Posted on 18th July 2017 by Alex Heys
The concept of smart cities has become increasingly evident in recent years, with countries all around the world striving to tackle common urban challenges using the latest innovations linked to Big Data and the Internet of Things. Thanks to major technological progress, nations are finding new ways to tackle climate change, overcrowding, and ageing populations. London was ranked highest in Europe in a recent Smart Cities index, thanks in part to its initiatives linked to improving the environment, transport, and social sustainability. However, for those of you venturing abroad, here’s a selection of five popular city destinations that are becoming innovative smart cities:
The island city-state of Singapore has been miles ahead of most cities in terms of its pioneering smart city developments. Many visitors agree that it has a rather futuristic quality about it. Its Housing and Development Board is testing IoT devices in housing developments, controlling factors such as lighting and waste collection, while out on the streets, a number of smart sensors and cameras monitor everything from pavement cleanliness to traffic flow. Impressively, the city can even detect if people are smoking in unauthorised zones or if people are throwing litter. Maybe UK cities should be taking a leaf out of Singapore’s book.
The Austrian capital city, best known for its winding, cobbled streets, historic architecture and imperial palaces, is one of the most unlikely cities to be making impressive advances in its smart capabilities in recent years. Through TINA Vienna, the public-private entity, it has developed a number of pioneering initiatives, including the Citizen Solar Power Plan, which subsidises citizens’ purchase of solar panels. Vienna’s bio-solar roofs combine solar power with the capacity to grow grass and plant life, helping endangered bees whilst also lowering energy and maintenance costs to the buildings themselves.
Any tourist visiting Paris will be able to see first-hand its smart city innovations alongside its endless tourist attractions. Most visible of these is the city’s bike hiring programme, Velib, which has in recent years expanded to car hiring programme Autolib, which provides self-service environmentally-friendly electric cars. These transport initiatives are a great way of cutting down on traffic congestion in a city that has experienced its fair share of air pollution problems. Given Paris’ commitment to reduce 75 per cent of greenhouse emissions by 2050, this initiative is one of several ways in which the city can reach its ambitious target.
The Big Apple is officially the top ranked city in a recent Index, beating other American counterparts Boston, San Francisco and Washington DC which also made it into the top ten. One of the metropolitan city’s popular smart initiatives is the LinkNYC Programme. Over 7,500 payphone booths, installed before the age of mobile phones, have been replaced by futuristic stands providing free WiFi, information on city services such as maps, and USB charging stations. These booths are great in helping both citizens and tourists find their way around The City That Never Sleeps.
Last but not least is the picturesque Canadian city of Toronto. While it is less well-known for its smart city innovations, and yet to compete on the same level as some of the world’s most advanced smart cities, Toronto is definitely one to keep your eye on, as it is taking big steps forward in bringing its smart city ambitions to life. It was announced in May this year that Sidewalk Labs, the urban innovation of Alphabet, had made a bid to develop a twelve acre stretch of downtown Toronto. While details of the plan are still private, there is speculation that Google’s parent company plans to create a connected, high-tech district from scratch. It is likely to use Toronto as a place to develop the latest ideas that could transform urban life.
The list of smart cities that are well worth a visit is endless. Why not also check out Barcelona, Berlin or Seoul, all of which are paving the way for game-changing innovations. Happy holiday hunting!
To find out more about the latest smart city rankings, click here.