5 of the smartest cities in Europe.
What makes a city smart?
Is it the development and planning that go into it, or the innovative tech that emerges from its businesses and labs? Could it be management’s implementation of sustainable and cost-effective building and transportation systems? Or, is it perhaps combinations of all these details, and more, when they come together in just the right way at just the right time.
Whatever smart means, when it comes to urban environments, we’re right to be fascinated by the prospect. And great examples do exist — cities that are on the cutting edge of design, deployment and exploration of the next best practices in how communities can both operate and thrive.
With that in mind, let’s turn to some of Europe’s smartest places. Read on for a list of five stellar cities (in no particular order) — what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and why we want more like them around the world.
1. Barcelona, Spain
Start with a city that hosts its own annual Smart City Expo. Add to that a robust and wide-reaching public Wi-Fi infrastructure and consider that Barcelona is well on its way to energy self-sufficiency as well. If you’re looking for a community that understands something about its place in the landscape of smart, this Catalonian capital is a top pick.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
When it comes to going green and seeking environmentally sustainable living, Copenhagen gets consistent top billing. Its carbon footprint is close to the lowest worldwide — less than two tons per capita — and the goal is to go carbon-neutral by 2025. They’re shooting for these goals with green-building and renewable-resource strategies. It also helps that some 40% of all commutes within Copenhagen are by bicycle.
3. Helsinki, Finland
Smart-city developers love Helsinki. With more 1,200 open data sets, the ability for startups and seasoned scientists to identify new opportunities and create new tools out of all that information is a huge part of Helsinki’s success story. Evidence of how that’s permeated the lifestyles of the city’s more that 620,000 residents is everywhere. For example, every single residential and commercial spot in the city has a smart meter built into it, and nearly three quarters of the city’s commercial properties engage with automated systems that help cut energy use. There’s even a move to implement on-demand bus service.
4. Vienna, Austria
Well known for its important contributions to European music, Vienna is still keeping perfect time when it comes to the tempo and movements of innovation. A leader in the electric vehicle space — there are more than 400 charging stations throughout its streets — Vienna also is breaking new ground in bike and car-share programs. Even better, it’s opened its bike system to visitors as well as residents.
5. Grenoble, France
There’s always room for a new player in the smart-city space, and Grenoble is definitely jumping into the vehicle-share arena. With the launch of its new transportation initiative, Cité lib by Ha:mo, 35 three-wheel TOYOTA i-ROAD and 35 four-wheel Toyota Auto Body COMS — all of them electric vehicles — are being tested for short city trips. All of this is based around 27 charging stations installed and operated by Sodetrel, an innovator when it comes to charging services for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. In all, there are 120 charging points for the project, and 41 for other plug-in vehicles, now added to the city’s transport infrastructure. It’s three euros for the first 15 minutes, two for the second, and one for every quarter hour after that (and even less if you’ve joined the Grenoble transport-card plan). The big picture, when it The big picture, when it comes to Cité lib by Ha:mo, is that Grenoble is actually expanding its public transportation network. This is a shift toward multi-modality.Users are able to catch a Cité lib by Ha:mo car when coming into Grenoble, say, then a short one-way trip with the EV on errands, followed by a tram/bus from a different location back home. The program’s ultra-compact electric vehicles give everyone in Grenoble new options for combining numerous ways of getting around — it’s a complete, flexible (and greener) system for the city.
“Grenoble draws its strength from its capacity to accompany emerging initiatives and turn them into successes for everyone’s benefit,” says Jacques Wiart, deputy mayor in charge of Mobility and Urban Transport at the City of Grenoble. “By proposing a new clean mobility solution that complements bicycling and public transport, the trial Cité lib by Ha:mo is in direct line with this tradition.”
When it comes to smart cities, it takes a top-level commitment from leaders such as Wiart to see a new project through. But it also takes solid partners working together — from the power company to the car manufacturer, to the car-sharing operator and the public transportation network. For Grenoble, Cité lib by Ha:mo is putting another component of city systems on the cutting edge of smart.