In 2023, a multitude of smart cities across the world made strides toward making their municipalities more efficient and sustainable through climate action efforts, planning and redevelopment initiatives, and citizen engagement projects. Let’s take a look at the top smart cities of 2023 to identify global leaders in innovation.
What is a Smart City?
A smart city is a modern municipality that uses technology to collect data about resources, services, infrastructure, and operations to increase efficiency and improve the quality of life of its citizens. Smart cities are often characterized by the implementation of technology, a streamlined public transportation system, environmental initiatives, effective communication facilitated by technological connectivity, and innovative urban planning.
Sustainability and energy conservation are some of the primary concerns of smart cities. Thus, these cities work to minimize their ecological footprint through environmental initiatives like enhancing public transportation systems and reducing air pollution. While many cities face similar issues, each municipality has its own unique needs that may be affected by its location, climate, and residents. Therefore, smart cities utilize various forms of technology to assess their primary objectives and create detailed action plans that will have a positive impact on sustainability, efficiency, and quality of life.
To collect and relay data, smart cities rely on automation, internet connectivity, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a network of devices connected through a communications system that gathers data and exchanges information with each other. Through the use of these technologies, smart cities can monitor various concerns and address them more efficiently (Shea & Burns, 2020; National Geographic, 2023).
The Top Smart Cities of 2023
In 2023, many cities across the globe made headlines for their smart technology initiatives. Here are five of the most notable smart cities from last year!
To prepare for more extreme weather, including increasingly high temperatures during the summer months, Western Sydney University is enacting a heat island effect study to identify microclimates by installing 200 temperature gauges across Sydney, Australia. These temperature gauges will allow researchers to map air temperatures and study how trees, parks, and other assets perform under rising temperatures. Air temperature loggers, which will predominantly be installed in trees, will record temperatures every 10 minutes. At the study’s conclusion in March 2024, these loggers will have amassed over three million data points.
According to the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, “This important study will identify microclimates and help us understand where we can concentrate the most appropriate heat adaptation actions. It’ll also help us understand what is working already and inform the development of more cooling strategies to help our communities mitigate the worst impacts of rising temperatures.”
Furthermore, Sydney has issued a $31 million grant to The Greenhouse Climate Tech Hub, an organization dedicated to finding solutions to climate issues by supporting academics, companies, and climate action groups working on climate innovation projects. Reportedly, this investment will not only help climate tech companies see their projects through, but it will also create more jobs and enable these companies to bring their ideas to the global marketplace (SmartCitiesWorld, 2023e).
In addition to this grant, the city has also awarded nearly $7 million in grants and subsidies for climate action programs, affordable and diverse housing initiatives, and First Nations programs, among other initiatives. Projects funded by the environmental grants include evaluating apartment buildings to assess their performance and create action plans for reduced energy use, determining the potential to decrease carbon dioxide emissions in apartment buildings by implementing low-carbon power sources, and acquiring Green Star performance certifications for Sydney hotels to increase sustainability (SmartCitiesWorld, 2023d).
Beginning in 2011, the Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) has been held annually in Barcelona. The event features global speakers and breakout sessions that tackle the most pressing urban challenges and identify inventive solutions. The Expo also hosts an awards ceremony to recognize pioneers of sustainable urban planning. At the 2023 World Smart City Awards gala held at SCEWC, Curitiba, Brazil was named Smart City of the Year. This award honors exceptional initiatives that innovate urban life to serve the needs of citizens. Curitiba won over five other nominated cities: Barranquilla, Colombia; İzmir, Turkey; Makati, Philippines; Cascais, Portugal; and Sunderland, United Kingdom. While each of these cities presented outstanding projects in the urban transformation industry, Curitiba was ultimately chosen as the winner due to its emphasis on bettering the lives of citizens.
Curitiba was chosen to receive the award by a panel of judges, including representatives from the Secretariat of State for Tourism in Spain, the Barcelona City Council, the World Bank, UN-Habit, the World Economic Forum, and the EC Mission on Climate Neutral and Smart Cities. The judges lauded Curitiba for its environmental sustainability, socioeconomic advancement, and smart urban planning. Curitiba strives to enhance the quality of life for its residents by solving urban challenges through innovation (SmartCitiesWorld, 2023a).
