The 10 ‘smartest’ cities in the world

Image courtesy Dimitry B on Flickr

What exactly makes a city smart? It's about being connected in every way, and not just to the grid.

1. London. The British capital wasn’t the first to come up with “road pricing” in 2003 by placing a “congestion charge” on private vehicles in the city center. But the scope of the high-tech scheme (based on license plate recognition), and the high-profile squabbling of mayors Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson meant that the UK project, the biggest of its kind at launch, attracted more publicity than any other.

2. Paris. Lots of cities now offer short-term car or bicycle rentals to encourage commuters to leave their cars at home. After all, electric bikes and cars have become virtually de rigeur in pollution-conscious places. But barely another metropolis matches the City of Light for the ambitiousness of its Autolib’ electric car rental scheme, pioneered by billionaire industrialist Vincent Bolloré.

3. Venice. Sure, you can find free Wifi almost anywhere now, especially in cities keen to promote public services and showcase how “connected” they are. But ABB was the company selected to build the wireless broadband network for Venice, commissioned last October. Covering not just local residents and businesses, it’s also available to the 22 million tourists visiting each year. And hey, where else do you have all those canals?

4. Texas. True, it’s a state, not a city. But its capital Austin and other locations are among the leaders in smart grid technology, which gives humble electricity (and gas and other utility) meters “brains” to communicate with suppliers and manage demand. AEP and Oncor have pioneered the Smart Texas initiative, but watch this space; BG, the former British gas utility, already has 1.5 million meters in service and has ordered a whopping 10 more for “smart” gas and electricity management.

5. Bangalore. Perhaps the southern Indian megapolis is a bit light on tourist attractions and heavy on pollution – its traffic is as bad as, if not worse than, Delhi or Mumbai. But when it comes to outsourcing, call centers and software development in general, Bangalore is still where it’s at. And its airport works pretty well.

6. Dubai. Love it or hate it, the Persian Gulf emirate of soaring skyscrapers and scorching temperatures is also no slouch at self-publicity when it comes to matters “smart”. Dubai is already trying to export its “SmartCity” brand elsewhere as a catch-all phrase for general inter-connectedness. Within its own restricted borders, it also already boasts a Dubai Internet City, a Dubai Media City and even a Dubai Knowledge Village.

7. Boston. Defining “smart” as pure brain power, rather than high-tech hardware, opens an academic can of worms. But few can beat Boston when it comes to the sheer concentration of talent, between Harvard, MIT, top hospitals and medical research facilities, biotech – you name it – all in a relatively tight area.

8. New York. It may pain the Big Apple (and this native New Yorker) to trail its smaller New England rival on this list, but the home of Madison Avenue advertising at least deserves a place if “smart” is defined to include the commercially creative.

9. Milan, Rome, Paris, Vienna. Read “smart” as stylish, and these old world European centers all fight for space. Milan is greyer than the other three and is not a national capital. But as the undisputed heart of Italian fashion (and the world’s best coffee bars), it wins by a Gucci loafer.

10. At least a dozen Chinese cities you’ve probably never heard of. China’s fast and furious urbanization is creating dozens of huge new mega centers, barely known outside its borders, but all boasting the latest tricks. While some multi-million upstarts may be unfamiliar today, you can bet at least one will be featured on our next list.

Editor’s note: this article was written by freelance writer Haig Simonian and published by Ilona Braverman. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of ABB or its employees.


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About the author

Ilona Braverman

I am the Newsroom Manager with the corporate communications team. Prior to moving to Zurich, I spent over a decade writing, producing, marketing and production coordinating for Fox News in New York City. When I am not working, or enjoying all of the beautiful cities around me, I am busy dancing, cooking or probably making everyone around me howl with laughter.
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