When it comes to smart cities, Europe is the model for the rest of the world to learn from. European cities tend to be denser, have better public transit, larger commitment to cycling and walking, a stronger focus on sustainability and low-carbon solutions, and perhaps most important, a culture and citizenry more engaged in the journey towards more sustainable and smarter cities. Of course this is a generalization: this series of regional ranking reports has demonstrated leadership from cities across the globe.
But, as I wrote in our rankings of North America's smartest cities,
our urban centers "demand 21st-century solutions to accommodate their
growing populations in ways that not only maintain the quality of life,
but also improve it. In short, smart cities are innovative cities."
Without further ado, here is the top 10 smart cities for Europe in 2013 (and here's more about how we ranked them).
In order to achieve such an ambitious goal, the city has established
hardcore targets including energy efficiency and renewable objectives,
green building standards (all new buildings to be carbon neutral by
2020), and increased transit access to name a few.
Of course, our readers are well aware of the impressive cycling rates in the city-approximately 40% of all commutes are conducted by bike.
The city also recently collaborated with MIT to develop a smart bike
equipped with sensors to deliver to provide real-time info to not only
the rider but also to administrators for open data aggregation on issues
of air contamination and traffic congestion.
But Amsterdam is much more than just bikes. In fact, in speaking with
the founder of this first bikesharing project in the world, which occurred in Amsterdam decades ago, Luud Schimmelpennick, showed me videos of their first experiment in electric vehicle sharing in the early 1990s.
In recent years, Amsterdam has stepped up its pace to be a leading
smart city. Amsterdam Smart City is a public private partnership focused
on using the city as an urban laboratory for the use of open data, new
mobility solutions and ultimately improved quality of life for all
residents and visitors. The collaboration has already supported more
than 40 smart city projects ranging from smart parking to the
development of home energy storage for integration with a smart grid.
In fact Vienna recently created a public private entity, TINA Vienna
which is tasked with co-developing smart city strategies and solutions
for the city. They gave me a document which summarizes more than 100
smart cities projects being developed throughout the city. One cool
project is the so-called “Citizen Solar Power Plant."
With a goal of obtaining 50% of their energy from renewables by 2030,
the city partnered with the local energy provider, Wien Energy, they
developed a crowd-funding model whereby individual citizens can buy half
or whole panels and receive a guaranteed return of 3.1% annually.
Vienna is also testing out a range of electric mobility solutions
from expanding their charging network from 103 to 440 stations by 2015
to testing EV carsharing and electric bike rentals. Another important
innovation has been in rezoning dense neighborhoods allowing for
zero-parking residential buildings. Residents in these communities
commit to not owning a personal vehicle.
Finally, Vienna is renovating a 40 hectare former slaughterhouse
district and turning it into a much smarter use: an innovation district
focused on media science and technology. By 2016, the city expects
15,000 people to working on startups in the Neu Marx Quarter district.
But for those living in Barcelona (or visiting) there is a lot going
on in this space. Barcelona was an early player in testing e-mobility.
They have an excellent bike-sharing project with more than 6,000 bikes,
although last I visited, only residents could use them. Barcelona has
also been testing all kinds of sensors on everything from noise and air
contamination to traffic congestion and even waste management.
Barcelona’s 22@ innovation district is also an impressive mix of smart
urban planning and entrepreneurial innovation. This sector of the city
has been transformed into an innovation home attracting local and
international entrepreneurs to set up shop. The district has been so
successful that it has inspired cities like Boston and Buenos Aires to
follow suit. With all of their innovations and strong quality of life,
perhaps it is no surprise that the life expectancy in Barcelona is among
the highest of cities I have studied (83 years).
Paris has also managed to foster a thriving entrepreneurial
ecosystem. The Startup Genome project recently measured city-based
entrepreneurial ecosystems around the globe, taking into account
variables such as access to capital, volume of startups each year and
innovations generated. Paris’ ecosystem was rated 11th best in the
It’s not all about being green. Stockholm has also received top marks
for its commitment to digital governance. Out of 100 global capitals
surveyed by Rutgers University, Stockholm was rated 7th and scored 1st
amongst cities for its commitment to data privacy and security for
citizens. The Stockholm Royal Seaside (SRS) urban regeneration project
has also become a test bed for new information and communication
technologies (ICTs) designed to improve the quality of life, grow the
local economy and help Stockholm remain a green leader in the region.
Of course London made waves with its congestion zone which generates
additional income for the city while reducing traffic in the urban core.
London also took strategic use of the Olympics (like Vancouver before
them) to help make the city greener while also focusing on economic
development. London’s Royal Docks emerged from the Olympics planning as a
regenerated, sustainable commercial and residential area. This area is
already home to one of the greenest and smartest buildings in Europe,
the Crystal, built by Siemens to showcase smart city technologies.
In recent years, Hamburg has embarked on widescale transformation. At
157 hectares, HafenCity (Harbor City) is Europe’s largest urban
regeneration project. When completed in 2025, this roughly $14 billion
project will house a university, a port, and lots of mixed-use
residential and commercial development connected with excellent, green
Enrique Moretti said it better than I can, in his recent book, The
New Geography of Jobs: “Berlin’s well-established progressive attitudes,
gritty but interesting architecture, and tormented history inspire a
feeling of experimentation ... two zoos, three major opera houses, seven
symphony orchestras, and scores of museums ... Walking along the
beautiful streets of the historic downtown, you cannot escape the
impression that this unique mix of creativity and high quality of life
is hard to surpass ...”
Helsinki barely edged out Oslo for the 10th and final spot in this
year’s rankings. Helsinki really shines in the Smart Government arena.
They have more than 1,000 open datasets and have been actively promoting
engagement with developers through hackathons. They also played host to
the first global Open Knowledge Festival in 2012. Berlin by the way is
the host in 2014. Helsinki also launched their Forum Virium Smart City
Project to provide ubiquitous data to their citizens in hopes of
improving quality of life.
Oslo, Brussels, and Frankfurt earned honorable mention for 2013.