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The rise of the smart city

March 16, 2017

Free Wi-Fi in all public spaces, on-demand street lighting, sensors that tell you where to park your car downtown - these are some of the high-tech services making up the building blocks of a modern day smart city. In our latest Think:Act publication "Smart city, smart strategy" we navigate technological complexity by shining the spotlight on 87 metropolises around the globe and looking at how cities are embracing the smart revolution – and the multi-million dollar market it has created.

The survey results have taken us by surprise. Despite "smart cities" being an agenda item for many years, the reality on the ground is patchy at best - with most cities not taking a broad view approach. But the good news is more and more cities around the world are taking a strategic approach to their smart status.

Which cities are getting it right and why? Vienna topped the list with an impressive 73 points, followed by Chicago and Singapore with just one point less. A closer look at the top three sheds light on what is working. With a population of 1.74 million, Vienna boasts a well-structured smart city strategy and lays out short, mid and long-term goals for digitalization, including public services moving online and extensive Wi-Fi access throughout the city.

Our Smart City Strategy Index reveals that there is room for improvement even for the high performers.

Based on our research, we identify 10 key pointers that can help cities develop a comprehensive and integrated smart city strategy:

  • Reevaluate the role of the city and its administration
  • Involve citizens and other stakeholders
  • Avoid isolated solutions – look beyond e-government and actively apply best practices
  • Encourage initiatives, self-sustaining business models and other contributions from the private sector
  • Create a comprehensive data strategy and data platforms
  • Set up innovation labs to foster an inspiring ecosystem
  • Ensure data security
  • Involve infrastructure operators in designing, financing and implementing initiatives
  • Gain political backing and integrate public feedback
  • Establish a coordinating body and a dedicated planning system

Urban centers need to develop an interconnected, integrated approach that encompasses every area of citizens' lives.

To get started along the road, we recommend using our free online self-assessment tool.


The rise of the smart city


Cities around the world are embracing the digital revolution. But how well are they really doing?

Published March 2017. Available in