So what exactly is a smart city? And where do new technologies come in?
What makes a town smart and hip
A number of elements can be considered characteristic of a smart city or “city 2.0”: smart street furniture, as seen in Paris, Wi-Fi hotspots, town planning schemes with a focus on the environment and quality of life, or new, ultra-connected towns such as New Songdo in South Korea.
The role of new technologies
Mobile solutions, connectivity, smart grids, smart objects, automatic transport management, open data: all these technology trends are combining to transform towns as we know them. A means rather than an end, the digital ICT infrastructures implemented, whether experimentally or permanently, on a small or large scale, are chiefly designed to cut energy costs, improve quality of life, reduce inequality and favour data interconnectivity.
Europe’s 70 smartest cities
A group of researchers specialising in new technologies, town planning and geography have ranked the “smartness” of towns with between 100,000 and 500,000 inhabitants in Europe based on 6 criteria: governance, economics, mobility, the environment, people and living.
Overall, Luxembourg tops the list, whilst all the other towns featuring in the top 5 are in Scandinavia. Eindhoven and Maastricht (the Netherlands), Montpellier in France, and Gent in Belgium also came out well.
Whilst Scandinavian countries have the best overall score (e.g. Aarhus and Aalborg in Denmark and Turku and Tampere in Finland), Maastricht and Eindhoven are the winners in terms of mobility, French cities such as Montpellier, Clermont-Ferrand, Poitiers, Dijon and Nancy scored well on the environmental front, and Austrian and Belgian towns (Salzburg, Bruges, Gent) were deemed the best in terms of quality of life. Four UK cities (Cardiff, Aberdeen, Leicester and Portsmouth) featured in the top 70.