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Smart Special - Smart Cities

Despite the relative prevalence of the term there is no universally agreed-upon definition for what exactly makes a city smart. We round up six modern cities implementing cutting-edge strategies to up their smart credentials.

Despite the relative prevalence of the term there is no universally agreed-upon definition for what exactly makes a city smart. For some it’s the forward-thinking use of technology and data to link up services and streamline major infrastructure items. For others sustainability, energy efficiency and judicious use of natural resources are key factors. Others still see ICT as an essential component.

Here, we round up six modern cities implementing cutting-edge strategies to up their smart credentials.

1. Toronto, Canada

Canada's largest city is also one of its smartest. Since signing up to the Clinton Climate Initiative in 2007, Toronto has introduced a slew of carbon reduction programmes such as energy efficient retrofitting of buildings and reduced carbon development. Alongside this is the Smart Commute Toronto scheme, a carpooling service with more than 30,000 registrants  as part of an effort to improve traffic efficiency, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. Additionally, the refuse collection vehicles are powered using natural gas captured from landfill sites.

2. Malaga, Spain

The SmartCity project in Malaga’s Playa de la Misericordia, is a multilateral initiative involving some 300 industrial customers, 900 services providers and 11,000 households. Launched in 2009, the scheme features a network of more than 17,000 smart meters linked up to 20 advanced automation transformers via a broadband powerline communications network, which connects all points of the electricity grid to a central control centre. Renewable energy sources are linked to the grid using a combination of photovoltaic panels installed on public buildings, micro power generation and battery storage. There's also an etxensive recharging infrastructure for e-vehicles and a network of V2G (vehicle to grid) recharging points. The project targets energy savings of 20 percent and 6,000 tonnes fewer CO2 emissions each year.

3. Paris, France

In 2007 Paris launched its Velib bicycle hire scheme giving urban cyclists holding Paris transportation smartcards access to the 18,000 bikes available at 1,200 stations across the city – the largest scheme of its kind in the world. Despite being plagued by vandalism problems, some 80 per cent were stolen or damaged in the first two years, demand has proven high. Last December, the city went a step further with the launch of Autolib, the electric vehicle counterpart to the Velib scheme. The vehicles were designed by Italy’s Pininfarina, run 100 per cent on electricity, and are available to subscribers in half-hour slots. Initially, 250 cars have been rolled out with plans in place to expand to 3,000 within the next 12 months.

4. Copenhagen, Denmark

Recently rated Europe’s greenest city by Siemens, the Danish capital is one of the continent’s most forward-thinking municipalities when it comes to sustainable innovation. The city has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025 with 98 per cent of the residents’ heating needs being met by waste-to-energy and combined heat and power plants and cooling supplied by seawater abstraction, absorption chillers and electrical chillers. Copenhagen is also one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world with some 40 per cent of workers commuting by bike.

5. Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China

In 1997 Hong Kong became the second city in the world to adopt a contactless payment system for its transport network (Seoul's Upass system was launched a yer earlier). While initially limited for payments on the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), the Octopus card rapidly expanded to other businesses such as supermarkets, fast food outlets, vending machines, car parks and parking meters. The card has since become so ubiquitous that it now also doubles up as an access card for many schools, offices and residential buildings.

6. Songdo International Business District, South Korea

Sitting on six square kilometres of reclaimed marshland, Songdo IBD is a cutting-edge city being built brick by brick, or perhaps more accurately chip by chip, from the ground up. The $40billion project, which was started in 2006 and is due for completion in 2016, includes plans for automatic waste disposal and recycling, cashless payments and a citywide array of sensors to monitor everything from ambient temperature and traffic flow to street lighting. The project also includes charging points for electric vehicles and superfast fibre optic broadband for all.

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