Today, a smart city is not a futuristic dream – it's a reality, and one that's transforming the lives of residents around the world. Smart cities are cities that incorporate digital technology and data management to improve the quality of life for their citizens. Some smart cities have more advanced infrastructures, but what makes them stand out is how they use data to improve the lives of their citizens.

The rise of smart, sustainable cities

In the 21st century, a smarter and greener city means better living standards for all. Smart cities are environmentally friendly, protect people's health, and reduce pollution. They also make it easy and safe to move around, use public services, and enjoy culture, shopping, and leisure activities.

The rise of smart cities has been a phenomenon of the past decade or so. The United Nations predicts that by 2050, 70 percent of the world's population will live in cities, so it's vital that we begin making them as efficient and sustainable as possible.

5 of the world's smartest cities

As the world is moving towards a more sustainable model of urban development, leading cities around the globe are starting to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint, shift to renewable energy resources, and create sustainable communities that are resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Statista published a smart and sustainable cities survey that ranked the top smart cities. And the following are six of the smartest cities worldwide that are helping to pioneer innovations and technologies. These cities may surprise some. However, their evaluation includes the current state of these cities and each city's future plans.

1.London, UK

Statista ranks London as the top smart city in the world. London got the top score of 100 on the Statista rankings. Here is how London gets such high marks that make a metropolis into one of the best smart cities with a smart city operations centre.



London was one of the first cities in the world in 2017 to have a Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell. Blackwell's job was to create the initiatives to transform London into one of the world's best smart designs with a unified command and control centre for a smart, sustainable future.

London has significant e-Government services, which earned the city a 94 on a scale of 100 for the 2020 E-Government Development Index (EGDI) reported by the United Nations. London also has a strong telecommunication infrastructure, including a unified command and control centre, diverse human capital, and low-cost online services.

Urban Planning

Urban planning comes from the "Smarter London Together" mapping, which recognizes smart infrastructure, data sharing, and innovative technology as the key components of smart urban development.


One-third of Europe's technology companies worth at least $1 billion have their headquarters in London. More than 46,000 tech companies in London employ nearly one-quarter of a million people. 750 companies are working on artificial intelligence programming. Since 2006, the tech sector has grown by more than 77%, and the number of tech companies has nearly doubled.

The Environment

London leads in innovative cleantech products and sensors that collect data to help combat pollution and climate change. The city has the largest number of air-quality monitors of any city globally. The data collected by these sensors make it possible to produce accurate emission forecasts for use in pollution modelling.

International Projection

London is the global leader in the dimension of international projection due to its large number of hotels and the frequent international conferences hosted in the city. It caters to the world's largest number of airline passengers and serves the most international air routes.

London accommodates travellers with its six modernized airports that include the major international airports of Heathrow and Gatwick and London City, London Luton, London Stansted, and London Southend airports.

Human Capital

London takes the first position in the world for the dimension of human capital. The general population is quite well-educated. London has the most universities of the top 500 schools globally. It has the most top-level business schools.

People in London are highly connected to the Internet with ubiquitous broadband availability to homes and Wi-Fi hotspots nearly everywhere, especially in London City Centre and areas popular with young people and tourists.

Mobility and Transportation

London leads Europe in smart mobility technology. The goal is by 2041 that 80% of the journeys made by people in London will be on foot, by bicycles, or by using public transport.

2. New York, USA

IoT Evolution reports that the New York City Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (MOTI) is actively working to transform New York into a thriving smart city.

MOTI's initiatives include energy conservation efforts, water usage management, reducing negative environmental impact, and improving quality of life.

new york

Energy Conservation

The Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency (ACE) program promotes energy conservation through lighting upgrades. The program started in 2013 and invested over $350 million in LED lighting retrofits in more than 650 public buildings operated by municipal agencies.

These efforts save the city about $800,000 annually and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 900 metric tons each year.


McKinsey & Company reports that New York is one of the largest metropolitan areas with the widespread adoption of smart technology devices and applications. Smart lighting controls reduce the energy usage of the systems by automatically dimming when appropriate and have reduced usage through scheduling with lower power requirements by using LED lights. Waste management uses smart technology to manage the collection of more than 10,500 tons of daily garbage pick-ups. The problems with overflowing bins or wasting fuel and labour to pick up bins that are not full are solved by using IoT applications and smart sensors. Based on the data collected about full bins, the system decides the most efficient truck routing for the pick-up routes. Additionally, New York uses smart bins with a built-in trash compactor operated by solar power. These bins hold five times more than conventional bins without a compactor. Collection efficiency improved between 50 to 90% with this technology.

