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7 Smart Cities Examples We Can Learn From

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

What is a smart city?

The concept of smart cities has been around for a while, but only now we’re starting to see the long-term impact of these initiatives which not only save cities money but also improve the lives of their citizens.

According to IMD, the entity which publishes the Smart City Index report yearly, a smart city is defined as "an urban setting that applies technology to enhance the benefits and diminish the shortcomings of

urbanization for its citizens”. Some of the technologies that support smart cities are artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and 5G connectivity. These technologies make cities smarter, safer, cleaner and more inclusive.

We decided to dig into some of the smartest cities in the world and explore their impressive plans and initiatives. This is what we found.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong measures temperature, humidity and air quality through smart lamp posts and makes the data available to the public through mobile-friendly dashboards which show people images, maps and information. These lamp posts also have 5G compatibility.

They introduced real-time adaptive traffic signals with sensors to optimize green times for vehicles and pedestrians.

Hong Kong has invested in an all-in-one app named HKeMobility which facilitates searching faster routes using multiple transportation methods. In addition, it gives information on journey times, fares and supplies real-time traffic news. The app has an Elderly Mode which offers a more adequate user interface for the elderly.

Another interesting initiative is the iAM Smart platform which is a one-stop shop for personalised digital services which enables the user to have one single login. It can be accessed through their mobile phone. Every Hong Kong resident with a Hong Kong Identity Card and aged 11 or over is able to use iAM Smart.


Singapore has been consistently ranked the number 1 smart city in the world. The city plans to achieve 100% self-driving cars in the city streets by 2025, but that’s only one of their impressive ambitions.

The city has introduced TeleHealth, doctor appointments by video when in-person visits aren’t possible. On the other hand, TeleRehab allows patients to execute medical exercises at home while being monitored by IoT devices which track progress and share the data with the therapist.

Singapore is also experimenting with robotics to decrease loneliness in the elderly population.

E-government is something Singapore knows a thing or two about. 94% of their government services are digital from beginning to end, thanks to a mobile digital national ID card and a massive service portal for residents and businesses.

Open data is a crucial aspect of every smart city. As expected, Singapore makes most of its data accessible to the public through online portals, which facilitates developers interested in creating a digital solution for the city.

In the future, the city is planning to create an aerial network route for drones to carry packages, letters and information.


Zurich’s first steps to becoming a smart city started with streetlight sensors, which would increase brightness or dim according to traffic levels. Thanks to this, Zurich was able to save up to 70% of energy. After this success, the city installed more smart streetlights with additional features such as collecting environmental data and public Wi-Fi transmitters.

Smart buildings are in and Zurich is no exception. Heating, electricity and cooling are all optimized to save energy.

Zurich also boasts of a world-class public transportation system, which is highlighted by the mobile app Zürimobil, which provides real-time traffic information, as well as alternative transportation methods.

When it comes to open data, the city of Zurich really invests in it. They also believe in smart participation. In some urban projects, they leverage collaboration from different stakeholders.

The city has an on-demand service integrated into the public transportation system, called Pikmi. Vehicles from Pikmi are booked through a smartphone and when user destinations and similar, they’re automatically bundled together into the same vehicle.

New York City

New York City not only has the talent of a smart city but also the infrastructure to back it up. Their smart city pilot programme in 2020 installed hundreds of smart sensors to optimize waste management and collection, a major problem in the city.

These sensors monitored trash levels, allowing pick-up trips to be more efficient. The system also included a trash compactor running on solar power. Using these, trash bins started holding five times more waste than a normal bin.

Phone booths have been replaced by smart hubs with Wi-Fi and online charging for everyone to use.

To incentivize new smart city solutions from companies, New York City organizes an annual contest for apps that best utilise their publicly available data sets.


For Seoul, data is king. The city analyses traffic flow, speed and air quality using sensors and CCTV. When sensors detect unusual temperature, humidity, or lighting, workers or emergency services are contacted right after.

5G is actually a thing in South Korea and its capital is one of the first cities to use 5G in mobility and transportation. Seoul also combined LTE signal data of mobile carriers and the public data of the city government to create something called the “Daily Population Data”. This data is useful for commercial and marketing activities, for example.

Seoul is trying to improve citizen engagement. Some examples of these initiatives are “Democracy Seoul”, a policy proposal platform, “M-Voting”, a mobile voting system and “Seoul Online Civil Complaints”, to register and process citizen complaints.

One of their most incredible ideas is roads that recharge vehicles during the drive. It’s a technology called OLEV which charges vehicles wirelessly. When a vehicle drives through one of the recharging surfaces, the device installed on the vehicle body converts it into energy thanks to magnetic fields.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) announced Seoul will be the first major city to enter the metaverse, around 2023. The city’s plan is to create a metaverse which allows citizens to meet with avatars to deal with civil complaints and other governance matters.


London has been a natural hub for artificial intelligence, which greatly pushes London in the smart city direction. The city has 750 suppliers working in the sector. That’s twice as many as Paris and Berlin. London is also one of the few cities with a Chief Digital Officer.

Londoners brag about having the world’s biggest network of air quality sensors, including sensors in hospitals, schools and other priority locations in London.

However, data isn’t coming only from air quality sensors. The city has over 1k open data sets which are then used by public entities, research institutions and businesses looking to improve the city by producing maps and digital products and services.

Smart parking is quite developed in London. They introduced electrical vehicles and smart parking to improve air quality and reduce congestion. Sensors in parking lots allow users to check occupancy in real-time.

London’s City Hall online citizen engagement platform has over 60,000 members contributing to the development of mayoral strategies.


Dubai is on the fast track to becoming one of the smartest cities in the world. The city went through a seven-year plan to digitalize governance services, health, education, urban planning, transportation and more.

Most of these services are now available in the DubaiNow app. They also opened their data to the private and public sectors to incentivize third-party applications for citizens.

Automation has been leveraged in the transportation sector to reduce fatigue-related traffic accidents. Another interesting fact is Dubai’s police has three autonomous police stations where you can pay fines, report accidents and other matters.

Dubai is ambitious and aims to make its city a paperless city, with all government transactions becoming 100% digitized.

👉 Can smaller cities and towns implement projects like the above?

Absolutely! However, becoming smart requires great commitment as well as reliable partners to guide decision-makers.

Interested in knowing more about that? Book a meeting with us and start your smart city journey.


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