Due to the wide-spread use of disruptive digital technologies like mobile phones, cities have transitioned from data-scarce to data-rich environments. As a result, the field of geoinformatics is being reshaped and challenged to develop adequate data-driven methods. At the same time, the term "smart city" is increasingly being applied in urban planning, reflecting the aims of different stakeholders to create value out of the new data sets. However, many smart city research initiatives are promoting techno-positivistic approaches which do not account enough for the citizens’ needs. In this paper, we review the state of quantitative urban studies under this new perspective, and critically discuss the development of smart city programs. We conclude with a call for a new anti-disciplinary, human-centric urban data science, and a well-reflected use of technology and data collection in smart city planning. Finally, we introduce the papers of this special issue which focus on providing a more human-centric view on data-driven urban studies, spanning topics from cycling and wellbeing, to mobility and land use.