Advertising in the Smart City: Huge Opportunities to Catch

smart city

The idea of smart cities has been under active development in the recent years, but the whole concept is just starting to evolve. Nevertheless, smart city market is expected to become a 1,5 trillion dollar industry and attract big players, according to Forbes.

What is a Smart City? In its essence, it is an urban area where data collection sensors are extensively used to collect information and use it for efficient resource management, including infrastructure, service, traffic, energy etc. Smart city concept integrates IoT (as physical devices connected to the network) and ICT (information and communication technology). Smart city concept is now primarily being put to life in India, China, UAE with more and more cities in North America and Europe implementing similar technologies.

What opportunities does Smart City bring to marketers and advertisers?

To answer what potential lies within the smart city concept, let’s look at the current trends in advertising. Lately, there has been a steady shift towards advertising that delivers solutions for the consumers needs right when they arise, or even anticipates them, rather than showing possible solutions to the needs that may never appear (based on predictive analytics, machine learning etc).

The big challenge that marketers and advertisers are fruitlessly trying to overcome is bridging the gap between online and offline retail worlds of their consumers. While, roughly speaking, each potential consumer’s click is known, analyzed and built a strategy upon, offline behaviour of the same consumer remains obscure.

This is exactly where smart cities can work magic. By collecting data about city’s population in general and each citizen in particular, they can uncover the preferences, behaviours, patterns, location etc. Connecting this information to the data on consumers’ online behaviour will allow marketers to reach new targeting and personalization heights.     

What is the future of advertising in the Smart Cities?

More digital displays

It is quite logical to assume that digital signage and display screens will experience a boom along with the growth of smart cities. They will make the necessary touchpoints to communicate a relevant message to a potential customer at the best time in the right place, wherever they are.

For example, more and more cities can boast about kiosks providing high-speed Wi-Fi, phone charging, info services and displays that are used both for advertising and kiosks communicating public messages.

A surge of new technologies for improved consumer experience

Today, we already witness how sophisticated technologies enhance consumer experiences. Beacons, proximity technology, light and audio sensors are already used for smart advertising campaigns allowing to react to numerous factors, like weather conditions, time of day, size of audience, its demographics and show relevant messages according to the situation.

For instance, the payment systems, GPS sensors and beacons used on transport or stations can gather data about a passenger’s journey, not only the destination and itinerary, but even Wi-Fi activity during the transportation. Needless to say what extensive opportunities for personalized ad messages this provides, especially taking into account that not only digital signage or displays in vehicles can be used for this purpose, but also a passenger’s mobile device.

A fly in the ointment – privacy concerns

Along with the unheard of amount of consumer data, both about their online and physical moves, comes an issue of privacy. How far can advertisers go for their message to stay relevant, but keep away from intruding into personal lives? This is yet to be answered. One thing is for sure, the companies that go too far, risk ruining the trust of their customers and alienate them.


We’re definitely at the brink of the new “revolution” in the advertising world, where the correctly applied technology would become an important condition of success.

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