4 Smart Cities to Watch in 2021: Investing in Innovation

by Alexander Bonde

Undeniably, the Covid-19 pandemic took centre stage throughout the majority of 2020, halting industries and plunging the economy into a worldwide recession. However, one area of development that didn’t come to rest was smart cities. The pandemic has acted as a driving force to change the way planners approach city formation going forward into the new year.

Some cities took this opportunity to increase their investment in technology, some aimed at reducing the spread of the virus and others focused on replenishing economic growth. Nowadays, urbanization is rife and around 3 million people move into cities every week. Over the next 20 years that will equate to 2,5 billion more people living in urban areas. Cities aim to efficiently implement solutions that adequately handle the issues associated with this mass amount of inhabitants.

So what makes a city smart? Smart cities are those municipalities that tackle the challenge of increasing urbanization by harnessing technology within their infrastructure. The smartest cities do this in a way that advances efficiency, economic growth, sustainability and public safety. To help municipalities, enterprises and citizens make better decisions, Cloud-based IoT applications are being used to receive, analyze and manage the data in real-time. 

WasteHero takes a look at four leading examples of smart cities and some interesting developments to watch in the next year.


As the 7th most densely populated city in the world, one of the major challenges being faced by Paris is tied to the management of the million commuters travelling each day. Considering the multiplication of urban flows, it has become essential to optimize user journeys and make any immobilizing hazard as unlikely as possible. 

The French firm Vincent Callebaut Architectures has developed a proposal for high-rise buildings with positive energy output. The high-rise structures will integrate energy production techniques that adhere to sustainability goals as well as promote citizens to embrace environmentally-friendly living.

The proposal includes a Mountain Tower and green skyscrapers inspired by nature, incorporated into the existing structures of the city. The buildings will have passive heating and cooling systems, rainwater recycling, as well as living green walls that infuse fresh air into the busy metropolis.

Moreover, the city aims to integrate community gardens and green spaces, encouraging citizens to appreciate the green spaces in the urban realm.

New York

IESE Cities in Motion Index ranked New York in second place and praised it for their smart focus on the economy and tech-enabled urban planning. 

The city has implemented a smart solution aimed at encouraging the public to be more cautious of their water consumption and spending. Automated water meters have been developed that send daily readings to a computerised billing system.

For further improvement the city has established NYCx Challenges initiative - dedicated to invite entrepreneurs, technologists, and tech professionals to participate in open competitions and propose bold ideas that solve real urban needs such as pollution, income inequality, and transport.

Additionally, since New York's data report is open for all – it can be used by students, business owners, scientists to make a difference in the community.


The government of Singapore has been working on making the city more sustainable since 2014 and is often known as the World’s Technology capital. The city was ranked the top Smart City for 2020 by the second annual Smarty City Index Report.

Singapore’s transit networks are highly efficient, affordable, accessible, and ecologically sustainable. It was the first city in the world to launch a system of driverless taxis and aims to launch similar busses by 2022. It has also integrated autonomous fleets to keep the city’s elderly and disabled residents mobile. 

To support future planning Virtual Singapore was invented as a 3D digital model which can be used to run simulations. It’s no surprise that Singapore is heralded for its innovation and futuristic development.


London was for a second time ranked the smartest city in the world by IESE Cities in Motion Index 2020. Traffic congestion has been one of the greatest challenges for London to tackle. Fortunately, the city’s cutting-edge mobility systems are showcasing the effort in managing chronic congestion problems. Heathrow’s driverless pod is still one of the best zero-emission transport systems in the world yet.

To optimize electricity usage, 12,000-units of smart street lighting in London were deployed and undertaken in conjunction with Itron, Urban Control and Wi-Sun. In the aim of reducing maintenance costs and energy consumption, the programme uses field area network (FAN) technology with self-forming and self-healing functionality, as well as Urban Control’s software to comply with the city’s stringent requirements.

Looking forward, experts predict that more growth will come as local governments boost budgets in this area. Global smart city spending is only set to increase and to reach an amount of $34.5 billion by the end of 2021. This upward trajectory of smart city development gives hope to the aim of a more sustainable society with improved living standards for citizens.

Are you a city planner wanting to learn about smart waste management? Contact a WasteHero today!


  • Innovation
  • Sustainability
  • IoT
  • Smart City
  • Technology

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