London, Barcelona or Singapore: Which will be the best smart city in the world?

A new report from Philips Lighting and SmartCitiesWorld polled 150 city planning experts to find out which city will lead the global smart city transition. edie outlines the top three cities, and why they are primed to act as global smart city leaders.

Cities currently consumer around 70% of the global energy demand and will be home to 2.5 billion more people by 2050 than they are today. Cities around the world are exploring ways to integrate technological solutions and innovations that ensure they’ll remain fit for purpose as urbanisation continues.

According to the 150 key influencers on city planning surveyed by Philips Lighting and SmartCitiesWorld, the leaders of the smart city evolution will be places that can transform infrastructure and improve data security, communications and energy use.

“City authorities face complex and challenging choices concerning infrastructure, balancing the need to maintain existing services while investing in improvements, managing population growth and enhancing sustainability – all within tight budget constraints,” Philips Lighting’s segment manager Jacques Letzelter said.

“New technologies can already transform the way cities deliver, operate and maintain public amenities, from lighting and transportation to connectivity and health services. Often, however, adoption is slowed by the division of work and the selection of technology that doesn’t easily work together or integrate with other city services.”

Of the 42 cities nominated by those surveyed, Philips Lighting has ranked the three best smart cities in the world. The cities were praised for future potential to share data (highlighted as the most critical requirement of a smart city by the report) and enhancing services for citizens. edie counts down the top three, explaining why those cities are on course to lead in a digitalised world.

3rd place: Barcelona

Barcelona was listed as a prime example of a city undergoing a “smart transition”. An estimated 47,000 jobs have been created by embedding Internet of Things (IoT) solutions across the city, as well as saving €42.5m on water use and creating €36.5m annually through smart parking.

The city was praise for its ability to generate buy-in from the top, with the mayor and the city’s chief technology officer Francesca Bria both showing a willingness to back innovations city-wide. While optimising energy consumption is noted as an impressive feat, the underlying praise was reserved for the integration of smart solutions as part of a “coherent vision of the city’s future”.

2nd place: London

London claimed second place, largely for its ability to implement technologies in way that influenced and benefitted communities, with one respondent describing the city as a “honey pot of technologies and partnerships”.

The English capital impressed respondents with its focus on openness and communities. London already has more than 3,000 green space, covering 47% of the city, which also appealed to the respondents. While London is testing an “intriguing variety of concepts” regarding IoT technology, it missed out on top spot to a city that acts as a “testing ground” for IoT.

1st place: Singapore

Singapore is in a unique position of having the city-nations state own and control the majority of functions and infrastructure across the city, making it easier for decision makers to embed new technologies.

The state can move quickly and decisively when innovating. The city’s Smart Nation strategy outlines ambitious plans that can’t yet be replicated by other cites, where people have less trust in governments. Notably, the Smart Nation plan includes sensors to monitor littering from high-rise buildings, records of toilet visits and smoke detectors in prohibited areas.

Room for improvement

While, the aforementioned cites were praised for ambitions and progress to date, the report noted that many cities lacked the capacity to implement a smart city programme. Respondents noted that cities lacked in-house experience and expertise to create and embed strategies, while some city planners claimed that “short-term mindsets” and a lack of “political will” were obstructing progress.

The two most common inhibitors outlined by respondents were budget limitations – impacting almost a quarter of those surveyed – and the need for more supporting infrastructure, highlighting how far most cities have to go to create smart solutions.

Matt Mace

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