Smart City Mobility

Smart cities, mobility, and the road in between

Smart City Mobility: 7 Major Cities Getting It Right

What Is Smart City Mobility?

Smart mobility involves creating connected transport systems, which offer flexibility and efficiency. Smart mobility is a key component of growth in contemporary urban cities and can help visitors and residents have a more comfortable and enjoyable everyday city experience.

Mobility is a primary concern for cities striving to become smarter and more sustainable. Traffic congestion and pollution raise serious concerns, especially in large cities. Population growth, inefficient transportation systems, and urbanization are just some of the reasons today's cities are notoriously difficult to navigate and travel around.

Some individuals are opting to travel around their city using alternative transportation options such as ride-hailing, carsharing and bike-sharing, greenbelts, and pedestrian paths connecting important parts of the city. Although these individuals are currently a minority, the emergence of smart city technologies and connected infrastructure suggests a future that is quicker, cleaner, more affordable, and safer.

7 Smart Cities Betting On Smart Mobility

Many cities around the world have already started solving their transportation problems by embracing mobility-related innovations, such as integrated mobility platforms. These are municipal “operating systems” that collect data from across the city and enable smarter city management and communication between city government and citizens.

The following smart cities have become known for the measures they have taken towards becoming truly mobile smart cities.

1. Columbus Smart City

In 2016, Columbus Ohio won a challenge initiated by the U.S Department of Transportation. They put their $40 million in prize money towards realizing their proposed plan for integrated mobility in their city. A main focus in the Columbus plan was to involve the private sector in the city’s transformation and collect data to ensure that planned improvements would be valuable for residents and visitors.

So what will make Columbus a smart city?

  • The Smart Columbus Operating System (or SCOS) is at the heart of the smart city’s operations. It collects data from public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
  • SCOS enables real-time decision making for numerous areas of city life, from public transport management and traffic control to health care, water, and waste management. SCOS also gives citizens access to information like traffic conditions and public transport options.
  • Data collecting units used to connect cars and infrastructure.
  • Autonomous electric transportation in specific areas.
  • Special hubs providing access to information about transportation. These hubs will be physically connected to some of the transportation platforms.

2. Singapore Smart City

In 2017, Juniper Research evaluated the mobility, health, productivity, and safety of 20 smart cities and created The Global Smart City Performance Index. Singapore rated number one in all four areas. Singapore uses a special platform called Virtual Singapore to address mobility, health, productivity, and safety issues.

Virtual Singapore is an accurate, 3D model of the city built on an island. It allows city management to see multi-system effects, such as how a new building affects the flow of traffic, or how parking regions develop.

Another ambitious project is called Vehicle to Everything (V2X, formalized in IEEE 802.11p). This project will create a system that connects all elements of the city’s mobility network. Different devices will be able to communicate, creating a comprehensive and updated picture of the roads, promoting safety, and reducing congestion.

For example, by 2020, private cars will be connected to an already existing electronic road pricing system. Drivers will be able to pay their bills using GPS tracking and an independent payment method inside the car.

3. Copenhagen Smart City

Denmark is a world leader in eco-friendly initiatives and has some of the world’s most advanced climate policies. Becoming a smart city is a political priority in the country, and the government provides support for smart city projects, as well as access to public data sources, including basic data about citizens, businesses, and real estate, unavailable in most other countries. Individuals, businesses, and nonprofits leverage this data and share other information through open platforms, leveraging it to digitize services and drive smart city innovation.  

In line with the country’s green ambitions, Copenhagen is implementing numerous smart city initiatives. The main project is Copenhagen Connecting. The project involves tracking connected devices, including personal devices like cell phones, and using the information gathered to optimize traffic, reduce congestion, and thus reduce air pollution. Tracking devices also provide quick access to information about traffic, parking, transportation costs, etc.

Copenhagen uses RFID tags to manage assets like vehicles, bikes, and even home equipment, to prevent theft and track movement patterns. It has also deployed a Smart Grid Sensor Platform leveraging cheap wireless devices that collect millions of data points about current city conditions.

4. Barcelona Smart City

Barcelona is quickly becoming a smart city. It has developed an open-source platform called Sentilo, which integrates data from sensors and makes it available to information systems across the city. Many of the steps taken to make the city smarter also make it greener and more energy-efficient. Sentilo uses several smart city applications:

  • Management of street lights to accommodate real-time traffic conditions.
  • Regulation of parking spaces.
  • Smart transit services, making trips around the city extremely simple.
  • Reducing the noise and traffic caused by garbage collection by placing special bins in homes to evacuate waste into designated underground locations.

5. Dubai Smart City

Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, launched its Dubai smart city initiative in 2013. Sponsored directly by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, the project’s objective is to turn Dubai into the world’s smartest city. The project focuses on collaboration between public and private sectors and is implementing Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Internet of Things (IoT) into city infrastructures, both physical and digital.

Smart Dubai will implement the following technologies, among others:

  • Smart Dubai index — a platform used to update the status of goals, as the city works towards making Dubai a smart city.
  • Dubai blockchain — a project that aims to digitize government information and paperwork. This will make bureaucracy greener and more effective.
  • Hyperloop transportation between Abu-Dhabi and Dubai, which will make the trip considerably faster.
  • Volocopters — autonomous airborne taxis and police cars.

6. Helsinki Smart City

Helsinki uses an open-source platform called BioTope, an EU funded project. This project fosters both innovation and collective big data management. Not only do Helsinki officials actively encourage local startups and initiatives, but they also cooperate with other European smart cities.

Finland has made driverless cars legal, and the Helsinki Smart Region launched the SOHJOA Project, which introduces driverless minibusses into Helsinki’s transport ecosystem. These robo-buses have been tested on public roads with real passengers since 2016. They are cost and energy-efficient vehicles that can transport up to nine people and operate alongside normal traffic and commuters.

Helsinki also provides special waste disposal bins that deliver waste through underground pipelines, reducing the need for garbage trucks.

7. Tokyo Smart City  

Tokyo aims to be as green as possible and is striving to decrease CO2 emission by 75% by 2020. To achieve this goal, the local government has created regulations such as building restrictions, and a requirement for companies to reduce the emissions they generate or otherwise pay an indirect emissions tax. A new building is now obligated to have a written environmental plan which contains an evaluation of its environmental performance.

Tokyo’s version of an open public platform is called, which connects the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and other sources of big data with government data, to enhance smart applications across Tokyo.

Cpass allows the Tokyo city government or other government agencies to share data with the public and businesses, providing information such as the flow of people or vehicles within the city, accidents, hazards, and sudden climatic changes. Both government and private sector developers can leverage the data to create applications for public use.  

The Ultimate Goal of Smart City Mobility: Quality of Life

The seven cities we reviewed are investing massive resources to transform their transport infrastructure into smart mobility systems. What are they getting out of it?

On the municipal side — smart city mobility results in smarter use of resources, cost savings and reduced pollution.

On the consumer side — smart city mobility provides seamless city transport, with smooth synchronization between many different modes of transport, and customized user experiences.

The overarching goal of smart city mobility is a higher quality of city life. These benefits translate into a city with less wasted time and more resources to invest in productive initiatives, both at the municipal and the individual citizen level.