The Environment

New York's population is more than 8.5 million. The city uses over one billion gallons of water every day. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection uses an Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system to monitor daily water usage and provide consumers with information. Consumers get water consumption information four times each day, delivered as a message to their smartphones. Large industrial users monitor water usage on an hourly basis. The AMR system warns users of water leaks that show up as a sudden, abnormally-high water-use level. More than 800,000 properties in New York City have an AMR system that uses a low-frequency radio signal to communicate to a rooftop antenna. The antenna sends the data to the main computer servers for monitoring, analysis, and billing purposes. The benefits for the city's water department are improved billing through more accurate metering. Previously, the city used estimated data that accounted for a loss of revenues of up to 17% due to underbilling. This revenue loss went down to less than 3% with the AMR system


Transit Wireless uses 5G technology to connect millions of subway riders to the Internet. The Wi-Fi service is free. Users of the subway system can make and receive cellular phone calls and send text messages. The system works well, even in the tunnel that runs for one mile and a half under the East River. Emergency services are available at the push of a button from more than 12,000 locations on the trains and stations.

3. Paris, France

Paris embraces innovation through IoT applications to give the population and government useful data from all parts of the "City of Light." With this data, it is possible to optimize the flow of vehicles and people through the city.

Paris was one of the first major metropolises to fully embrace LED lights, retrofitting and replacing old systems with new smart lighting systems.

The municipal government commissioned the Paris Smart City 2050 architectural project to design a sustainable city of the future. The architectural drawings of the building prototypes submitted for this project are extremely beautiful.

This project plans to construct "green" buildings that generate net positive renewable energy to send excess electrical energy back to the grid and battery storage systems for a smart, sustainable world.



In 2014, the Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, created the "Making Paris Smart" initiative with a Smart team in City Hall responsible for urban planning.

Hidalgo created the greatest participatory budget process in history by allowing Parisians to allocate 5% of the municipal budget to projects selected by popular vote on the website The amount allocated through the smart city operations centre for projects from 2015 to 2020 was $588 million.

Urban Planning

The goal of city planners is to integrate as much smart technology and sustainability as possible and still preserve the cultural beauty of Paris. 


An example of innovation using IoT applications and devices in Paris includes thousands of Bluetooth low-energy beacons installed in smart park benches. The IoT beacons may run many years, even up to a decade, without needing a recharge. They collect data passively when someone sits on the bench with a Bluetooth device. This bench usage data gives the city useful information about the park activity levels.

Additionally, the IoT Bluetooth beacon may collect active data from users who voluntarily participate. They may use an app on their smartphone to answer survey questions about their location. Opening the app within the range of a beacon signal creates a survey prompt on their smartphones.

Another geo-location usage is for users to get an augmented reality overlay by pointing the smartphone and taking video. The overlay can point out where interesting things to do or see are in the park, the location of shops and restaurants, and give directional guidance to walk there.

The Environment

Paris is greening the city in response to climate change by creating new green areas on rooftops, building walls, and public spaces.


Paris reduced pollution from motor vehicles by 30% since 2001. Nevertheless, Parisian residents experience poor air quality. The city aims to eliminate all diesel- and gasoline-powered cars by using a multimodal approach of walking paths, bicycles, mass transit, electric car-sharing, and self-driving shuttles.

4. Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is taking a unique approach to smart design in that it makes a priority the social dimension. Other cities tend to focus on IoT applications as technological solutions. However, Tokyo is highly focused on quality-of-life issues.

The main goal is to use technology to improve social cohesion and address social issues like taking care of the ageing population and having safe cities suitable for raising children.

Japan has a national initiative called Society 5.0 to address these social needs. This project aims to achieve a data-driven system with a human focus to build the next generation of society that takes advantage of advancements in artificial intelligence programming and the device connectivity made possible through the IoT.



The Japanese government accelerated the digitization of government procedures with the new Digital Procedure Law, designed to promote smarter cities with easy access to government administrative support to help make a smart, sustainable world.

