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Revealed: the world’s leading smart cities

Successful smart cities are built on well-thought-out infrastructure. However, many smart city attempts are built on fragmented infrastructure that is difficult to scale. If the infrastructure isn’t scalable, resilient, efficient, and high-performing, it will cause roadblocks. After a decade of trial and error, municipal leaders now realise that success is not created by installing smart infrastructure or streamlining city operations. Top smart city strategies start with people, not technology, and use technology and data purposefully to deliver a better quality of life.

Listed below are the leading smart cities, as identified by GlobalData

Amsterdam – Netherlands

Amsterdam has been a pioneer in smart cities from the early 1990s. It created a virtual digital city, De Digital Stad, to showcase and promote internet usage. Subsequently, Amsterdam developed a database that includes topographical and address data, land value and ownership information, healthcare data, and traffic data. The city subsequently created the Amsterdam Smart City Web platform. This provides a partnership of public, private, and university or research partners, to discuss smart city ideas and projects.

Berlin – Germany

In 2015, Berlin identified its smart city goals. These included expanding the international competitiveness of the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan region, increasing the resource efficiency and climate neutrality of Berlin by 2050, and creating a pilot market for innovative applications. Among the key projects, Panasonic is building 69 smart home apartments. These will be fitted with solar panels, energy storage batteries, and the latest smart home innovations and technology. Cisco is also investing $500m in the city as part of a Deutschland Digital project.

Copenhagen – Denmark

In 2014, Copenhagen won the World Smart Cities Award for Copenhagen Connecting. This is a plan for the collection and use of data to create a greener, smarter city. The city has the ambition to become the world’s first CO2 neutral capital by 2025. Among its initiatives is the Copenhagen Solutions Lab, which acts as the city’s incubator for smart city plans. Since 2016, the Lab Copenhagen Solutions Lab has been working to establish a coherent database for air pollution in the city. One of its partners is Google, which has installed monitoring equipment in its Street View vehicles to produce a local map of air quality.

London – UK

London’s smart cities approach is outlined in its Smarter London Together strategy document. Its aim is to act as a global test-bed city for innovation where the best ideas can be developed and spread around the world. London is focusing its efforts on design, data sharing, connectivity, skills, and collaboration. It has created a City Data Analytics Programme, to develop and support data collaborations across public services in London. The city has also set up the London Office for Technology and Innovation (LOTI), to collaborate on the design, standardisation, and scaling of digital services and smart technology in public services.

New York – US

Urban specialists regard New York as being in the vanguard of smart cities. Its first digital strategic plans were developed in the early years of smart city thinking between 2010 and 2013. New York’s smart city planners use the city’s overall strategic plan – One New York – to prioritise their work. The city is also partnering with other cities such as Paris on accelerating the transition to EVs.

Paris – France

Paris’s strategy to be a smart city focuses on openness, connectedness, and sustainability. Involving Parisians in the design and implementation of public policies in urban projects is a priority. The city’s information system and its physical data centre will be managed to optimise energy consumption and recycle the energy generated by the data centres in a local hot water network serving the neighbourhood.

Reykjavik – Iceland

About 89 per cent of Iceland’s primary energy supply and almost 100 per cent of its electricity is obtained from renewable-energy sources. Sustainability, smarter transportation, and citizen participation are key drivers for Reykjavik’s smart city policy. Reykjavik’s city council has committed to debating the most popular ideas from the Better Reykjavik website and discussing whether there is enough political backing to implement them. Reykjavík also has a free public transportation app, provided by Strætó bs, the public transport authority for the Greater Reykjavík area.

Singapore – Singapore

Singapore has consistently gained awards and high rankings for its approach. Its goal is to be the leading digital economy and it recently produced a new framework to help it achieve that goal. The framework has three strands: digitalising industries to raise productivity and grow the economy; integrating ecosystems by supporting companies to use digital technology; and transforming the media industry to be a key growth driver of Singapore’s digital economy.

Tokyo – Japan

After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Japan identified smart grids as a way to ensure a steady, uninterrupted distribution and transmission of electricity. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is planning to deploy 27 million smart meters as part of a city-wide energy management platform by 2025. Tokyo’s Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park can be converted into a survival bunker for citizens if a natural disaster strikes. The park has solar-powered charging stations for e-bicycles and electrical appliances, public benches able to be transformed into cooking stoves, and manholes that act as emergency toilets.

Vienna – Austria

Vienna has been named the world’s most liveable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Its smart city strategy focuses on energy, mobility, buildings, and infrastructure. Vienna’s ambitions are implemented through a smart city agency. The key objective for 2050 is to ensure the best quality of life for all residents of Vienna. Projects underway include the cool mile, Vienna’s first climate-adapted street, and evaluating the use of energy generated from metro train brakes more efficiently. Vienna is also one of the pioneers of open government data across Europe.

This is an edited extract from the Smart cities – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research. NS Tech and GlobalData are part of the same group.