See how these cities are paving the way for Smart Cities


A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute gauged each city’s progress in implementation using a checklist of current smart applications to see how many have been rolled out. The reports use a weighted composite of city-wide implementation as well as pilot programs.

Mobility has been a top priority for most cities, but those places with the highest number of applications implemented over all—New York, Los Angeles, London, Singapore, Shenzhen, and Seoul—have branched out into multiple domains. Extending the focus beyond mobility is what gets a city closer to setting off a virtuous circle of benefits. Some cities have not yet implemented the applications with the greatest potential to address some of their priority issues.

Mobility rollout: Mobility is clearly the emphasis in European cities, which tend to have more modest implementation in other domains. Private-sector e-hailing services are available in all of the cities, although pooled versions of these services are not. Bike- and car-sharing applications are also present in almost all of these cities. By contrast, few places have adopted demand-based microtransit, predictive maintenance of public transit, or congestion pricing.

Security rollout: Security applications have vaulted to the top of the priority list for cities with high crime rates, such as Rio, Cape Town, Mexico City, and Chicago. A clear majority of cities have at least piloted smart surveillance, real-time crime mapping, and outfitting police officers with body-worn cameras. Almost half are not yet using or even piloting digital applications to speed the dispatch of first responders to emergencies, and very few are conducting data-driven building inspections.

Health rollout: North American cities tend to lead the way in smart healthcare applications. By contrast, the major cities of Africa, which have much to gain from applying technology to their public health challenges, lag far behind. Most cities have some air quality monitoring sensors in place, and telemedicine is being widely piloted. Yinchuan, for instance, has embedded digital healthcare services into its purpose-built smart communities. While most cities have full-scale infectious disease surveillance systems, a substantial number of developing cities do not. More than half of the cities we analyzed are not using data-based public health interventions.

Utilities rollout: Cities with robust technology bases are doing more with utilities applications. Dubai has equipped its electricity network with smart meters and has achieved high adoption of home automation systems and behavior-based electricity consumption tracking. North American, Asian, and European capitals are in the forefront, while Latin American cities lag far behind.

Economic rollout: Urban residents across the world have access to some kind of platform for making in-person connections. Cities are in varying stages of digitizing government, including their citizen-facing services. In the United States, Boston, Seattle, and other cities have developed 311 apps for nonemergencies such as reporting nuisances, potholes, and graffiti. Barcelona has created a digital platform that offers residents a way to weigh in on decision making. Although personalized learning platforms could play a large role in education and job retraining, this area remains largely unexplored.