Smart Cities Digital Nations

Twenty-first century life, for most people, will be an urban experience. As millions migrate to cities in search of opportunity and connection, our conception of how a city runs, uses resources and manages public services must change. The city itself must be reimagined as a matrix of functions and information, with digitized networks harnessing and multiplying the power of data. This is not the future; this is today. Caspar Herzberg explains how ambitious new city plans across the world are moving from the drawing board into reality.

As a top Cisco consultant, he participated in groundbreaking projects in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, India, China and many other countries. In Smart Cities, Digital Nations, he recounts the origins of seminal digital city-building projects, including Songdo, South Korea the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Economic City, and explains how these early attempts have provided the groundwork for city planning efforts across the globe. Importantly, Herzberg moves beyond theory and discusses the delicate alliances between tech companies, city planners, municipal and national bureaucracies and citizen groups that undergird successful urban development. And while tech companies do not have all the answers, he explains their multifaceted contributions as absolutely necessary to the smart, forward-thinking digital infrastructure being created today.

While recognizing the immense challenges of both engineering and consensus among diverse stakeholders, Smart Cities, Digital Nations makes clear that digital cities are essential to the future prosperity of many developing countries, and to the continuing vitality of the West. This is a unique perspective on the recent past, present and future of the modern city, a guide through its challenges and a vision of its success.

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For the human race to succeed, our cities must succeed.The “urbanization” of our planet is well documented, as people are increasingly drawn from rural areas to cities seeking better opportunities and quality of life. By 2050, about two-thirds of the world’s population will live in or near urban centers.1 If we don’t get our cities right, we’re in big trouble. But there’s good news. Urban centers are incredible test beds for the Internet of Everything, the increasing connections between all of us, and digitization. Some of our most promising innovation is being fueled by cities working to create a better future for their citizens. We’re early in the journey, but there is a lot of progress being made. With the Internet of Everything, I believe the cities of the world have all the tools they need to become self-sustaining, more efficient, healthier, and safer for all their citizens. This takes foresight, courage, and the right partners to capture these opportunities and truly transform. As beacons for young and aspiring talent, cities must function effectively to help the best ideas and practices rise to the top and define each nation’s place in the global economy.

Digitization is essential for cities to reap the benefits of the Internet of Everything, which requires hardware, data storage, complex and interlocked networks and platforms. If you live in a city, you may already be well aware of how cameras, sensors, and data networks have changed the way you live, work, and travel. Smart appliances, thermostats, or security systems may have already made your home more responsive to your preferences and needs.

This is just the beginning. Sensors can alert systems managers when there is a service disruption, a leak in a water main, or when traffic problems occur. Networked devices embedded in the electric grid, gas lines, streetlights, security cameras, and more now capture and share information that can be analyzed and used to create a greater citywide intelligence and memory.Imagine a world where citizens don’t have to drive laps around a city to find a parking space and instead can monitor the available spots in their neighborhood with a mobile app.Or streetlights that only come on when a person is in the vicinity, saving electricity and costs while also keeping our cities safe.

What if there were ways in which citizens could connect with communities around the world via video telepresence equipment, and students could be tutored on Spanish from a teacher based in Spain. This is not the future. This is today. Young cities that have implemented digital capabilities in their master plans serve as the laboratories from which we can glean the challenges and possibilities presented by our technological advances. Cities with centuries of infrastructure are discovering ways to reinvent entire districts through digital transformation. Networked digital solutions are helping cities conserve resources, generate new sources of municipal revenue, ease traffic, and enable citizens to work from anywhere they choose. Any of these improvements have a measurable impact on quality of life. But digital transformation is a tide that lifts many boats. It provides the capacity to take efficiency, speed, and safety to new levels. And yet, the future of digital cities is still an open question. India, for example, is anticipating the construction of 100 new cities in the next few decades. Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and other developing nations with young populations are in need of new, vibrant economic centers where the next generation can receive training and find job opportunities. Meanwhile, the established nations around the world must reinvigorate their legacy cities so they are not left behind in a digital global economy.

How can cities and nations afford these improvements? Which should be implemented first? How will these networks and sensors deliver revenue, as well as speed and convenience? These are just some of the questions answered in Smart Cities, Digital Nations. This is a comprehensive view of how urban centers are changing and must change, written by someone who has been involved from the beginning in Cisco’s efforts to positively transform the world’s cities. It recounts several important engagements with municipalities around the world over the past fifteen years as we worked to reinvent our definition of what a city is and can be.

So read on, and learn how – through the power of the network and digital transformation – the cities of the future will be centers of health and prosperity for many generations to come – John Chambers served as CEO of Cisco from January 1995 to July 2015, and remains with the company as executive chairman of the board.


Caspar Herzberg has candidly, generously, and fearlessly distilled his rich field experiences in developing pioneering smart cities. This is a trailblazing book that I will reread many times

- Omar A,El Sawy, Stonier Chaired Professor, Digital Business Strategy, USC Marshall School of Business

In my role as chief globalization officer at Cisco, I had the pleasure of working with Caspar Herzberg in bringing the smart city concept to reality. He tells the story in a unique way, not only from the perspective of technology, but also from a cultural, social, economic, and ecosystem point of view. If you believe that you have to learn from the past to predict the future, this book is a must-read.

- Wim Elfrink,President, WPE Ventures Digitized Solutions; Chief Globalization Officer and EVP, Cisco, 1997–2015

Through Caspar Herzberg’s direct, hands-on project experience and compelling insights, he provides us with a clear view of the profound changes cities are going through, and of the impact technology and the Internet have throughout the whole world.

- Nicola Villa,Executive Partner and Vice President, Global Government Industry IBM Global Business Services

Smart Cities, Digital Nations is a must-read for all citizens―it is a view into the future reality, an opportunity to examine possibility, and a reason to actively engage in shaping a much better world.

- Sanjay Gupta,CEO Global at EnglishHelper Inc., blog columnist, and former Senior Vice President and Head of the India Leadership Team at American Express

Emerging economies, consistent with other technological advances of the recent past, are presented with the opportunity to leapfrog straight into the digital cities of the future. Caspar Herzberg makes this case with passion and aplomb in this compelling read for any student of contemporary innovation.

- Dan Sandhu,Technology Investor and Entrepreneur