The World’s 5 Smartest Cities
Market research firm Juniper Research (Basingstoke, UK) recently crowned Singapore as the smartest city on earth after sorting through a mountain of data related to cities around the world. To arrive that conclusion, researchers at Juniper ranked cities by an array of factors including their adoption of smart grid technologies, intelligent lighting, the use of information technology to improve traffic, Wi-Fi access points, smartphone penetration, and the app landscape.
“In terms of software applications, we looked at traffic apps and city information apps that leverage open data sources,” says Steffen Sorrell, Senior Analyst at Juniper Research. “We apply different weightings to transport and energy, which we believe are the most important elements in smart cities,” Sorrell says. In evaluating transportation, Juniper analysts considered public transportation options, subtracting points for cities with high levels of private vehicle ownership. When evaluating cities’ efforts to improve traffic, they assessed city planners’ efforts to implement congestion charges, dynamic traffic lights, the use of road sensors, and smart parking. “Regarding energy consumption, we looked at the kinds of policies cities are taking. We looked in particular at things like the smart grid, their smart meter rollout, and what kind of policies the local government has made for sourcing sustainable energy.”
Finally, Juniper Research studied the economy of major cities with smart cities initiatives. “Not all cities are declaring a budget for what they are putting into smart cities,” Sorrell says. “So we look at the economic output of these cities with the assumption that it is going to feedback into the local government to help pay for future smart cities technologies.” Here are five smart cities examples, from those named in Juniper’s report.
The Republic of Singapore has announced its quest of becoming the first smart nation. A program launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in late 2014 calls for an unspecified number of sensors and cameras to be deployed across the island to track everything from cleanliness to traffic. In any case, the number of sensors being installed across the island will be large. Already, the city can detect if people are smoking in unauthorized zones or if people are throwing litter out of high-rise buildings. But substantially more data is coming, according to the Wall Street Journal, which announced in a recent headline that “Singapore Is Taking the ‘Smart City’ to a Whole New Level.”
Juniper Research gave Singapore high marks for its smart mobility policies and technology as well as its wireless connectivity. In 2014, the city-state announced that it was developing software it calls “Virtual Singapore,” a dynamic 3-D model that enables city planners to run virtual tests—verifying, for instance, how crowds might evacuate from a neighborhood facing an emergency.
In any interview with WSJ, Singapore’s foreign affairs minister and minister-in-charge of its Smart Nation program acknowledged that privacy and security were chief concerns and stressed that the government would work to ensure that data is anonymized when possible. The government has made much of the data it collects public. Participants can check closed-circuit TV footage and monitor parking thanks to sensors installed as part of the Singapore’s Smart Nation program.
“Singapore is undoubtedly the world leader when we look at transport network,” Sorrell says. Singapore has aggressively implemented congestion charging while also making substantial investments in road sensors, phased traffic lights, and smart parking. The city-state’s leadership in transportation is not surprising given that the system has a long history of using information technology to improve traffic. In the 1970s, it launched an initiative to address what was then a chronic congestion problem. “The systems Singapore has put in place since then have been pretty effective in terms of improving the average speed traveled by cars on the main roads,” Sorrell says. Oh, and driverless cars will be soon coming to Singapore.
The city-state also has high smartphone penetration and scores well regarding in broadband availability. The company Singtel recently announced that it was rolling out a 10-Gbps fiber broadband service that would enable residents to download a two-hour HD movie in 90 seconds. “The network is one of the cheapest in the world based on the cost of broadband per unit of currency,” Sorrell says.
Singapore also has an open data platform related to data collected by sensors located on the island. “Some cities conduct smart cities projects and do not make their data available to the public. When that happens, it is just the city deciding what will be done in isolation. But Singapore, Barcelona, and London are trying to engage their citizens to help determine what to do.”