A hackathon is a great way to bring people together from different backgrounds and disciplines to develop creative solutions to problems. But if you've never organized one before, it can be challenging to know where to start. 

Hackathons come in many forms:

  • Virtual Hackathons
  • Legal Hackathons
  • Food Hackathons
  • Smart City Hackathons
  • etc.

This guide will walk you through the basics of planning and running a successful smart city hackathon.

What is a Smart City Hackathon?


A smart city hackathon is an event where people come together to find innovative solutions to problems faced by cities. These events are usually organized by city governments or organizations and bring together developers, designers, urban planners, and other experts to brainstorm ideas and create working prototypes.

"Smart city" refers to technology to make cities more efficient, sustainable, and livable. Hackathons focused on smart city solutions often tackle energy usage, transportation, waste management, and air quality.

Benefits of Hosting a Smart City Hackathon


There are many reasons why city governments and organizations might choose to host a smart city hackathon. These events can help improve smart city innovation and implementation, build capacity within the city government, and engage citizens in the planning process.

Benefit #1: Improve Smart City Innovation and Implementation

One of the main goals of smart city hackathons is to generate new ideas and solutions that can be implemented in the city. In addition, these events often bring together people from different disciplines who might not otherwise have the opportunity to work together. This cross-disciplinary collaboration can lead to breakthrough solutions that would not have been possible without the hackathon.

In addition, city governments and organizations can use hackathons to test out new technologies and ideas before making a more significant investment. By hosting a smaller, more focused event, city leaders can get feedback on ideas and prototypes before moving forward with implementation.

Benefit #2: Build Capacity Within the City Government

Another benefit of smart city hackathons is that they can help build capacity within the city government. In addition, these events allow city employees to learn new skills and gain experience with emerging technologies.

Hosting a hackathon can also help city governments build relationships with private-sector partners, which can help when seeking funding or partnerships for smart city initiatives.

Benefit #3: Engage Citizens in the Planning Process

Smart city hackathons can also be used for engagement, giving citizens a chance to provide input on city projects and initiatives. These events can help build trust between the city government and its citizens and make the planning process more inclusive.

By hosting a hackathon, city leaders can send the message that they are open to new ideas and willing to work with citizens to find solutions to problems.

How to Run a Hackathon on Smart Cities: A Full 10-Step Guide


To help you get started, we've put together a step-by-step guide on how to run a smart city initiative hackathon.

Step 1: Choose a Theme

The first step in planning a smart city hackathon is to choose a theme. This will help you focus your event and attract the right participants. Some possible themes for a smart city hackathon include:

  • Sustainable transportation
  • Affordable housing
  • Energy efficiency
  • Waste management
  • Air quality
  • Water conservation

There is not necessarily one suitable theme for a smart city hackathon. The most important thing is to choose a theme relevant to your city and generate ideas that can be implemented in the real world.

Step 2: Set Goals and Objectives

After choosing a theme, the next step is to set goals and objectives for your event. This will help you determine the hackathon format and what kind of support you will need from sponsors and partners.

Some possible goals for a smart city hackathon might include things like generating new ideas for innovative city solutions, testing out new technologies, or engaging citizens in the planning process.

Step 3: Find a Venue

The next step is to find a venue for your event. This will likely be determined by the size of the event and the number of participants you are expecting.

If you are planning a large hackathon, you may need to find a venue to accommodate hundreds of people. If you are planning a smaller event, you may be able to hold it in a city government building or community center.

Step 4: Recruit Participants

Once you have a venue, the next step is recruiting participants. This is where having a clear theme and purpose for your event will come in handy.

You can reach out to local organizations and groups that align with your event's theme to recruit participants. You can also use social media and other online platforms to promote your event.

It is crucial to have a diverse group of participants at your hackathon, so reach out to various organizations and individuals.

Step 5: Find Sponsors

The next step is to find sponsors for your event. This is important to cover the event's costs and provide prizes for the winning teams.

You can reach out to local businesses, foundations, and other organizations that support smart city initiatives to find sponsors. You can also look for national or global sponsors interested in supporting events in your city.

Step 6: Create a Schedule

Once you have all of the necessary components in place, the next step is to create a schedule for your event. This will help you ensure that everything runs smoothly on the day of the event.

Some things to include in your schedule are:

  • Opening ceremony
  • Team formation
  • Hackathon challenge overview
  • Presentations
  • Closing ceremony
  • Prize ceremony

Step 7: Choose Judges

The next step is to choose judges for your event. This is important to ensure that the hackathon is fair and that the winning team is determined based on merit.

