What Earned These 4 North American Cities a Spot on Global Smart City Lists?

Written by DDS Wireless

April 23, 2018

As urban populations continue to grow, much emphasis has been placed on the concept of a ‘smart city.’ From issues of mobility and sustainability to accessibility and community engagement, modern cities are grappling with some big ticket items when it comes to urban planning. But what exactly constitutes a smart city, and how have certain urban centers risen to the top of the rankings?

What Makes a Smart City?

At its most basic level, a city is smart if it’s using digital and systems technologies to improve living conditions for its residents, workers and business owners. Smart cities collect open source data on transport usage and mobility, sustainability, access to government services, the local economy and education. They employ this data to make informed decisions that increase efficiency and liveability.

At the forefront of this movement are exciting technological solutions that are being employed to reduce mobility issues such as traffic congestion, access to and efficiency of public transit, parking availability and car sharing. Some of these transit solutions systems include Smart Parking—lots and meters that assist drivers in finding vacant parking spaces; smart traffic systems and sensors; and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) apps that combine multiple public and private transit modes into an end-to-end solution.

Not surprisingly, there is a growing number of North American cities in the running to lead the smart movement. Here are the four North American centres that have repeatedly been named to smart city lists, and some of the tangible actions they’ve undertaken to achieve this recognition.

San Francisco

San Francisco has definitely earned its reputation as a smart city. Known as a hub of innovation and technology, this city is also leading in sustainability and mobility solutions. It has over 100 public charging stations for electric vehicles, is driven by 41% renewable energy and is also a leader in Smart Parking and public transit. San Francisco has been actively working to improve its public transit systems through technology, resulting in the development of mobile apps to help residents find efficient bussing, biking and walking routes. Along with smart sanitation bins, lightning-fast internet speeds and a number of vehicle sharing services, the steps taken by San Francisco have improved travel times, productivity and sustainability for its residents.


With Toronto’s increasing emphasis on innovation to improve affordability, mobility, sustainability and public participation, it’s no wonder this Canadian city has been deemed a top North American smart city. At the forefront of mobility solutions, this city provides its residents with real-time access to traffic congestion and transit schedules. As well, its smart traffic signals—which adjust in real-time based on congestion—use InSync video detection technology to make decisions based on the number of cars waiting. Toronto is also moving towards smart densification, as Waterfront Toronto has partnered with Sidewalk Labs to transform its previously contaminated waterfront. The project, dubbed Sidewalk Toronto, “will combine forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centred neighbourhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility and economic opportunity.”


Third on our list is Boston, another leader in innovation that is using data and technology in governance, public management and education. The city has launched an Innovation District along with an Office of New Urban Mechanics, and is using technology to increase civic engagement and access to government services through the development of mobile and desktop apps. With over 50 universities and colleges, Boston is the third most walkable large city in the country, and is known for producing smart business leaders who are paving the way forward in the tech industry. Add in its 1 gigabit-per-second Internet service and flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem, and it’s no wonder Boston has a prime spot on most smart city indexes.

New York

Our final city to make the list is New York. With wifi hotspots and fast internet speed, New York is navigating the digital divide by providing accessible internet to all of its residents while using the data it collects to improve mobility. It has deployed the highest number of LED streetlights in the United States and is among the leading cities when it comes to the adoption of electric vehicles and charging stations. In tandem with electric mobility, the city also has a number of car sharing solutions and robust apps to help put the data sets it collects to good use.

Cities all over the world are integrating data and technology into their public spaces—and key sectors such as healthcare, public safety and transportation—in order to improve services for their residents. With smart initiatives come the benefits of being connected, mobile and informed in today’s urban centres.

Looking for ways to improve your planning and smarten up your transit? As fleet systems management experts, DDS Wireless can answer your questions about passenger transport technology. Book a demo or contact us to learn more.

Image: Shutterstock / TRphotos

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