Urban Planning

The Society 5.0 initiative embraces smart technology to solve social and economic issues regarding mobility, health, environment, energy, finance, tourism, and government services. Urban planning considers all these factors for sustainable smart city living. Utility poles and lines disappeared from the Tokyo skyline, and all connected cabling is now done underground out of sight. Smart City Institute Japan (SCI-J) is a non-profit association for private, public, and social organizations involved in the development of smart municipalities in Japan.


The use of technology embraces retrofitting with LED lights, smart lighting systems, energy-saving methodologies, and hydrogen that does not create CO2 pollution from its manufacture or use. The government encourages households, buildings, warehouses, and manufacturers to use LED lights. Tokyo provides a good example to follow with the retrofit of all government buildings. Japan created many zero-energy use buildings that produce more electrical power than the building consumes. Japan promotes eco-houses that recycle all waste with zero refuse going to a landfill. Smart technology houses manage electrical use and solar power collection to run with zero electrical bills. Through net smart metering, homes may produce revenues from the power sold by the homeowner back to the grid.


Japan made a significant investment in high-speed rail trains. Tokyo has an extensive subway system. The implementation of smart technology using the Internet of things is extensive in the railway system management in Japan. Much research is ongoing with hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells as alternative energy sources for combustion-engine vehicles. Automated vehicle technology progressed and continues to improve. Autonomous vehicles are useful for reducing traffic congestion and accidents.

5. Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is the largest city in Iceland. Iceland is the first country to run entirely on renewable energy sources. Reykjavik gets all its power from geothermal energy courses and hydroelectricity.



Better Reykjavík is a web forum where all citizens have the opportunity to give ideas and participate in the running of the municipal government. Ideas are debated in online forums and then rated by the participants. The top-rated ideas go to the appropriate committee for further consideration and planning. A web-based portal called Hverfið mitt (My Neighbourhood) is the first smart project that creates a participatory democracy. City residents get a chance to present ideas and vote on which ideas will advance. The decision-making aligns closely with the residents' needs and interests.

Urban Planning

The Reykjavik Municipal Plan 2010-2030 includes a Sustainable Planning Policy to maintain Reykjavik as a leading green city. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gasses in response to climate change and continue with the energy-efficiency efforts based on renewable energy, green buildings, and sustainable public transit systems. Reykjavik plans to be carbon neutral by 2040 and completely free of fossil fuel by 2050.


Homes are connected to the Internet by the Reykjavik Fibre Network at up to 500MB per second. This speed is blazing fast compared to the typical broadband in many other countries of only up to 10 MB per second.

The Environment

Geothermal energy is the source of citywide heating. Even the roads are heated from below to keep them from forming ice. The streets have sensors reporting temperatures by connectivity through the Internet of things. The population of Reykjavik is around 344,000. Nearly all (95%) of their building heating and hot water needs come from the geothermal district heating system. Iceland is the global leader on a per capita basis for using renewable geothermal energy.

Mobility and Transportation

Reykjavik was the first city to reach 100% sustainability with renewable energy. Now, its goal is to have all vehicles powered by clean energy before 2040. The municipal government leaders are working diligently to increase the use of public transportation. In this regard, they developed a downloadable smartphone app called Straetó that has 85,000 downloads. This number is equivalent to about one-third of the population. The app helps users navigate the public transit system and show the best routes to take. In addition to excellent public transportation, the city has a car-sharing service in partnership with ON Power and Zipcar. The city partners with Nissan, the manufacturer of the Leaf EV vehicle, to launch projects to achieve 100% electric mobility with renewable energy management for a smart, sustainable future


In the future, the world will be a much smarter place. The changes in the way we live, communicate, and make business, as well as the increasing demand for energy efficiency, will all contribute to the growth of smart cities. We've chosen 5 cities that are at the forefront of the smart city movement and are already taking steps to become more sustainable, efficient, and forward-thinking. These cities have been tested by time and have made it through tough economic situations, natural disasters, and even a pandemic. One day, they may just be the blueprint for urban living, and their examples of success in advanced urban planning should help us learn what works best for our own cities.

Are you building a smart city? Connect with one of our IoT experts to discuss how we can help you manage your smart, sustainable city with Cervello Cities, our Smart City Operations Centre (SCOC).