Tokyo smart city skyline
Tokyo is frequently voted one of the smartest cities in the world.

Inside the world’s smartest cities

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Alice Cruickshank

London, Amsterdam, Paris and New York are well known for their proptech scenes, but what about the rest of the world?

While the prestigious accolade of world’s smartest city changes frequently depending on which report you read, there are certainly lots of contenders. Here are some smart cities from around the globe using innovative technology to improve the lives of their citizens.

Seoul

Seoul OLEV Bus Minseong Kim

Seoul’s electric buses charge by driving along the roads. Image: Minseong Kim

Seoul’s leaders claim it was the world’s first ‘smart city’ in 2014 and the South Korean capital will be the first to launch commercial 5G in 2019. Seoul is already a highly connected city, with its policy started in 2012 to provide lower income citizens with second-hand smart devices. A 2015 report also lauded South Korea as having the fastest Internet in the world.

Seoul is world-renowned for its innovative transport system. The city uses online electric vehicle technology; special OLEV buses are able to charge their batteries by driving along recharging surfaces on the roads, which provide magnetic fields from electrical cables buried under the tarmac. Public transport is to the fore, with cars taking second place.

As the world prepares for driverless technology to become widespread, cities should look to Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon Stream for inspiration. This stream was reclaimed from the Cheonggye Expressway road and is now an urban escape popular with both locals and tourists.

Tokyo

Cityview With Skytree In The Middle In Tokyo Japan GusbellSStudio

Japan’s 2,080 ft Skytree is earthquake resistant despite its height. Image: GusbellSStudio

Tokyo has been working hard on its smart city strategy ahead of the 2020 Olympics. Many of these efforts relate to ‘disaster-proofing’ the earthquake-prone city. One of the ways government is doing this is to remove all visible electricity poles and bury them underground. Meanwhile, Tokyo’s skyscrapers and other buildings follow strict guidelines. Tokyo’s Skytree is one of the tallest towers in the world at 2,080 ft, yet it is designed to be earthquake proof. The design mimics Japan’s traditional wooden pagodas, using a central pole to diffuse vibrations.

Tokyo also has a world-leading waste disposal model. Rubbish is collected daily and taken to one of 19 waste incineration plants in the centre of the city, all of which have aesthetically pleasing designs. There waste is burned at over 800 degrees Celsius to reduce the amount of toxic waste produced, and water vapour rather than smoke is emitted from the chimneys.

Singapore

Changi Airport Rain Vortex

Futuristic Rain Vortex. Image: Changi Airport

Smart Nation Singapore is working to have a fully connected city, and currently provides 16 different apps for residents, covering everything from first aid help to transport and even accessing city statistics.

The city-state is focusing a lot of money and research into self-driving vehicles, and has trialed a fleet of shared shuttles or pods that commuters will be able to book through their smartphones. Singapore is also working on a three-and-a-half year project to launch autonomous buses.

Singapore’s Changi airport has repeatedly been voted the best airport in the world, and with its wealth of innovations it is no surprise. One of the airport’s more unusual features is the Jewel, expected to open to the public in 2019. This multi-purpose space is being constructed on a former car park. Half of its 10 levels will be underground. Inside, visitors will find a five-storey indoor forest garden and impressive water features such as the 131 ft Rain Vortex, as well as hotel rooms, restaurants and shops.

Stockholm

Stockholmsrummet

Stockholmsrummet 3D city model. Image: Stockholm City

Stockholm has grand plans with its smart city initiative, a mission to become the world’s smartest city by 2040. The Swedish capital was an early investor in an open fibre network, and currently 100% of businesses and 95% of homes have access to a world-leading Internet service.

A fully to-scale, 3D printed version of the city was first created in 2005, and is available for the public to view under a glass floor at popular tourist attraction Stockholmsrummet. More recent developments include two Virtual Reality stations, where people can explore future residential areas.

Stockholm is passionate about its carbon footprint. Voted the first European Green Capital, the city is approximately 40% green space, and the government is heavily investing in energy efficiency technology. Solar and wave energy are prominent sources of electricity, while more unusual methods such as converting hot water into electricity are being developed in the city.

Melbourne

Melbourne Smart Bin

Melbourne has installed solar-powered smart bins. Image: City of Melbourne

One of Melbourne’s most unique smart city projects is being designed to aid people who are blind, deaf and deaf-blind in navigating the city. Possible solutions being trialed include beacon technology that pair with smart phones, and using the city’s open data with smart assistants such as Siri and Alexa to provide information via text or on-screen visuals.

Melbourne’s 24-hour pedestrian counting system measures pedestrian movements to determine how people use the city. This data is being used by local government to plan for the future and best allocate resources.

Meanwhile, waste management systems such as smart bins powered by solar energy which send notifications once they are 50% and 80% full, are maintaining the city’s stringent cleanliness standards.

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