6 of the world's smartest smart cities

​In every region of the globe IoT technology and intelligent design are making city living easier, cleaner and more secure. We take a tour of some of the world's smartest smart cities to discover the innovative ways they harness technology to tackle a variety of issues

First published on September 05, 2018

Eindhoven, Netherlands

Residents of the Eindhoven district of Strijp-S will soon be able to book electric vehicles from a car-sharing scheme, ride on electric buses and use energy produced during the clean-up of contaminated land. The district is taking part in the EU-funded Triangulum initiative, which aims to demonstrate smart city solutions.  

A district-wide system of complex hardware and software will allow the residents to access all kinds of infrastructure with the intention of helping them to use energy and transport in a more sustainable way. It will monitor and control street lighting, mobility, houses and offices. It will also enable an app for parking management and a smart charging station.

Eindhoven is one of three cities taking part in the initiative; the others are Manchester, in the UK, and Stavanger, in Norway. 

Dubai, UAE

A train that can travel up to 760mph is expected to cut the journey time between Dubai and Abu Dhabi from 90 minutes to under 12The Hyperloop is based on magnetic levitation, which removes friction between the train and the rails and allows much faster speeds.​

The train, which will travel along vacuum-sealed tubes at almost supersonic speeds, is due to go into service in 2020 and is part of Dubai's efforts to become one of the world's smartest cities. Initial designs include virtual windows so that passengers will be able to see where they are.

HE Mattar Al Tayer, Director General and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai said that Hyperloop technology was part of a strategy of ensuring that 25% of commutes in the UAE were made in autonomous vehicles by 2030.

San Diego, US

Smart streetlights in the Californian city of San Diego will form a connected digital network that will improve parking and traffic management, enhance public safety and track air quality.

The city has partnered with General Electric to upgrade the streetlights in a project that will see 3,200 smart sensors deployed, making it the largest city-based deployment of an Internet of Things platform in the world. The sensors will use real-time data to do things such as direct drivers to available parking spaces, help the emergency services, track carbon emissions and identify intersections that could be improved for pedestrians and cyclists.

The information can be used to support San Diego's Vision Zero strategy to eliminate fatal road accidents and severe injuries. Installation of the new streetlights is expected to be completed by the autumn.

Montevideo, Uruguay

The Uruguayan capital of Montevideo plans to harness technology to encourage the use of bicycles. Currently, only 2.4% of journeys are made using bicycles, but, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the city hopes to increase this dramatically by 2020.

Several teams participated in a recent technology workshop and presented applications that could improve cycling in the city. One, Pedaleapp, received a US$5,000 prize from the bank and a further US$5,000 to incubate its technology. The solution will be supported by improvements to bicisendas (bike lanes).

Morgan Doyle, IDB representative in Uruguay, said: "There are many cities in Latin America that use bikes. Why can't Montevideo aim to have half a million trips a day? We believe that it is possible to have more human, livable, modern and less polluted cities."

Songdo, South Korea

Just over an hour from Seoul, a new International Business District is rising on land reclaimed from the sea in the city of Songdo. The US$35 billion construction project is remarkable because the district will be an exemplar of smart city living. 

Started in 2002 and due for completion in 2020, it features mass public transport systems, so residents don't have to drive. And the city has been designed to ensure that schools, hospitals, offices and shops are all within walking distance. 

There is a huge cycle network, more than 100 buildings are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified (a globally-recognized green rating system), and an innovative underground waste management system will suck waste to a central recycling facility. It is estimated that Songdo will produce a third fewer greenhouse gases than other cities of the same size.

But so far only 70,000 people work in Songdo, which is far fewer that the 300,000 envisaged.


Singapore is a clean, organized, technological city but it faces a huge challenge because of a lack of drinking water, which must be imported from Malaysia. The city has, however, turned this problem to its advantage by using policies that support innovation to address the water shortage.

As a result, it now has more than 100 companies generating US$370 million in annual revenue from selling rainwater collection and water recycling technologies around the world. In fact, since 2006, Singapore's water tech sector has generated more than US$7 billion from international projects. 

The use of public policy tools to crowdsource solutions is one of the key characteristics of smart cities.

TAGGED IN smart cities; innovation; internet of things; transportation; connectivity