To choose judges, you can reach out to local experts in the field of smart cities. You can also invite representatives from the sponsoring organizations to serve as judges.

Step 8: Prepare for the Event

Before the event, you will need to do a few things to prepare. This includes setting up the venue, printing materials, and making sure that all participants have everything they need.

You will also need to create a space for the teams to work on their projects. This can be done by setting up tables and chairs in a large room or providing each group with a dedicated space.

Step 9: Run the Event

On the day of the event, make sure to arrive early to set up and greet the participants.

When the event begins, start by giving an overview of the format and the rules. Then, let the teams get to work on their projects.

Throughout the day, make sure to check in on the teams and offer any assistance they may need. Have the teams present their projects to the judges. Then, announce the winners and give out the prizes.

Step 10: Follow Up

After the event is over, follow up with the participants and the sponsors.

Send out a survey to the participants to get their feedback on the event. This will help you make any necessary changes for future events. Also, be sure to thank the sponsors for their support.

Running a smart city hackathon can be a lot of work, but it is also fun. By following these steps, you can ensure that your event is successful.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Organizing Smart Cities Hackathons


While running a smart city hackathon can be a great way to engage the local community and promote smart city initiatives, there are a few common mistakes that you should avoid.

Not Having a Clear Purpose or Theme

One of the most common mistakes that organizers make is not having a clear purpose or theme for their event. Without a clear focus, engaging participants and getting them excited about the event can be challenging.

To avoid this, choose a theme or topic for your event relevant to the city that will appeal to a broad range of participants.

Not Having Enough Prizes

Another common mistake is not having enough prizes for the winning teams. This can make participants less likely to take the event seriously and leave them feeling disappointed at the end of the event.


To prevent this, be sure to have a variety of prizes that will appeal to different types of participants. You can also consider giving out more than one prize for each category.

Not Having a Good Location

Choosing a good location for your event is essential to ensure that participants can get to the event and that the event will have a good turnout.

Be sure to choose a centrally located location that is easily accessible by public transportation.

Not Having Enough Staff

Organizing a smart city hackathon can be a lot of work, and it is essential to have enough staff on hand to help with the event.


If you do not have enough staff, it can be challenging to keep track of the teams and provide assistance when needed. Additionally, you may not be able to offer the same level of support that participants would expect from a professional event.

To avoid this, be sure to have two staff members for every ten participants. This will ensure that you have enough staff to support the event and that participants will have a positive experience.

5 Best Hackathon Ideas for Smart Cities


To run a successful smart city hackathon, it is essential to choose a theme or topic relevant to the city which will appeal to a broad range of participants. Here are six hackathon ideas that are perfect for smart cities.

Alleviate Parking in the City

Parking is often one of the most challenging things to do in a city. A mobile app that can help drivers find available parking spaces would benefit city residents. This could entail features such as a map of available parking spaces, real-time updates on parking availability, and the ability to pay for parking through the app.

Creating a Smart Traffic System

A smart traffic system that can help reduce traffic congestion and improve traffic flow would be very beneficial for a city. Using sensors and data analytics would be possible to develop a system that can optimize traffic flow and reduce congestion.

Developing a System to Reduce Energy Consumption in the City

One of the biggest challenges for cities is to reduce energy consumption. Therefore, a system that can help reduce energy consumption would benefit both the environment and the city's budget and help create green smart cities. This could involve developing a system that can track energy consumption, identifying ways to reduce energy consumption, and providing incentives for residents to reduce their energy consumption.

Creating a Sustainable Food System

Sustainable food production is a significant challenge for cities. Therefore, a hackathon focused on developing a sustainable food system would benefit a city. This could involve developing a plan to track food production, identify ways to reduce food waste and create a strategy to distribute food more efficiently.

Improving Access to Healthcare

Access to healthcare is a significant challenge for many cities. A hackathon focused on improving access to healthcare would be very beneficial for a city. This could involve developing a system to track healthcare resources, identify ways to improve access to healthcare and create a system to connect patients with doctors.

Looking for the Right Platform to Put Your Smart City Hacks Together? Try Hackathon.com


If you're looking for the perfect platform to put your smart city hacks together, then Hackathon.com is your place. We provide a platform for participants to come together and work on projects that can make a difference in the world. We also offer a wide range of resources and support to help you succeed in making your city a better place.

Final Points


Running a smart city hackathon is a great way to get residents involved in improving their city. By choosing a suitable theme, you can appeal to a broad range of participants and create a successful event. Be sure to have enough staff to support the event and choose a platform like Hackathon.com that will provide you with the resources and help you need to succeed.