When real meets virtual: How a smart city works

When real meets virtual: How a smart city works
Photo: Photo by the Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Yevgeny Samarin
We take advantage of a smart city everyday by connecting to the internet on public transport and on streets; we get electronic appointments to doctors, pay utility bills online and use online school services. This mos.ru article is about how Moscow managed to become one of the smartest cities in the world.

A smart city is a system where the resources of existing municipal services are used in an optimal way and make life more comfortable for people. To that end, a close connection is necessary between smart city projects (street video surveillance, government services, smart transport system and others) in a megacity.

City Wi-Fi and mobile internet

Numerous free Wi-Fi access points can be found on Moscow streets, in parks and pedestrian areas. There are over 2,000 of them within the Garden Ring and in parks. Internet access is provided on public transit as well, including the metro, the MCC, Aeroexpress trains, buses, trams and trolleybuses. No repeat authorisation is required when users change their means of transport.

Mobile internet is still eight times cheaper in Moscow than in New York City. Moscow ranks second in the world in terms of the accessibility to landline phone service.

How to use free Wi-Fi

Smart transport

Moscow’s smart transport system is one of the most important features of a smart city. Moscow has over 2,000 street lights, 3,500 traffic cameras and 2,000 video surveillance cameras. The data from these cameras goes to the Traffic Management Centre’s Situations Centre where it’s analysed in real time which helps manage the situation on the roads. Based on this information, the Traffic Management Centre can forecast the traffic situation, the need to close a road, open a one-way street or designate a lane for buses and trolleybuses.

Over 160 electronic displays installed on the main roads of the city can inform drivers about the weather, estimated travel time (for instance to the Moscow Ring Road or to the Third Ring Road) and traffic congestion. They also show roads with limited or restricted access. Since the introduction of the smart transport system, the number of road accidents in Moscow has dropped by almost half. The average speed has increased by 13 percent despite the growing number of cars.

Online services

Moscow was the first Russian region to launch an online service to pay various services and fees, transfer to the cloud most required construction documents and permit applications and give users the possibility to receive several services in one package.

It will only take minutes to check and pay traffic tickets, make an online appointment with a doctor, top up a Troika card, pay utility bills, enroll a child in a hobby club and many other benefits. In all, the Government Services portal offers 170 services.

Online appointment with a doctor

The Integrated Medical Information and Analytical System (IMIAS) was launched in Moscow in 2011. It helps find the nearest outpatient clinic, make an appointment with a doctor and receive a medical certificate. Since its launch, the new system has cut the waiting lines in outpatient clinics by 60 percent.

IMIAS is operating in 678 outpatient clinics, connecting 21,500 doctors and 9.5 million patients. It contains over 359 million doctor’s appointments and processes over 500,000 transactions each day. Some 700,000 people make appointments online every week. The system allows for making appointments via the internet, a mobile app, the telephone or through the information stands at clinics. It is also used to write online prescriptions, receive medical certificates for the traffic police and hold medical records of patients.

Plans call for introducing IMIAS to hospitals and integrating it with ambulance services and Moscow schools.

In 2015, the KPMG audit company, in its review, Smart Cities, acknowledged the IMIAS system as the leader in terms of technology in healthcare. In 2016, PricewaterhouseCoopers ranked Moscow first among megacities that actively use the analysis of collected data in healthcare management. IMIAS is also the winner of the English prize MobileGovWorld Summit 2017 in the area of mobile state and electronic services.

Video analytics

Moscow is among the top 10 cities with video surveillance camera coverage. The city has over 146,000 cameras: in building entrances, courtyards, in public places and education facilities. The records are used in the investigation of 70 percent of violations and crimes. Cameras also help monitor the work of utility crews.

The recordings go to the integrated centre for data storage and processing. In case of an emergency, it is possible to store the required information from a camera for 30 days. To do this, call +7 (495) 587-00-02, leave an application and then give the application number to the police or to a lawyer. Otherwise, the archive information is stored for five days.

Our City and Active Citizen

Muscovites can directly interact with the city Government and influence life in Moscow. The Our City portal is a feedback channel. People can leave comments or complaints about the work of municipal officials or utility services on the site.

Users can report an absence of a garbage bin in a park, broken steps or litter in courtyards, broken pavement, poor landscaping care, and report potholes. Over 1 million users are registered at Our City. As of now, some 1.8 million complaints have been addressed.

The Active Citizen system of electronic referendums allows people to voice their opinions on various city issues, from additional bus routes and lawn mowing schedules to the choice of a new name for a new metro line. Active Citizen users can collect bonus points and exchange them for souvenirs, theatre or museum tickets. As of now, over 1.9 million participants are registered on the portal, over 2,600 votes have been held and over 81 million opinions accepted.


The Moscow Electronic School project was launched in September 2016. The main components are keeping personal electronic record books and electronic textbooks for children, as well as an e-library of teaching guides and lesson scenarios. Scenarios have replaced lesson plans and look rather like a presentation with visual materials and exercises. Teachers can pick a scenario, supplement an existing one or create their own, and then provide everyone’s access to it.

This system allows for exchanging experience and creates a healthy competitiveness between teachers, because scenarios are evaluated and the number of downloads is monitored. So far, teachers have created 50,000 electronic scenarios.

Parents can track their child’s attendance, their meals in school, kindergarten and colleges

Interactive blackboards - 84-inch sensor screens - make lessons even more interesting. Using a stylus or just fingers, children can draw, drag elements, paint etc. Children today are used to electronic devices, so they like working in this format. For instance, during history lessons children gladly go up to the board and draw trade routes or colour areas where various peoples live. Such blackboards are especially handy in classes like solid geometry where it can show 3D objects. All interactive boards are connected to the internet so it is possible to quickly find laws, articles, videos etc.

Moscow schools also employ the electronic student record and Access and Meal system. These records allow parents to monitor their kid’s marks and the learning process in general. Access and Meal shows what time students arrive at school and what they bought for lunch.

How the Access and Meal system works

World recognition

Moscow can call itself a smart city, and the global community agrees. In July, PricewaterhouseCoopers listed Moscow among the top-5 megacities prepared for innovation. In June, Moscow received special mention from the World e-Governments Organization of Cities and Local Governments (WeGO) in the category of e-government services.

In February, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) ranked Moscow among the top seven finalists in the most intelligent city competition.