Berlin is Europe’s smartest city

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Sheila Zabeu -

July 28, 2023

Berlin has been named the smartest European city in 2023, according to a new study by Juniper Research, which brings together experts in sustainability and the Internet of Things (IoT). London, Barcelona, Rome, and Madrid complete the top five.

The analysis evaluated 50 cities considering different aspects of smart cities, such as transport and infrastructure, energy systems and lighting, administration and urban connectivity. The report identified Berlin as the best smart city due to its focus on improving transit infrastructure which, for example with Jelbi, has unified public and private transport into a single MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) application. Berlin has also taken proactive steps in shared micromobility and renewable energy generation, demonstrating a joined-up approach to smart city development.

MaaS systems can realise the interconnection and intercommunication of transport equipment throughout the transport system using the Internet of Things (IoT) and produce intelligent transport services by collecting and analysing transport data, thus providing better solutions for urban transport development.

“Europe, as the cradle of MaaS, has implemented this concept and has made important progress recently. Traffic is a central part of the strategies for the development of European smart cities. Those that intend to follow this approach must adopt a coordinated approach to traffic to realize the benefits of MaaS in reducing congestion,” says Nick Maynard, co-author of the research.

The study also pointed out that smart cities are making a major contribution to reducing emissions in Europe. This drop is expected to reach 247 million metric tonnes (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2028, compared to 161 MMT in 2023. These figures represent a 53 per cent growth, showing the potential breakthrough that smart cities can deliver in five years.

According to Juniper Research, the potential reduction in emissions is a crucial driver for smart city deployments, alongside rising environmental awareness in Europe. However, with cost pressures prevailing in the European energy sector, governments should focus on strategies that enable the reduction of these figures and deployments of renewable energy systems, such as greater use of Artificial Intelligence in smart grids.

Another European city

Another index, produced by The Smart City Observatory, part of the IMD World Competitiveness Centre, combined hard data and interview responses to show the extent to which technology is enabling cities to meet the challenges of providing a better quality of life for their inhabitants. In this ranking, Zurich topped the IMD Smart City Index 2023, followed by Oslo in second place and Canberra in third.

According to the report, the Asian and European continents account for the top 20 smart cities out of 141 studied. Six of them have shown continuous improvement or stability year after year. These super-champions are Zurich, Oslo, Singapore, Beijing, Seoul and Hong Kong. The 2023 revelations also demonstrate the growing “smartness” of cities in a second group, such as Montreal, Denver (USA), Lausanne (Switzerland) and Bilbao (Spain).

“The global smart city landscape is changing. Cities and their leaders are gaining visibility on the international stage, and citizens are increasingly valuing inclusion and diversity in the places they choose to live,” says Bruno Lanvin, President of The Smart City Observatory.

Some 20,000 citizens were interviewed about 15 aspects of life in their cities. They were asked what their most pressing issues were, from affordable housing and congestion to jobs and green spaces. Other questions were also asked in an attempt to determine whether technological solutions were meeting their top demands. Finally, they were asked if they were comfortable with technologies such as facial recognition and personal data sharing to improve road congestion.

The results can serve as a benchmark to guide how cities should act in the areas of openness, innovation, inclusion and sustainability. “A new world is shaping up, and changes in cities are a precious indicator of what the future holds. Openness and collaboration between cities could become important components in the next wave of globalisation,” Lanvin adds.

This year, the Seoul-based World Smart Sustainable Cities Organisation (WeGO) has partnered with IMD to give formal recognition to smart city development efforts, which will award a new prize in September. The award will promote an innovative and inclusive smart city model that cares for disadvantaged groups.

“The IMD Smart Cities Observatory and WeGO are taking important steps to become the leading smart cities index and support at the global level. Our index gives access to WeGO’s network of member cities to have an improved assessment of cities and contribute to future research and development,” says Jung Sook Park, Secretary General of WeGO.

This year’s index reflects the actual experience of citizens where they live, thanks to city-level data from the Global Data Lab’s Human Development Index (HDI) used instead of country-level information. It measures life expectancy, expected years of schooling and average years of education completed, as well as citizens’ per capita income.