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Smart cities in 2018: Tech, transportation and tough conversations

We look back at the top smart cities stories of 2018.


Below are our most popular posts on SmartCitiesWorld in 2018, highlighting smart city priorities such as transportation, governance and partnerships.


For me, the most interesting thing in smart cities in 2018 was the more open discussion around the social risks of smart cities and practical moves to address them. This included more attention on the risks associated with the rise of facial recognition technology, concerns about data privacy, the acknowledgement of unintended consequences and the need to pay attention to growing cyber risks as our cities get more connected.


For me, the most interesting thing in smart cities this year was more open discussion around the social risks of smart cities and practical moves to address them.


Sidewalk Labs’ high-profile waterfront initiative in Toronto hit the headlines, not only for its high-tech vision of a sustainable community with dynamic streets but also for the discussions it has prompted around big tech’s involvement in urban development, privacy in smart cities and data ownership. The project continues to be one to watch in 2019.


It hasn’t been all talk, though. A number of initiatives were launched to help ensure data and AI ethics (perhaps too many and we will start to see some streamlining here). Towards the end of the year, Amsterdam, Barcelona and New York City launched the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights. The joint initiative will promote and track progress in protecting people’s digital rights and aims to lay the foundations for a “people-centric digital future".


This encapsulates another key trend in 2018. The importance of focusing on people as we make our cities smarter started cropping up more noticeably in the smart city narrative a couple of years ago (better late than never, you might say). It’s good to now see more examples of the theory in action, as well as a growing understanding of the need to focus on outcomes, rather than letting technology take over for its own sake.


Only through getting these debates out in the open can smart cities shake off the dystopian concerns that some have and demonstrate the benefits that well-deployed and transparent technology can offer.


I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings.


2018 top 10 on SmartCitiesWorld


  1. Smart mobility testbeds announced

In January, the IOTA Foundation joined forces with the International Transportation Innovation Center (ITIC) to build a global alliance of smart mobility testbeds.


Cutting congestion and improving road safety remain among the hottest smart cities topics, and towards the end of 2018, SmartCitiesWorld hosted an event on plotting the route to smarter transportation.

  1. Singapore tops the smart city rankings

Singapore is rarely out of the smart city headlines and in May, Singapore, Dubai and London were rated as the smartest cities in the world by ABI Research.


Singapore was also chosen as the Smart City of 2018 at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona in November, and our Singapore City Profile remains popular.

  1. Top smart companies named in new index

In March, GE, Intel and AT&T were named as the leading three companies for innovation and serving the needs of cities. Compass Intelligence said these companies were helping to make “seemingly far-off futuristic urban innovations a reality, dramatically changing how citizens, companies and governments interact.”


All three companies are involved in the work featured in our latest City Profile on San Diego. San Diego is deploying the world’s largest city IoT sensor platform, transforming its street lighting into a connected digital infrastructure. The real-time sensor data delivered from across the city will be used to develop applications that tackle pressing challenges and improve the city.

  1. Espoo named most intelligent community

In June, the city of Espoo in Finland was named the 2018 Intelligent Community of the Year by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF). The city was praised for its people-centric approach.


Espoo’s Mayor, Jukka Mäkelä, told SmartCitiesWorld more about the winning focus on co-creation, sustainability and city story-telling.

  1. Blockchain for smarter cities? Start crawling

Blockchain has been high on the hype curve throughout 2018. Our research at SmartCitiesWorld revealed that cities have high hopes for blockchain but they’re not quite sure how to get started.


Ernst & Young’s Paul Brody shared how to move beyond the status quo.

  1. How IoT Platforms can power smart city success

In February, SmartCitiesWorld undertook a global survey which looked at the growing trend of adopting cloud-based platforms rather than point-to-point connectivity for smart city solutions. Our report spotlighted how the Internet of Things (IoT) powers many smart city services which benefit citizens, businesses and city municipalities.

  1. Report ranks top 50 smart cities on leadership and governance

The Eden Strategy Institute said its July report was the first independent ranking to investigate the roles that city governments play in leading a smart city strategy, beyond celebrating the technological attainments of the cities themselves.


London, Singapore and Seoul came out top.

  1. Port of Rotterdam on course for self-driving ships by 2030

Port of Rotterdam wants to be the world’s smartest port with IoT sensors and a data management platform combined with powerful analytics. By 2030, the port authority wants to allow autonomous ships in port to unload and load goods. We found out more.

  1. The smartest cities in America

April saw the announcement of the winners of the inaugural IDC Smart Cities North America Awards (SCNAA). Winners included Kansas City for civic engagement, Miami – Dade County for smart buildings and Virginia Beach for sustainable infrastructure.


  1. Dreaming of the future cities

Dream the Future, a documentary series launched in March, calls on 100 visionary experts from around the world who are trying to create real solutions to the earth’s biggest challenges, including urbanisation.


What were your smart city takeaways from 2018? What do you expect to see in 2019?


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