagged object.

Shared Mobility

Transportation shared among users. A range of mobility solutions and business models shared either concurrently or sequentially by users. Any form of transportation that is not people using their own personal vehicles (like a private car or bicycle) is a form of shared mobility.

New Shared Mobility is tech-enabled transportation shared among users. The new shared mobility is both a strategy and a transport mode that gives access to shared mobility when users want it, moving away from ownership to usage. Sharing may happen concurrently or one after the other. Powered by new technologies, new business models and new modes of mobility, this suite of new transportation-related innovations are growing rapidly.

Shared Micromobility is a rapidly expanding mode in Canada, with fleets of smaller, lower-speed vehicles for personal transportation that are either human or electric-powered. The most common types of shared micromobility are bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters, mostly found in urban areas with medium to high density.

Smart City

A resilient, inclusive and collaboratively-built city that uses technology and data to better the quality of life for all people.

Smart Energy

Refers to a process of using devices build on renewable sources of energy that are also more cost-effective.

Smart Infrastructure

The integration of data and tech into the fundamental facilities and systems serving a community, city, country, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function.

Spatial Data Analytics

Involves using a specialized set of data analytics tools and algorithms to analyze spatial data and uncover hidden patterns and improve predictive modelling.

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