London has launched the Heathrow Pods, a rapid transist system with driverless vehicles that connect the city with the airport. Credit: Ultra Global PRT.

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The world's five smartest cities

ISABEL RUBIO | Tungsteno

According to the United Nations, 55% of the world’s people live in cities. It is estimated that this proportion will increase by another 13% by 2050. This growth, which is transforming multiple cities into megacities, brings with it a greater demand for services and presents challenges in the areas of mobility, the environment and public management. Against this background, new technologies are presented as an effective weapon to overcome these challenges. According to IDC, the 50 largest cities on the planet dedicated some 80 billion dollars to smart city technologies in 2018. Spending is expected to reach 158 billion by 2022. These are the five smartest cities in the world:

New York

Around 15% of the total investment in smart city technology in 2018 was made in only five cities: Singapore, Tokyo, London, Shanghai and New York, which for the second year in a row is the smartest city in the world. This is highlighted by IESE’s Cities in Motion Index, which measures the sustainability and quality of life of the inhabitants. The Big Apple, which has more than eight million inhabitants, particularly stands out for its high GDP and for the number of parent companies listed on its stock market. Known worldwide for its skyscrapers, it also has significant infrastructure development. Almost 100% of the population has access to adequate sanitary facilities and has a small number of people per household. In addition, the city works with the Internet of Things and connected devices to massively collect data and develop policies related to energy, climate change or air quality. However, according to IESE, there is still much to be done in terms of social cohesion and the environment.


Europe is the leading continent in terms of the number of smart cities. A total of 12 cities are among the top 25 positions in the ranking. Among them is London, which comes second in the global ranking. The most populous city in the United Kingdom, with eight million inhabitants, stands out for having the largest number of top-level business schools and the greatest number of universities. In addition to offering a rich cultural experience, one can also find at 150 different spots the fastest free Wi-Fi in the country, and it is the city that attracts the largest number of airline passengers. In terms of transport, the Heathrow Pods have been created, driverless vehicles that connect the city with the airport. Another project of this smart city is London Datastore, an open data platform used every month by more than 50,000 citizens, companies and researchers. Like New York, its unresolved issue is social cohesion.

Paris Smart City 2050 integrates green buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: Vincent Callebaut Architectures.


The French capital is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. It stands out in terms of mobility and transport due to its shared bicycle system, the high-speed trains, the number of air connections and its metro. The Grand Paris Express project is one of the biggest transformations in transport in Europe: the network in the metropolitan area will be redesigned by adding four new metro lines, 200 kilometres of railway lines and 68 stations interconnected with a fully automatic system. Also noteworthy is Paris Smart City 2050, an initiative presented by the architect Vincent Callebaut to the Paris City Hall that shows what the capital would look like in 30 years if it integrated green buildings in the urban core, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Paris is also one of the most important economic centres in Europe, as it is home to the headquarters of almost half of the major French companies, as well as 20 of the 100 largest companies in the world.


Tokyo is the most populous urban agglomeration in the world. The centre of Japan’s capital city has more than 13 million inhabitants and its metropolitan area is home to more than 37 million people. It is one of the cities with the highest labour productivity index, tops the Index of Cities on the Move in the Asia-Pacific region and ranks fourth overall. With its policies to become a smart city, Tokyo, which will host the Olympic Games in 2020, aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. To this end, it is committed to the local storage of energy and the use of electric vehicles. The authorities are also promoting the use of LED lights, according to a report by the Eden Strategy Institute and ONG&ONG (OXD). To achieve this, they have partnered with local appliance stores in order to offer citizens LED bulbs in exchange for used incandescent bulbs.

Tokyo, leader of the IESE’s Index in the Asia- Pacific Region, promotes energy optimization by offering citizens LED bulbs in exchange for used incandescent bulbs. Credit: Jezael Melgoza.


If there is one city that stands out for its environmental focus, it is Reykjavik. Like Wellington (New Zealand), it is distinguished by its low levels of pollution and its renewable sources of energy. The capital of Iceland, where half the country's population lives, has more than 120,000 inhabitants. There, 99% of electricity production comes from hydroelectric and geothermal energy. In addition, the city has presented a climate policy action plan that seeks to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2040. Despite being one of the smallest cities included in the various reports on smart cities, it is often at the top of the global rankings thanks to its strong commitment to environmental protection and advances in technology, mobility and transport.

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Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.

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