In January 2023, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) initiated the initial phase of Metaverse Seoul, a virtual community space meant to foster creativity and communication between citizens. The platform presents a hyper-realistic rendering of Seoul where users can explore the virtual world, engage with others, and access around-the-clock administrative services, including economic and educational resources. While this platform is only a prototype, it is reportedly the first of its kind and serves as a model for virtual urban administration.
The three core values of Metaverse Seoul are “freedom, inclusion, and connection.” The value of freedom encompasses communication and creative expression. Users can access the community space 24 hours a day all year round to enter contests, play games, and visit virtual locations such as the library and the mayor’s office. The value of inclusion denotes accessibility and lack of discrimination. The platform is intended to be a space where all users can interact as avatars without barriers to access or fear of alienation. The value of connection centers around immersive experiences that allow users to access essential public services, such as virtual consultations for paying taxes, filing civil complaints, administering official documents, and engaging in student mentorship (SmartCitiesWorld, 2023c).
Zim Cyber City is a hi-tech park under construction by Mulk International, a multinational conglomerate with business interests spanning the healthcare, real estate, sports assets, and construction and building materials sectors. Zim Cyber City is currently being built in Mount Hampden, New Harare, just outside of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. Planned to encompass a total of 2.5 million square feet, Zim Cyber City is intended to house both commercial buildings and private residences, as well as a parliament building and various ministry buildings. Mulk International revealed that its project has been likened to Sheikh Zayed Road and Downtown Dubai.
Mulk International proposed the Zim Cyber City project to Emmerson Mnangagwa, the President of Zimbabwe, at the Dubai World Expo in 2022. The company plans to use blockchain technology to turn Zim Cyber City into a special economic zone for digital assets. Of his partnership with Mulk International, President Mnangagwa said, “Zim Cyber City stands to become Zimbabwe’s landmark project, offering a world-class high-end lifestyle to all the residents. Our government fully supports this exciting development, and I congratulate chairman, Shaji Ul Mulk, and his company Mulk International, for bringing Zim Cyber City to Zimbabwe.” Mulk International’s investment in Zimbabwean real estate is set to reinforce the relationship between Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where Mulk International is based (SmartCitiesWorld, 2023f).
- Sun City, Arizona, United States of America
May Mobility is an organization dedicated to revolutionizing transportation through the use of autonomous vehicles. In 2023, the company announced the launch of its first driverless transit service operating on public roads in Sun City, Arizona. Though Sun City is the first location to see this service implemented, May Mobility plans to bring its autonomous vehicles to a myriad of global communities in the future. May Mobility’s vehicles are controlled by the company’s Multi-Policy Decision Making (MPDM) system, which runs simulations to evaluate potential scenarios, ensuring safe decision-making during unfamiliar situations. Prior to launching its driverless service, May Mobility tested its vehicles on public Sun City roads with safety operators beginning in April 2023.
Partnering with TransitTech company Via, May Mobility conceptualized its on-demand autonomous transportation service to serve residents of Sun City’s retirement community. This technology was created with the aging population in mind — May Mobility wanted to ensure that all Sun City residents had access to safe, dependable transportation that would allow them to maintain their freedom despite potential mobility limitations. Early Riders will be the first to try the rider-only service, with vehicles initially operating on public roads in the afternoon on Monday through Friday. The feedback received from these Early Riders will be instrumental in improving the safety and accessibility of May Mobility’s autonomous vehicle transit service (SmartCitiesWorld, 2023b).
These top innovators of 2023 have developed technologies and infrastructure with the potential to transform urban living. In 2024, we look forward to seeing even more smart cities revolutionizing the way we work, live, and think.
Smart City Works is a non-profit focused on solving urban challenges through technology and innovation that fosters greater economic development. We harness the power of digital technology to create smart, sustainable, and resilient communities.
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Curitiba crowned Smart City 2023 at World Smart City Awards (a)
May Mobility announces driverless service for Sun City (b)
Seoul launches first phase of its metaverse (c)
Sydney awards $7m to boost resilience and inclusion (d)
Sydney maps microclimates to combat urban heat (e)
What is a Smart City?
Zimbabwe breaks ground on $500m smart city near Harare (f)
Photo by Patty Jensen from Pixabay