Top smart cities in Europe

The world's urban population has grown from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018 and is projected by the UN to hit 7.7 billion by 2050 - 68 percent of the global population. Smart cities can offer ways to cope with the demographic changes through the use of technology and data, and many of the most promising ones are in Europe.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that European spending on smart cities will reach $19 billion (£15 billion) in 2018, and the continent is well-represented on the smart city rankings produced by the Eden Strategy Institute, a Singapore-based social innovation consultancy.

Here are the smart cities in Europe that earned places on the list.

Read next: Best smart cities in the UK

London

London

London topped the rankings in both Europe and the world, earning plaudits for being an open data pioneer and supporting digital businesses.

In 2016, Mayor Sadiq Khan launched Smart London 2.0, a new smart city strategy focused on digital inclusion.

The Smart London Board of industry experts and new Chief Digital Officer Theo Blackwell provide strategic support, while the London Office for Technology & Innovation (LOTI) investigates and applies leading practices.

Read next: First-ever London CDO Theo Blackwell lays out smart city plans

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki earned the runner-up spot thanks to its focus on the needs of citizens, open government, transparent policies, and sharing of learnings with the five other Finnish cities on "The Six City Strategy" open innovation platform.

The Finnish capital has established a smart innovation district called Kalasatama, which aims to save one hour of every citizen's time every day through smart traffic-related services. It is currently working on more than 25 innovative infrastructure, buildings, and experimentation projects.

Other initiatives come from Smart & Clean Helsinki Metropolitan, a foundation that testbeds smart and clean solutions in the metropolitan area, Forum Virium Helsinki, which is working with residents and dietitians to pilot a mobile platform, and a tech-savvy mayor, who hosts live webcasts of City Council meetings.

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona has invested heavily in Wi-Fi infrastructure and the internet of things (IoT) to become one of the world's most connected cities. The investment has already saved the city an estimated $58 million (£46 million) on water, generated $50 million (£39 million) per year in parking revenues and created 47,000 new jobs. Cisco predicts it will deliver a cumulative economic benefit of $970 million (£765 million) by 2026.

One of the most successful projects has been an extensive installation of Smart LED lights that save energy by only lighting up when sensors detect movement and also capture environmental data that help inform local government decisions.

The Catalan capital is also home to the Smart Cities Expo World Congress, the premier global event for smart cities.

Vienna

Vienna

In 2013, Vienna created the Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR) project, one of the continent's largest urban development schemes. ASCR collects and analyses data from the district of Aspern's smart grid, buildings, tech and citizens to develop future urban solutions with a focus on sustainability.

By studying the 1.5 million datasets that ASCR generates every day, Vienna hopes to improve energy efficiency and meet its goal of cutting per capita greenhouse gases to 80 percent of their 1990 levels.

Vienna has also rapidly expanded its electric vehicle charging network and is running trials on electric bike rentals and electric car-sharing schemes.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam has earned acclaim for Amsterdam Smart City (ASC), a public-private partnership that brings together public authorities, businesses, universities and citizens to develop digital solutions for social, economic and ecological problems.

The partnership has supported more than 40 different projects, from a virtual power plant that aggregates people’s production and consumption of solar energy and stores the surplus locally, and Vehicle to Grid technology that enables electric cars to act as temporary batteries to power households during outages.

ASC has also partnered with the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences to create the Smart City Academy in which professors, teachers, and students collaborate on smart city projects.

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm has taken a forward-thinking approach to its progress as a smart city by using a research method called Design Fiction to create speculative future scenarios.

One result has been a brochure titled: "Welcome to the world’s smartest city", which imagines Stockholm in 2040, with environmentally-friendly travel, personalised, adaptive education, firefly drones that light up streets and public offline zones to escape from the tech.

Not all the smart city schemes are as speculative though. Stockholm's environmental focus earned it the first EU Green Capital award, and the Swedish capital has a strong reputation for digital governance, ranking first in the Rutgers University survey of cities for data privacy and security for citizens.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

Copenhagen aims to become the world's first carbon-neutral capital by 2025 and has made this goal a focal point of its smart city strategy.

The city wants at least half of its population to cycle to work and is investing in Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) to support them.

Hundreds of controllers have been installed in traffic signals at intersections, which can optimise signals in real-time by prioritising bike and bus traffic over automobiles, while city officials run simulations to test different traffic control models.

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin's smart city plan emphasises the importance of creativity and culture to foster a high quality of life in future urban development.

In April 2015, the Berlin Senate announced the Smart City Berlin Strategy to guide its efforts. Its objectives include expanding the international competitiveness of the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan region, increasing the resource efficiency and climate neutrality of Berlin, and creating a pilot market for innovative applications.

The Smart City Berlin Network of research institutes and more than 100 companies plays a key role in the efforts, instigating and assisting projects, supporting events, and bringing together different partners.

Dublin

Dublin

Dublin's smart city strategy is centred on open data and making the metropolitan area a test bed for new urban solutions.

The city has set up Smart Dublin, an initiative of the four Dublin Local Authorities to engage with smart technology providers, researchers and citizens to solve challenges and improve city life.

Partnerships with business play a key role in the plans. The city council has teamed up with companies including Japanese tech giant SoftBank, which will pilot its global IoT platform in Dublin, sharing lessons, exploring potential trials and developing proofs of concepts.

Reykjavik

Reykjavik

Reykjavik has aligned its smart city strategy with the government's wider policies around making city services more efficient, more accessible and more environmentally-friendly. The results cover practical services such as a smartphone app for city buses as well as more exploratory work.

Iceland's capital tries to involve the public in its plans through Better Reykjavik, an online consultation forum where all citizens can present their ideas on the services and operations of the city.

Citizens can also decide on how more than $4 million of public funding every year is spent on ideas that are crowdsourced from the public.

Lyon

Lyon

Lyon encourages collaboration to develop smart city solutions through schemes such as Tuba, an open laboratory that inhabitants of the city can participate in to contribute to experiments. Companies can then use open data from the platform to support their own solutions.

To gain support from the public for potentially disruptive changes, the smart city strategy is pitched as "technology in the service of the Lyonese lifestyle".

Greater Lyon is also the first territory in Europe to experiment with smart grids and is the location of a large number of projects working to better conserve energy resources and manage consumption.

Paris

Paris

Paris has an ambitious plan to create a sustainable utopia that combines the city’s celebrated beauty with new smart architecture.

Paris city council commissioned architecture firm Vincent Callebaut to design the future metropolis. The firm returned with prototypes of hydro-dynamic towers that uses vegetation as bio-air conditioning, stacked vertical urban "farmscrapers" and hydro-electrical pumps that turn rainwater into clean energy.

The city has also developed an impressive smart transformation network including an expansive electric vehicle sharing programme called Autolib and is currently crowdsourcing further sustainable ideas.

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